5 Cuticle Oil Substitutes That Are Dermatologist-Approved

Close up of a hand with neutral polish and manicured cuticles


Our cuticles are a part of our hands that many of us rarely notice or pay attention to—until they're dry and painful. Dry cuticles can have an array of causes, ranging from the weather to UV nail driers and more, according to board-certified dermatologist Anna Guanche, MD. Board-certified dermatologist Onyeka Obioha, MD, adds that health conditions such as eczema or psoriasis can also be the culprit.

Cuticle oil is the natural go-to solution for dry cuticles. "Cuticle oils are helpful to lubricate and hydrate the cuticle as well as create a barrier to other potential irritants," explains board-certified dermatologist Rina Weimann, MD, FAAD. But what to do if cuticle oil isn't readily available? We asked Guanche, Obioha, and Weimann about their favorite substitutes for cuticle oil. Read on to learn what to use when that staple isn't at your fingertips.

Meet the Expert

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Vitamin E

A common ingredient in cuticle oils, Weimann explains that vitamin E can help soften the cuticle. Additionally, Obioha tells us that vitamin E can "regenerate nail growth and strengthen nails." Guanche says you can even use olive oil for its vitamin E, which is a more accessible option since you likely already have it on hand.

In addition to being sold by the bottle, vitamin E can often be found in capsules you can break open for an easy on-the-go option.

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Renowned for its ability to lock in moisture, lanolin is excellent for your cuticles. "The emollient lanolin assists in the natural, smooth regrowth of nails," says Obioha, meaning it will prevent them from drying out while also helping them thrive and lengthen. Lanolin can also be used as a lip balm and to treat nipples that are sore from breastfeeding, so you won't be obtaining it for just one single purpose, either.

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Avocado Oil

Guanche likes avocado oil as a cuticle moisturizer because, in addition to her preference for natural and organic ingredients, "it has monosaturated fats," which can help improve the dryness of your cuticles. She notes that it may already be in your kitchen, making it an ingredient that doesn't require a separate purchase (adding to the convenience factor). As for how often to use it, "some people drop oil on their cuticles every time they wash their hands." she says. "It's an individual choice to see what works best for you."

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Coconut Oil

This ubiquitous oil, commonly used in skincare and haircare in addition to food, has multiple benefits for your nails. Wiemann tells us coconut oil doesn't just hydrate but also possesses anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce skin irritation and redness. This is especially important if your job leads to dry nails. "Certain occupations may put one at risk for splitting cuticles," she says. This includes hairdressers, healthcare workers, mechanics, and others who frequently work with or wash their hands.

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Hyaluronic Acid

A hero skincare ingredient, if you're a fan of a well-hydrated face, you may very well have hyaluronic acid on your vanity. Obioha explains that it "effectively draws hydration into the cuticle and nail." And because it isn't an oil, it may prove easier to apply.

Obioha tells us that as a substitute for cuticle oil, HA can and should, be used often. "The more frequent the application, the better—up to three times per day or even after every hand washing," she says.

Dry cuticles are painful and don't give us that polished look—pun intended—many of us want our hands to have. Fortunately, if you don't have cuticle oil on hand, you can still bring your cuticles back to good health. Try vitamin E, avocado oil, lanolin, coconut oil, or hyaluronic acid. Each of these simple, natural ingredients can benefit your nail health, helping to add moisture where it's needed. They might even help your nails grow, too.

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