Pushing Nail Cuticles: Risk or Reward?

Aesthetically pleasing nails may come at a few costs

Credits: Joanna Malinowska at
Tammy Wu
Edited By:
Jennifer Ornelas , MD

It is not uncommon to have your nail cuticles pushed back or even trimmed when getting a manicure in a nail salon or giving yourself a manicure at home. Many people choose to trim, push their cuticles back, or use cuticle removers simply for aesthetic purposes, helping achieve a smooth and neat-appearing manicure. Even though this practice is very common and may seem benign, our cuticles are actually there for a reason, and removing them can provide more harm than good.  Here’s why.


Risk of Infection

Your cuticles are what connect the skin on your finger to the area where the nail starts to grow, providing a natural protective barrier. Cutting the nail cuticles or even biting them damages this natural barrier and exposes the nail, making it more prone to attack by fungi and bacteria. In fact, there are existing cases of nail cuticles being attacked by fungus or bacteria that eventually cause nail diseases and cuticle cut infections. One specific type of infection is paronychia. When someone has this infection, the skin around the nail can become red and inflamed, and there can sometimes be a pus pocket below the surface of the skin. Not only is it oftentimes painful, but regeneration of the cuticles also slows down.    


Nail Appearance

As mentioned above, trimming or pushing your cuticles back is part of both at home and nail salon manicures. This is often done by pushing back pre-softened cuticles using tools, such as an orange stick, or by snipping off the edges of your cuticle using a cuticle cutter. However, removing your cuticles can damage your nails, causing ridges, white lines, or white dots, which can be unsightly for some people.



Many people may like the appearance of their nails with no cuticles, but cutting or pushing nail cuticles poses a risk to the overall health of our nails. 

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