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No matter whether you’re a salon appointment kind of girl or a DIY mani queen, cuticle oil is one product that belongs in everyone’s beauty stash. We truly think it deserves hero status in the nail world, with the ability to do so much more than one might think.
Meet the Expert
"The benefits of using cuticle oil are to promote overall nail health, growth, and longevity of all types of manicures, including polish, gel, and enhancements," says Evelyn Lim, an editorial manicurist and Chief Educator at Paintbox. "Cuticle oil hydrates the nail and surrounding skin, and as a result, nails are healthy, strong yet flexible, and you will have fewer breaks, hangnails, and chipping of polish."
Sporting bare nails? A quick swipe of cuticle oil instantly imparts moisture and a gorgeous sheen, making your hands and nails look better literally in seconds. Rocking polish? Applying cuticle oil regularly not only keeps cuticles hydrated, but it can also keep nails hydrated as well, an essential step in warding off polish chips. Not to mention that a little oil is an easy way to freshen up and add shine back to a several days-oil mani when there’s no time to sit around and wait for the topcoat to dry.
Now that we’ve convinced you that you need a cuticle oil, check out any of the best cuticle oils below.
What to Look For in a Cuticle Oil
Most cuticle oils are formulated from a base of, well, oils, and that's a good thing when you're dealing with rough, dry cuticles or thin, breaking nails. Look for hydrating oils like argan, mango, sunflower, avocado, jojoba, and other ingredients like vitamin E. They'll ensure your cuticles are moisturized and therefore softened to be removed if you choose to do so. You can also look for strengthening and reparative formulas to help protect against future nail breakage, hangnails, and cuticles.
Consider where and when you're going to be using cuticle oil—do you want to stash it in your bag? A rollerball may be ideal for you. Want to keep it in your bathroom with your other nail products? A traditional brush-on formula or a cream can work itself nicely into your nail care routine. There are many forms available, from serums in tubes to pots of cream and even convenient pen options.
Some of the items on this list work double-duty as hydrating oils for the rest of your skin and hair or have extra benefits like exfoliating nail beds, which can be useful for helping to eliminate dead skin AKA cuticles. Figure out what your nail concerns are and if you're looking for a multitasking product or not to find one that fits your needs. Some options can be used on the rest of your hands or on scars and burns.
Best Overall: Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil
There’s a good reason why this humble oil has legions of devoted fans. Simple and straightforward, it boasts a blend of cottonseed and soybean oils meant to soften cuticles and deeply hydrate the skin around your nails. The scent is also addicting, though the results it delivers are incentive enough to make you want to apply it daily.
Best Professional Formula: CND Solaroil Nail & Cuticle Care
You’ve likely seen this bottle in a salon at some point; it’s one of the formulas the pros often rely on. "When it comes to shopping for cuticle oil, look for products with jojoba oil and vitamin E," recommends Lim. "They are both antioxidants and a great moisturizer for nails and surrounding skin." This option has both; jojoba oil is known for mimicking the oils naturally found in your skin and absorbing super quickly, while vitamin E adds an extra dose of nourishment. We have multiple bottles stashed all over the place for easy access, though one bottle does last quite a long time.
Best Roll-On: French Girl Organics Nail & Cuticle Oil
We’re into all kinds of rollerballs, this cuticle oil one included. It makes application super easy, and the formula is also impressive. Argan, tamanu, and hemp oils do the heavy-lifting hydrating duties, while pomegranate oil packs a dose of antioxidants. And the benefits don’t stop there; this also boasts rosemary, which is both antibacterial and claimed to help stimulate nail growth. (So nail biters, take note.)
Best Multi-Tasker: Bio-Oil Multiuse Skincare Oil
There’s nothing this multi-purpose oil can’t do. You can work it into banged up cuticles, for sure, but you can also use it for stretch marks, scars, burns, as a bath oil, you name it. (So if you’re trying to minimize the number of products in your bathroom, this is the oil for you.) Dermatologist-tested and hypoallergenic, it also absorbs super quickly.
Best Serum: Olive & June Cuticle Serum Duo
Think of this as a souped-up version of a basic cuticle oil. It has plenty of hydrating oils (avocado, apricot, jojoba, to name a few), but also has cactus flower extract, a reparative ingredient that’s great for damaged skin. Bonus points for the soft foam tip that makes for easy, mess-free application.
Best Drugstore: Sally Hansen Cuticle Rehab
There are few drugstore brands that have better cornered the nail market than Sally Hansen, and this cuticle oil is no exception. Specially made for those ultra-dry, ultra-beat-up cuticles (you know what we’re talking about) the brush-on formula works wonders almost instantly.
Since it’s so intensely hydrating, it’s also a great option to use on toes, where cuticles tend to be thicker—and get less love.
Best On-the-Go: OPI ProSpa Nail & Cuticle Oil to Go
Just like an emergency tampon or extra lip balm, it’s always a good idea to keep a cuticle oil in your purse. Trust us on this one. Specifically, this guy, which comes in a purse-perfect, portable size with a spill-proof tip. Avocado, grapeseed, and sunflower oils promise to deeply hydrate, making nails and cuticles instantly look better.
Best Scent: California Mango MAngo Magic Cuticle Oil
This Amazon favorite repeatedly pulls in rave reviews for both its delicious scent and how well it works, on both nails and cuticles. Mango oil is the star of the show, paired with sunflower oil as well as soothing aloe, a nice addition if your cuticles are at the point where they’re almost bleeding. The dropper bottle also makes it easy to dose out exactly the right amount for each nail.
Best Splurge: Dior Huile Abricot Daily Nutritive Serum
It doesn’t get chicer than using a freaking Dior cuticle oil, we’ll just leave it at that. The specially chosen blend of oils—argan, camellia, apricot—promise to not only hydrate, but also protect and strengthen nails. All you have to do is dot it on daily.
Best All-in-One: Deborah Lippman Cuticle Remover Pen
If you want to both hydrate your cuticles but also need to get rid of overgrown skin, try this one-stop-shop. The newbie is lanolin-based and promises to not only soften but also gently exfoliate away dead skin. Swipe it on then gently push back cuticles with an orange stick or cuticle pusher. And yes, you can use it even on polished nails.
Best Cream: Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream
We know, we know, this technically isn’t an oil, but we wanted to find an option that worked for those who just don’t like oils. Nice and rich and not at all greasy (you’re welcome, non-oil fans), this still has the same type of hydrating benefits you’d get from oil, thanks to cocoa seed butter and sunflower oil. The light lemon scent is just an added bonus.
What Our Testers Say
"The Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream is the kind of product that you don’t realize how much you need it until you’ve allowed it into your life. It instantly enlivens your hands and is a small-but-significant form of self-care, both of which we could all use right now." — Nicole Kliest, Product Tester
How often should you apply cuticle oil?
You can use cuticle oil every day or as often as you feel you need to. The benefits include increased hydration for nails and the surrounding skin, so there's really no downside to frequent application. For best results, massage it into your skin for at least a minute.
Is cuticle oil better than lotion?
Cuticle oils tend to be more concentrated than your typical daily lotion, making them key for moisturizing small areas like your nails and cuticles. While you could use lotion in a pinch, you'll generally want to use cuticle oil because it tends to be richer, more hydrating, and better suited for softening cuticles.
How long should you leave cuticle oil on?
You can apply it before bed and leave on overnight to really let it soak in to your nails and surrounding skin. As a general rule, leave it on for at least an hour or two before washing your hands to allow the formula time to settle in.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has more than a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. While she has yet to master the art of the DIY mani, she is a pro at cleaning up her cuticles, a skill acquired during spring 2020.