How Does Nail Cuticle Remover Work?

by Gio
how cuticle removers work

I never remove cuticles.

I know they β€œruin” an otherwise perfectly polished manicure, BUT, those cuticles are there for a reason. They prevent bacteria and other nasty stuff from entering our nails. Kind of a good reason to keep them there, don’t you agree?

Maybe not. Doesn’t matter. I’m not gonna jump on my soapbox and start preaching against cuticle removers. Instead, I’ll just tell you how cuticle removers work, ok?

There are two types of cuticle removers. Neither of them is particularly good for the nails, but one is way worse than the other. Let’s take a look:

The Harsh Way To Remove Cuticles

Traditionally, cuticle removers contain Potassium Hydroxide and Sodium Hydroxide.

These two chemicals are very alkaline. In plain English, that means they have a very high pH. Do you know what happens when you put something on your skin that has a very high pH? Hint: it’s NOT pretty.

They break down the dead skin around the nails, so that it’s easy to remove with a nail knife or an orange wood stick.

The catch? The high pH is a recipe for irritation and dryness. The more you use them, the worse it gets. So use them sparingly!

The Mild Way To Remove Cuticles

Recently, brands have been coming out with a gentler type of cuticle remover.

Like facial exfoliants, they use Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), a group of exfoliants derived from fruit and milk sugar. The most famous members of the family are glycolic acid and lactic acid.

I’m sure you’ve heard of them. If not, here’s how they work. They dissolve the glue that holds skin cells together, so they can easily be pushed away.

But, there’s a catch here, too. Because they’re gentler on the skin, they work more slowly. Personally, I think the trade off is worth it.

P.S. AHAs can irritate skin too if you use them too often.

Related: The Complete Guide To Gycolic Acid In Skincare: What It Is, What It Does, And How To Use It

Which Type Of Nail Cuticle Remover Is Better?

If you really need to use a nail cuticle remover, make sure it’s the exfoliating kind. AHAs are much gentler on the skin and don’t destroy your nails.

What type of nail cuticle remover do you use? Let me know in the comments below.

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10 comments

Nikki October 30, 2009 - 4:55 pm

I do use cuticle remover once in a while, lets say once a month, I just push them and cut extras..I do make sure to wash my hands right after πŸ™‚

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Dee October 30, 2009 - 6:05 pm

I’ve always wondered how these work. I haven’t found one that worked well for my cuticles. Is there one that you would recommend Gio?
.-= Dee´s last blog ..S’pore Is Where To Be =-.

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Dao October 30, 2009 - 6:29 pm

I don’t use cuticle remover, they never seem to remove all the gunk and I am not really patient to wait either. I just manual remove it by using a cuticle remover stick and a nipper once in a while.
.-= Dao´s last blog ..Tweety FOTD: My 2009 Halloween Look =-.

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Rebecca October 31, 2009 - 11:16 pm

I’ve never actually used a cuticle remover myself, but when I get manicures the manicurist always uses one. They sound a little scary, what with the harsh chemicals and all, but I haven’t had any bad experiences. Knock on wood!
.-= Rebecca´s last blog ..October Lust List (and Happy Halloween!) =-.

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beautifulwithbrains November 1, 2009 - 7:32 pm

Nikki, like you, I don’t use them too often and wash hands afterwards. Otherwise, they would irritate and dry even more my already dry hands.

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beautifulwithbrains November 2, 2009 - 1:28 pm

Dee, personally I like Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover. It works well and fast, but it contains Potassium Hydroxide so you have to wash your hands carefully afterwards.

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beautifulwithbrains November 2, 2009 - 1:33 pm

Dao, I know what you mean. It’s hard to find one that works really well. I’m too scared to use a nipper though, looks painful.

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beautifulwithbrains November 2, 2009 - 1:36 pm

Rebecca, the chemicals sound scary, but if don’t use them too often and wash your hands afterwards you’ll be fine and they won’t irritate your skin. And if a professional does it for you, then you’re probably in very good hands, so don’t worry about it πŸ˜‰

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tgz November 4, 2009 - 4:00 pm

I never ever removed my cuticles. Sometimes I push them with the cuticle spatula (?) and that’s it. My cuticles are naturally nice looking and I don’t want to ruin them. I do apply hand cream over them to make them soft prior to pushing them, but that’s it.

I am lucky to have naturally pretty fingernails and cuticles. On the other hand, my toenails are very small and not so pretty (no fungus infection, fortunately, knock on wood, just toenails with a less pretty shape, naturally very curved and prone to ingrown nails).

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beautifulwithbrains November 4, 2009 - 6:33 pm

Tgz, lucky you! I’m jealous ehehe I wish I had good fingernails and cuticles too but my nails are very fragile and break easily and my cuticles look horrible πŸ™

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