We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products. Healthcare professionals review articles for medical accuracy. Learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
Get ready because we’re about to let you in on a beauty insider secret. The reason your nails always look so good after a professional mani has nothing to do with the way they’ve been painted or shaped—it’s all about how your cuticles have been cleaned up.
As a thin layer of skin at the bottom edge of your nail, the anatomical function of the cuticle is to protect the nail bed. But when it comes to aesthetics, if that bit of skin is left unchecked it will continue to grow out and can quickly start to get dry and cracked. So should you cut your cuticles or simply push them back? Well, it's an age-old debate that, quite frankly, we believe boils down to personal preference.
That being said, we rounded up the best cuticle removers out there, from liquids to pushers to trimmers. So even if you don’t have time to hit the salon or DIY a full manicure, you can at least clean up your cuticles to make your nails look fresh.
Meet the Expert
Elle is a celebrity nail artist in New York City and Los Angeles. Her clients include Jennifer Lopez, Charlize Theron, and Blake Lively.
Read on to find the best cuticle removers on the market.
Best Overall: butter LONDON Melt Away Cuticle Exfoliator
Free of irritating chemicals
No clipping required
Liquid cuticle removers work by exfoliating and essentially dissolving away dead skin, and this is one of our favorites. All you have to do is swipe it on, give it a few minutes to soften and break down those beat-up cuticles, then gently push them back and wipe off any excess. Bonus points for the fact that this formula is free of seven different types of questionable chemicals commonly found in nail products.
Type: Liquid | Active Ingredients: Carrageenan, potassium hydroxide | Size: 0.4 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Budget: Blue Cross Cuticle Remover
Thin consistency is easy to work with
Can irritate sensitive skin
For just a few dollars, you get a big ol’ bottle of this effective formula (which consistently pulls in great reviews from satisfied shoppers). It’s infused with moisturizing lanolin, so this will not only eliminate excess cuticles but also keep the area around your nail bed nice and hydrated.
Type: Liquid | Active Ingredients: Carrageenan, lanolin | Size: 6 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Drugstore: Sally Hansen Problem Cuticle Remover
Works on tough cuticles
Includes cuticle sticks
This low-pH formula is ideal to use when you’ve let your cuticles go. You do need to leave it on for a bit longer—anywhere from three to five minutes—and wash it off afterward, but for cuticles that are in really rough shape, it can’t be beaten. We also appreciate that it comes with several manicure sticks to help you push back cuticles after you soften them.
Type: Liquid | Active Ingredients: Mineral oil, witch hazel, imidazolidinyl urea | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Professional: ProLinc Cuticle Eliminator
Can be used on gel and acrylics
Formula may be too strong for some
You may have seen this bottle at your local nail salon; it is, in fact, a professional formula. It works lightning-fast and is especially ideal on even the thickest of skin—think the cuticles on your toenails (yes, you have them there too). Also nice: It’s safe to use on gel polish or acrylics.
Type: Liquid | Active Ingredients: Potassium hydroxide | Size: 4 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Stained Nails: Orly Cutique Cuticle Remover
Helps clean up stains
A little sticky
“This is my personal favorite because it both removes cuticles and also gets rid of stains,” says celebrity nail artist Elle. It’s why this is the ideal option to reach for after you’ve been sporting dark polish, which can often leave your nails discolored and dingy afterward. To reap those brightening benefits, simply swipe it onto the cuticle and the nail, rub the nail with a cotton pad, then rinse.
Type: Liquid | Active Ingredients: Potassium hydroxide, sesame seed oil | Size: 0.6 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Fast-Acting: Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover
Easy to use
Can be a little drying
No time for a mani? No problem. Another of Elle’s picks, this speed demon gets the cuticle-eliminating job done in just 15 seconds. Couple that with the fact that the formula is also infused with aloe and soothing chamomile, and you’ve got yourself a real winner.
Type: Liquid | Active Ingredients: Potassium hydroxide, aloe, chamomile extract | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Splurge: Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Remover
Yes, a bottle of this may cost more than a professional manicure, but one, it will last you a long time, and two, it does work. Elle loves the exfoliating formula, which breaks down dead, dry skin, and is ideal to use every few days to keep your cuticles in check. We also appreciate the dropper applicator, which makes it easy to apply just the right amount onto each nail.
Type: Liquid | Active Ingredients: Potassium hydroxide, lanolin | Size: 0.5 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Splurge, Runner-Up: Ten Over Ten The Cuticle Eraser
Call us shallow, but we’d be willing to shell out for this pick just because of the chic-looking bottle alone. Happily, the formula is no joke either, effectively softening and smoothing cuticles with just a few drops. So much so that the brand says it only has to be used weekly, though some reviewers note that if you have super dry or ragged cuticles, you may want to use it more often than that. Bonus points for the fact that it’s vegan, cruelty-free, and salon-tested, too.
Type: Liquid | Active Ingredients: Potassium hydroxide | Size: 0.5 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Sensitive Skin: Olive & June Cuticle Remover
Nourishing, oil-based formula
Not as potent as other options
You may not realize it, but even the skin around your nails can react to certain ingredients and be prone to irritation. If that’s something that happens to you, try this choice, which is both dermatologist-tested and fragrance-free. Made with avocado, argan, and jojoba oils, the formula also helps moisturize and nourish.
Type: Liquid | Active Ingredients: Avocado, argan, and jojoba oils | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Dry Nails: CND Cuticle Eraser
Exfoliates without over-drying skin
If your nails are dry, be wary about using formulas that contain ingredients such as potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide, both of which have a high pH and can cause more dryness, says Elle. Instead, seek out options that rely on exfoliating AHAs like this one. This pick is also packed with aloe, apricot kernel oil, glycerin, vitamin E, and panthenol, all of which are very moisturizing and conditioning.
Type: Cream | Active Ingredients: Sweet almond oil, chamomile, malic and lactic acids | Size: 0.5 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best on Amazon: Super Nail Cuticle Softener and Remover
Helps clean up stains
Elle’s just one of many fans of this top-seller. Happy shoppers rave about how well (and fast) it works to dissolve and soften dead dry skin. And we’d be remiss not to mention the super affordable price tag, too.
Type: Liquid | Active Ingredients: Sodium lauryl sulfate, lanolin | Size: 8 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Trimmer: Seki EDGE Flat Slant Tip Cuticle Nipper
Easy to use
Made of high-quality stainless steel
Like we said, trimming your cuticles is often frowned upon, but there’s no denying that it does make for a very clean-looking manicure. Not to mention that even those who don’t promote nipping will agree that sometimes you just need to snip off a hangnail. Enter this Japanese-made stainless steel trimmer. The extra-sharp flat edge makes it easier than ever to snip off dry skin.
Type: Tool | Size: 4.25 x 2.5 x 0.5 in.
Best Pusher: Tweezerman Dual Sided Pushy
Comfortable to hold and use
Won't scrape or scratch nails
Made of high-quality stainless steel
Curved side is a little thick
Pushing back your cuticles is arguably the fastest way to make your nails look better; enter this convenient tool. The soft-touch handle makes for a comfortable grip, while the dual-sided, two-size tips make it easy to reach every part of your nail. They also have buffed edges to keep the process comfortable. Just make sure to apply some type of cuticle remover, cream, or oil to soften cuticles before pushing them back.
Type: Tool | Size: 2 x 1 x 3 in.
Best Gel: Le Mini Macaron Bye Bye! Cuticle Remover
Not as fast working as other options
Non-drippy, non-sticky, and non-greasy, this water-based gel remover has what we think is the dream texture. It stays put when you apply it and has the added benefit of containing glycerin so that your cuticles get a little dose of hydration, too.
Type: Gel | Active Ingredients: Potassium hydroxide, glycerin | Size: 1.76 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
The best cuticle remover overall is Butter LONDON Melt Away Cuticle Exfoliator, an amazingly effective formula without the potential for much, if any, skin or nail irritation. Its inclusion of vegan and skin-softening ingredients, like Iris moss, makes it a fan favorite. Got sensitive skin? We get it. Exfoliating ingredients carry the potential for dryness and irritation, but we love that Olive & June's Cuticle Remover uses a nourishing oil blend to smooth and hydrate rough cuticles.
What to Look for in a Cuticle Remover
According to Elle, most formulas, especially salon-quality ones, rely on either potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide. This helps to dissolve dead skin with its high alkalinity. They can be drying, especially if they’re over-used, so alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic and lactic) are another option.
The addition of plant-based oils and humectants like glycerin can help prevent dryness and soften the skin around the nail.
How do you use cuticle remover?
Swipe or drop a small amount of the cuticle remover along the nail, then spray it with a tiny bit of water to help emulsify the formula, Elle says. Push the cuticle back (gently), then finish by using a tissue or cotton pad to wipe off the dead skin and remover.
How do you remove cuticles on toenails?
Use the cuticle remover the same way on your toes as you would on your hands. “The nails and cuticles are the same, no matter whether they’re on your hands or toes,” says Elle.
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over 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.