If your cuticles are dry and raggedy, your nails will look a state, no matter how fab your nail polish. Cuticle care might not be the most exciting part of a mani but it's the thing that makes the difference between your mani looking polished and professional...or a bit rough around the edges.
The good thing about cuticles (yep, there is one) is that they reward even a tiny amount of effort. Just 2 minutes of attention a day can get unruly cuticles looking neat and tidy within a couple of weeks. Follow these 3 simple rules and you'll look like you've had a salon mani...
Rule 1: Never cut them (unless you really have to!)
When your cuticles are overgrown and messy, it's tempting just to give them the snip. Don't. It'll make them look better temporarily but they'll grow back more ragged than ever because the seal of the skin will be broken. If there's a flake of skin that's really dry, you can (carefully!) clip it off but don't make a habit of it.
Rule 2: Oil up!
The thing that will transform your cuticles is oil. Oil has a two-pronged effect - it hydrates and nourishes the skin so it doesn't look dry and flaky, but it also stops the cuticle from sticking to your nail plate. This is really important when it comes to applying your polish - you can't do a nice flawless coat of polish if there's skin stuck to your nail. Spend a minute or two massaging the cuticle oil into your nail and the skin surrounding it - the massage will also stimulate nail growth so it's great if you have trouble getting them your nails to grow long too. The cuticle oil I swear by is Creative Nail Design Solar Oil but a cheaper one will do - what's important is that you use it regularly. Keep a bottle by your bed so you can make it part of your nightly routine.
Rule 3: Prep before paint
Before you apply your nail polish, soak your nails in warm water to soften the cuticle and then use a cuticle scraper to gently scrape the nail and remove the thin layer of skin that sticks to the nail plate (if you're using your oil regularly, this will become less of a problem!) A metal scraper works best - you can buy them from professional beauty supply shops or online - but a wooden cuticle stick will do the trick too. If your cuticles are particularly stubborn, use a cuticle remover gel first like Sally Hansen Cuticle Remover Gel - apply a small amount to the base of your nail, wait a minute or two, and then gently loosen the cuticle with your scraper.
Et voilà - you're prepped for polish! Now for some mani inspiration, head to our nail art section...