Cuticle Oil is the Key to Keeping My Nails Healthy and Hydrated

It also helps prevent polish chips and cracks, making my manicure last longer.
By Samantha Driscoll
April 28, 2021
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This is part of our new weekly series called Test Drive, where our team of beauty experts demystify products and tools, as well as explore new techniques IRL.

Nail polish is my favorite accessory. I feel naked when my nails aren't painted, and I have two big tubs full of polishes that are every color under the sun so I never run out of options. While working from home, I've gotten pretty good at perfecting my DIY manicure. I treat my nail time as self-care time: I make sure to trim, smooth, and buff every nail. Between manicures, I started to notice that while the color looked amazing, the skin around my nails and my cuticles looked pretty beat up and dry. I realized I was probably skipping a step in my mani routine, so I reached out to Brittney Boyce, a Los Angeles-based nail artist and global ambassador for Orly. 

Boyce says that proper cuticle care is vital for keeping your nails healthy. "When people don't hydrate their nails, it can lead to hangnails and dry cracks," Boyce says. Keeping your cuticles hydrated with cuticle oil will hydrate both your nails and your skin. It also helps your manicure last longer. "If your nail beds and your cuticles dry out, your manicure will chip and crack more," Boyce says. "I use cuticle oil about three to four times a day over my nail and the cuticle area. Then I cap it with a heavy cream like the ORLY Cuticle Therapy Cream ($10, Amazon) to really seal in the moisture," Boyce says. 

When applying cuticle oil, Boyce advises putting a drop onto your thumb and spreading it to all five fingers. Then you repeat it on the other hand. "Spread it around the sides of the nail and underneath the nail as well," Boyce says. "That's an area that we usually forget about when we're applying lotion." After coating each nail, massage the leftover oil onto your fingers and hands.

In addition to hydrating your cuticles with oil and cream, Boyce also recommends gently pushing your cuticles back once a week to prevent them from growing out excessively. Make sure that your cuticles are softened up first: only push them back after washing your hands with warm water or when you get out of the shower. "Never cut your own cuticles," she warns. "It's actually not good to do, even by a professional."

I like to use cuticle oil daily to keep my manicure looking fresh (and chip-free) as long as possible. If you don't want to go out and purchase one, try raiding your pantry. "Coconut oil and olive oil work great, and a lot of people already have that in their household. Hydrating with anything that's more on the natural side is better than not hydrating at all," Boyce says. One of the best things about cuticle oil is that it comes in convenient packaging for easy application, so it's way less messy than using your kitchen oils. Read on to find three cuticle oil options that will leave your hands and nails healthy and nourished all day long.

cnd solar care
Credit: Courtesy of Ulta

Best On-the-Go Cuticle Oil

The pen format of this cuticle oil makes it easy to take on the go: throw it in your backpack, your purse, your car, or anywhere you might want to give your nails some quick TLC. It’s formulated with almond oil and vitamin E that moisturize and condition the nails. To apply, simply twist the pen a few times to dispense the product before massaging it onto the top and underside of the nail and surrounding skin. 

Buy It: CND Essentials Solar Oil Care Pen ($13, Ulta)

sally hansen cuticle oil
Credit: Courtesy of Ulta

Best Natural Cuticle Oil

Formulated with coconut oil, this plant-based cuticle oil protects the nails and helps keep them hydrated and nourished. It’s packaged similarly to nail polish: You apply the oil onto your nails and cuticles with a brush (which is also 100% natural and plant-based). I love that this oil smells like the beach. When I use it, I feel like I’m relaxing in a tropical paradise. 

Buy It: Sally Hansen Good. Kind. Pure. Island Coconut Nail Oil ($9, Ulta)

orly cuticle oil
Credit: Courtesy of Target

Best Treatment Cuticle Oil

This hydrating cuticle oil also has essential oils that provide other nail benefits. It’s formulated with argan oil, jojoba oil, and vitamin E that nourish and condition the nail. Bergamot and citrus essential oils have antibacterial properties that help keep your cuticles healthy, while cardamom seed oil has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help protect your skin. The dropper allows for an easy and hygienic application: simply squeeze one drop onto each nail and then massage it in.

Buy It: ORLY Breathable Cuticle Oil ($13, Target)