This Is Why Your Nails Don't Look as Good as They Should

But this oil will change everything.

hand on the surface of pool water

Caroline Tompkins / Refinery29 for Getty Images / Getty Images

Have you ever watched what the pros actually do to your nails when you’re sitting in the salon? As much as you're probably too busy concentrating on scrolling through Instagram and replying to emails on your phone with one hand, it's hard not to stare when you can't move without messing up your mani. But your desire to get back to your phone is also why you’ve probably missed the fabulous finale when they apply the cuticle oil. You know, the bit you always skip when you DIY it?

Now, what if we told you that little droplet of oil could add an extra day or two to your fancy looking fingers? Now we've piqued your interest. As well as moisturizing peeling, scuffed cuticles back to good health, cuticle oil forms an extra barrier on top to protect your polish. So if you do knock your nails when they’re not completely dry, the rogue offender will slip away rather than catch and smudge your otherwise perfect-looking tips. But, exactly what is cuticle oil and what does it do? We talked to nail experts Michelle Saunders and Sonia Hully to get the details.

Keep reading to find out exactly how to use cuticle oil and the benefits it has on your nails.

Meet the Expert

Colorful French Manicure

@saundersandjames / Amber McKee

What Is Cuticle Oil?

"Cuticle oil is usually composed of a fruit or nut oil—olive, apricot, almond, avocado, coconut—specifically applied to cuticles (skin surrounding fingernails)," says celebrity manicurist Michelle Saunders. She explains that cuticle oil is meant to help nourish the both the cuticle and nails. "Sometimes I recommend soaking the tips of the fingers in pure avocado oil, especially if your nails are brittle and chipping," she adds.

Nude manicure


The Benefits of Cuticle Oil

Cuticle oils contain a combination of ingredients that will toughen up weak and vulnerable nail plates at the same time. “Look for oils rich in nutrients that quickly absorb into the skin. Sweet almond oil is really reparative and doesn’t have a greasy feel, and vitamins A, E, B1, B2, and B6 are great hydrators,” says Sonia Hully, founder of Nailberry.

It also helps solve issues relating to dry skin around the nails by immediately offering hydration by absorbing into the cuticles. "It keeps the skin and nails supple, which then prevents hangnails and nail breakage," says Saunders.

Nude and red manicure

@saundersandjames / Amber McKee

How to Apply Cuticle Oil

So, how do you apply cuticle oil? "There are several different applicators that cuticle oil can come with," Saunders says. "It's ideally applied to each cuticle on each finger and rubbed in, and is recommended after each hand washing but could also be applied as often as you like." As a bonus, she adds that moisturized cuticles will help prevent you from picking or biting any loose skin around nails.

Abstract manicure

@michellesaundersjames / Amber McKee

When to Use Cuticle Oil

Naked nails will love a drop of the good stuff, too. And in a dream world, you’d rub some in every time you washed your hands to stop them drying out. You can also use it pre-painting your nails, but make sure it’s been thoroughly absorbed, otherwise, your polish won’t adhere properly. "Anytime your cuticles appear dry, you can apply cuticle oil to them," says Saunders.

Apply cuticle oil before bedtime and leave it on overnight so it can fully absorb into the cuticles.

Shop Our Fave Cuticle Oils

Below, more cuticle oils we swear by.

Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil
Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil $9.00

A favorite of Saunders', this cuticle oil contains cotton seed and soy bean oil to hydrate your cuticles and nails. She loves the easy application of the paint brush.

Jessica Phenomen Oil
Jessica Phenomen Oil $19.00

Like dynamite for your digits, we haven’t seen a pro without this on their person, even if they’re aligned to another brand. Jojoba, sweet almond oil, and rice bran oil make up its cuticle-softening superpowers.

L'Occitane Shea Nail and Cuticle Oil
L'Occitane Shea Nail and Cuticle Oil $20.00

Not only does this cuticle oil help promote stronger nails and cuticles, it's also another one of Saunders' top picks. "It's good to keep in your purse or car," she says.

nails inc vitamin e cuticle oil pen
Nails Inc Vitamin E Cuticle Oil Pen $19.00

The beauty of this is how mess-free it is. Twist the end and a tiny globule of oil will appear through the brush so you can just swipe it on over cuticles. No spillage, an on-the-go essential.

Nail & Cuticle Oil
French Girl Nail & Cuticle Oil $22.00

This roller-ball applicator cuticle oil is incredibly easy to apply. Beyond that, though, their use of high-quality oils like argan, hemp, and pomegranate oil ensures your cuticles and nails stay hydrated and damage-free.

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