Peeling cuticles after manicure, working with water, or any other factor are unsightly. This is often an indication of contact with drying and irritating substances but it can also be a sign of vitamin deficiency or an underlying medical condition. Find out how to fix peeling cuticles at home.
What Causes Cuticles to Peel?
Knowing how to get rid of peeling cuticles is essential but knowing the underlying causes of the condition is as well important to help you avoid them and consequently avoid its reappearance.
1. Dry Skin around Nails
Dry skin around nails is the most common cause of cuticle skin peeling. According to Richard Scher, MD, a dermatology professor at Cornell University, “Cuticles get dry. They crack, peel, and flake, just like the skin does”.
Among the factors that can cause drying of the cuticles and the skin around nails are excessive hand washing or contact with water (e.g. from dishwashing); cold, dry weather; use of harsh detergents and soaps; and use of acetone nail polish removers (this could explain why you get peeling cuticles after manicure).
Excessively drying of the skin around nails may also cause pain, redness, swelling, bleeding, and cracking or even lead to serious infection when bacteria enters the skin through the damaged cuticles.
According to Jessica Krant, MD, assistant professor of Dermatology at State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center, peeling cuticles could also be a symptom of “low level chronic infection caused by yeast and moisture”. Yeast (fungal) infection is notable for its characteristic yellow staining of the nails.
3. Medical Conditions
Peeling cuticles could also be a symptom of an internal disease. To start with, psoriasis can cause cuticle problems in addition to other symptoms, says Bhupinder Kaur, MD, a dermatologist based in India.
4. Vitamin Deficiency
It is also widely believed that deficiency in vitamins and essential minerals could worsen cuticle and nails peeling and other problems if not start them in the first place. Proper nutrition coupled with taking multivitamin supplements may thus help to alleviate the symptoms.
Peeling Cuticles Pictures
Below are photos showing peeling cuticles due to various environmental and internal factors. Notice how damaged the skin around the nails and cuticles is:
How to Fix Peeling Cuticles
Most cases of cuticle peeling will go away with nothing more than just TLC for your nails. This entails restoring the moisture balance of the cuticles and the skin around the nails while preventing further exposure to the causative elements.
1. Moisturize Generously
Restoring the moisture balance of your nails and cuticles is the first step towards healing peeling cuticles. Below are some of the options to consider:
Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline), creams, and Lotions
Most doctors recommends applying a thick moisturizing cream or ointment several times daily. In fact, The American Academy of Dermatology specifically recommends getting a scoop of Vaseline petroleum jelly regularly for effective treatment of dry, peeling fingernails cuticles.
The downside to this is that it is not always practical especially for those working in offices since petroleum and other thick emollients are pretty messy.
Thus Bruce Robinson, MD., a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, NYC suggests using Vaseline and similar products at night and less messy moisturizing lotions during the day. You will of course be sacrificing on some moisturizing effect since creams and ointments do a better job on cuticles but it is all a balancing act between working and treating the cuticles.
According to Ella Toombs, MD, a dermatologist based in Washington, D.C., hot wax treatment can also help to moisturize and cure peeling cuticles. Usually offered in nail salons, this involves dipping the fingernails in melted, oily waxy. After the initial treatment, clients have to put on a pair of plastic gloves for 10-15 minutes to retain in the heat.
As Toombs says, “After you take it off, the hands, nails, and cuticles are softer.”
Glycolic Acid Cream
Dr. Bhupinder Kaur recommends using any good moisturizing ream or lotion during the day and switching to a cream that contains glycolic acid at night for an even more powerful cuticle peeling repair.
These days there are also many cuticle cream products to choose from. Among the best ingredients to check out for are glycerin, Shea butter, vitamin E, safflower seed oil, and almond oil.
2. Avoid Cuticle Drying Agents
To effectively cure nail cuticles peeling, it is also important to avoid exposure to the factors that cause the problem in the first place, especially those that dry and irritate the cuticle and the skin around the nails.
To start with, you will want to wear a pair of rubber gloves with cotton lining when working with water for an extended period of time e.g. when swimming, dishwashing, gardening, washing clothes etc. If working with water for only a short time, moisturize your hands as soon as you are through. This not only helps to repair but also prevent drying and peeling of cuticles.
Secondly, you will want to avoid using nail polish removers that contain acetone as the solvent for some time to see if that helps to get rid of the cuticle peeling. In fact, Dr. Bhupinder Kaur suggests staying away to cosmetic products completely for a while to see if that helps. If that is not at all possible – maybe you cannot imagine life without your manicures – then you will want to use gentle nail products e.g. soy-based nail polish removers.
It is also important to wear a pair of gloves when outdoors during the cold, dry weather (especially during winter). Running a humidifier in the house may also be beneficial to damaged cuticles.
An equal important way to treat and prevent cuticle problems is to stop licking or biting your fingers and cuticles. As Dr. Robinson puts it, “Your mouth is a dirty area, and saliva is an enzyme that breaks down skin.”
This means that licking and biting your fingernails and cuticles not only cause drying and peeling but also make your cuticles prone to infections.
3. Olive Oil
There are many home remedies for peeling cuticles. Olive oil stands prominently among them. To use the oil to aid healing of the problematic cuticles and skin around nails, follow the steps below:
- Add ½ cup of olive oil into a small bowl.
- Heat it slightly in the microwave.
- Add a couple drops of lavender oil.
- Dip your fingernails in the warm oil mixture for 20 minutes.
- Rinse your hands with lukewarm water.
- Pat them dry with a towel, then apply your usual moisturizer.
- Repeat this home remedy regularly to effectively heal the peeling cuticles.
Honey is a humectant (attracts moisture to the skin). It thus helps to moisturize and fix dry, peeling cuticles when applied to the skin around fingernails.
- Dab a small amount of raw, organic honey to the affected areas of the fingernails.
- Allow it to stay on for 25 to 20 minutes.
- Rinse it off with warm water.
- Pat the skin dry.
- Use this home treatment two to three times daily to get the desired results.
If you like, you can use honey in combination with olive oil. Simply mix 1 tablespoon each of the two ingredients and apply it to the cuticles once or twice daily.
5. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is an amazing herbal remedy for not only peeling cuticles and skin but also a whole range of other skin ailments ranging from sunburns and burns to acne and dry skin among others. It has powerful skin moisturizing and healing properties. To use aloe vera to fix cuticle peeling and cracking, follow the steps below:
- Get a fresh leaf from an aloe vera plant.
- Squeeze it to get the juice oozing out and apply it directly to the cuticles and nails.
- Wash it off the fingernails or toenails after 25 to 30 minutes.
- Repeat this home treatment 2 to 3 times each day.
When to See a Doctor
Particularly painful, peeling cuticles warrant the attention of a doctor. Seek medical attention also if any of the above home remedies don’t cure the problem.
- Caring.com: How can I stop the skin around my fingernails from peeling off?
- Mayo Clinic: How to Keep Your Fingernails Healthy and Strong
- Medhelp: Peeling Skin around Nails
- WebMD: Caring for your Cuticles