I hate when you want to show off a gorgeous manicure with perfect polish or nail art, but your cuticles are a mess. There aren’t Instagram filters that can hide dry, red, or ripped cuticles. I’ve looked.
Let’s talk about where your cuticle is because, real talk, cuticle oil is only barely meant for your cuticles. There’s a lot of confusion, mislabeling, and generalizing as to what part of your nail is the cuticle. If we’re going to treat it, we need to know what it is. The nail matrix, which grows your nails sits below where your nail meets your skin. That lip of skin that surrounds your nail isn’t actually your cuticle–though it is the part that tends to get ragged and unsightly. This part of your finger is called the eponychium which I cannot pronounce and provides crucial protection against infection and nutrients to your nail matrix so you can grow healthy nails.
The cuticle is actually only the dead skin that is shed from the eponychium. It’s that transparent layer of skin that is attached to your nail plate. So you can’t technically heal a cuticle, because it’s dead skin that you should probably gently remove to make your nail polish last longer, but cuticle oil softens the cuticle making it much easier to push back.
Cuticle oil is amazing for your whole fingertip. Your skin and nails, especially the eponychium, are prone to drying out and cracking from any harsh treatment like frequent hand washing, cleaning agents, dish washing, air conditioning, cold winter weather, and folding laundry fresh out of the dryer. All these things can lead to peeling, cracking, and painful hangnails. Another huge cause of dry, painful nails is nail polish remover. Read my guide to the best nail polish remover for some gentle nail polish remover options that moisturize your hands while they work.
Harsh soaps can also dry out your hands something awful. See my article on the best luxury hand soaps to truly pamper your skin.
Cuticle oil is a rescue product both for nails in hangnail-crisis and as a preventative. When you return moisture to your cuticle area, your whole nail is happy and can heal itself to become smooth and uniform. General manicures as part of your regular nail care can also help keep your whole fingernail healthy. If having your nails professionally cleaned up isn’t in your budget, see my guide to the best manicure sets and kits for the tools you’ll need to take care of your hands at home.
Hand lotion won’t cut it for your cuticles. I sort of didn’t believe this, but I can tell you that in my experience, lotion is no substitute for a cuticle oil. The cuticle area is more delicate than the rest of your hands and needs a different concentration and type of moisturizers.
The best method for using cuticle oils and creams is to apply a small bit to each nail right before bed and gently rub it into your nail plate and cuticle area. You only need a little bit as moisturizers targeted for your cuticle area are very concentrated, which is nice because your product will last you a long time. I like to apply mine in bed right before turning out the light. During times when you know you’re going to have dry hands, you can apply it over of the course of the day when your hands feel dry, but generally one treatment each night is enough soothe your fingertips. If your cuticle area is inflamed or desert levels of dry, wear moisturizing gloves to bed after applying your cuticle oil.
Cuticle oil hydrates your nails as well. When your nails are too dry either from harsh soaps, nail polish removers with acetone, or genetics, they become brittle, weak, and begin to peel or split. Cuticle oil restores essential moisture to nails allowing them to grow stronger, healthier, and more flexible. You can also consider breaking out the moisturizing nail strengtheners found in my best products to grow nails fast guide.
Cuticle oil isn’t an overnight fix and will take days or even weeks of regular use before you can see a big difference, but it’s so worth it. As part of your nail nail care, cuticle oils and creams can leave you with photo-ready fingernails you’re happy to show off.
1. Best Cuticle Oil for Peeling Nails: SolarOil by CND
Creative Nail Design’s SolarOil has been called a miracle in a bottle by lots of users. I bought myself this cuticle oil and I can see why. I naturally have very brittle nails and regular use of this has allowed me to grow my nails out longer than I’ve worn them in my life. It uses three different oils: sweet almond oil, rice bran oil, and jojoba oil which has a structure closest our natural body oils meaning it is quickly absorbed by your skin. This blend of oils makes SolarOil particularly great for hydrating dry, brittle nails that are prone to breaking or peeling.
I like that the ingredient list is short. Besides those three oils, it only contains almond fragrance and vitamin E which nourishes your skin. It smells deliciously like amaretto, but that fades quickly as it absorbs. The bottle has an applicator like a nail polish would, but not quite as thick. This makes it easy to apply, though you do need a flat surface to rest the bottle on while you work.
- Absorbs quickly
- Three moisturizing oils
- Smells amazing
- Great for brittle or peeling nails
- Not for use in bed
2. Prettiest Cuticle Oil: Cuccio Milk & Honey Cuticle Conditioning Oil
Lastly, we have the Cuccio Milk & Honey Cuticle Conditioning Oil. This cuticle oil uses a blend of vegetable oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and cottonseed oil as their moisturizers. I’m not wild about the inclusion of vegetable oil since I don’t actually know what oils are in it, but I do like the other oils in the mix. This one does have honey extract in it which is another softening agent though I think, like the milk extract, that it’s more for scent than anything else. Cuccio also adds vitamins A and E for nourishing your cuticles.
The smell is a little strong so if you’re sensitive to fragrances, this one isn’t for you. While I’m not that into eyedroppers, I do love this glass bottle. It has a slanted bottom so the bottle sits at an angle. In this position, the eyedropper can reach the oil to the last drop. If the idea of a milk and honey fragrance doesn’t appeal to you, they also have a Pomegranate & Fig Cuticle Conditioning Oil.
- Neat tilted bottle
- Blend of four oils
- Here’s my honey extract
- Choice of two scents
- Eyedroppers aren’t great for everyone
- Not for use in bed
- Scent may be too strong for some
- “Vegetable oil” is vague
- Not vegan
3. Best Moisturizing Cuticle Cream: Jessica’s Nourish Cuticle Formula
Here we have another cream, this time by Jessica–a brand I’m into at the moment. This one is chock full of vitamins and minerals to nourish your skin and nails, which is probably why it’s called Nourish. The formula contains vitamins A, D, E, zinc and allantoin which is an extract of comfrey root and both softens skin and stimulates healing and the growth of new cells. The main moisturizer in this cream is petroleum which not everyone is okay with. I don’t love it and prefer their cuticle oil, which is a bit farther down on the list. But you can’t deny that petroleum works when it comes to hydrating your skin. Nourish also uses lanolin which is a moisturizer naturally derived from wool which has been used for thousands of years to soften skin.
- Nourishing vitamins and botanicals
- Promotes cell growth
- Blend of moisturizers
- Can put on in bed
- Not vegan
- Contains petroleum and parabens
4. Best Smelling Cuticle Oil: Essie’s Apricot Cuticle Oil
If you want to soften your cuticles and smell absolutely delicious, the Apricot Cuticle Oil by essie may be for you. This oil is extremely long lasting and it’s going to take forever for your bottle to look like you’ve used any at all. You only need the teeniest amount on your nails once a day at night, but you might end up using it more often just for the scent. It contains vitamins A, E, and hydrolyzed collagen to help strengthen your skin and nails. Even for an oil, it is very thin, so you definitely want to do this at a table.
For moisturizers, essie uses cottonseed oil and soybean oil. This blend works wonders for most people, but for others it isn’t as exciting. If you’re looking for an oil for your nail care routine, then the Apricot Cuticle Oil is amazing. If your nails or cuticles are shredded and in dire need of intensive care, I’d say skip this one.
- Smells amazing
- Nourishing vitamins and collagen
- Blend of oils
- Long lasting
- Contains parabens
- Can’t be used in bed
- Not best for severely damaged nails
5. Most Convenient Cuticle Cream: QuickFix Moisturizing Cuticle Balm by Butter London
This thick cream from butter LONDON comes in a convenient pen that’s easy to carry with you or stick in a bedside drawer. It uses coconut oil and avocado oil as its moisturizers which I’m a big fan of. Give me all the avocado oil when my skin or hair is dry. The tip of the pen has rounded bumps on it which massage and stimulate your cuticles as you rub the balm on. Not not only does this feel nice, it increases blood flow to your fingers which encourages healing and nail growth. If you have very sensitive fingers or a sensory disorder, this might not be for you.
I do have to repeat that despite the name of this balm, there is no overnight fit for damaged or intensely dry cuticles. It will take regular use to get the benefits. This balm does contain silicone which some people prefer to avoid, but I don’t mind that. Silicone seals in moisture and increases the effectiveness of moisturizers. You can read more about how silicone works and why it’s not always bad in my best hair serums guide.
- Avocado and coconut oils
- Massaging applicator tip
- Can be used in bed
- “QuickFix” name is misleading
- Contains silicone
6. Best Vegan Cuticle Oil: Kur Nourishing Cuticle Oil by LONDONTOWN
The Kur Nourishing Cuticle Oil is a much thicker oil than some of the others. It comes with a nail polish brush as well as an eyedropper cap that you can switch out if you like that applicator better. This oil has a unique choice of oils including mineral oil, rapeseed oil, and evening primrose extract oil. This soaks in fast and really moisturizes your skin. I would say that this might be more targeted to cuticles than for dry nails so keep that in mind depending on your needs. Extracts of cucumber, garlic, and chamomile are also in the mix as well as vitamins A and E.
- Vegan, gluten free, and cruelty free
- Thick and hydrating
- Nourishing botanicals
- Unique blend of oils
- Can’t use in bed
- Better for cuticles than nails
- The scent is hit or miss
7. Best Quick Drying Cuticle Oil: Julep’s Mighty Nail & Cuticle Serum
Mighty is unique because it uses an alcohol to moisturizes instead of an oil. Many alcohols are drying, but certain fatty alcohols, like glycerin, are fully of lipids just like an oil. Glycerin dries faster and feels less oily which is nice for people who hate that greasy feeling. To nourish your nails and cuticles, Julep includes extracts of sugar cane, green tea, lemon, and apple–which sounds like a beverage I’d want to drink.
You either love or hate the pen applicator. It’s a brush tip and you turn the bottom of the pen, like lipstick, to dispense the serum. If lip glosses or concealers like this frustrate you, this won’t be the pen design that changes your mind. But if pen applicators make your life easier and less messy, then go for it. It’s a great size to fit in your purse and an easy serum to apply in bed.
- Nourishing (and tasty sounding) botanicals
- Fast drying
- Easy to apply in bed
- Pen applicator is a pro for some
- Pen applicator is a con for others
8. Most Hydrating Cuticle Oil: Phenomen Oil by Jessica
This is an intensely moisturizing product. It’s made with a blend of jojoba oil, rice bran oil, and almond oil and soaks into your skin quickly. What’s unique about this one is that it isn’t only for your cuticles. Phenomen Oil is great for any parts of your body that tend to get dry like your feet, knees, elbows, or even your lips. I like that this is a multipurpose product because my storage for nail products is already a little tight. It comes with an eyedropper applicator and, honestly, I don’t mind too much. If it were just for my cuticles I would wish it was a brush, but I wouldn’t want to be brushing this onto my feet and then return that brush back into my oil. Still, if you have grip problems or hand tremors, this might be an issue. Phenomen oil has a nice light scent and I’ve got to give it points for the cheeky name.
- Rated five out of five stars by users on Amazon
- Jojoba, rice bran, and almond oil
- Smells great
- Can be use on any dry areas of your body
- Can’t use it in bed
- Not everyone is wild about eyedroppers
9. Best Anti-Fungal Cuticle Oil: Cuticle & Nail Oil by Bee Naturals
Bee Naturals’ Cuticle & Nail Oil is a nice, all natural product if you’re looking for something with essential oils. All the ingredients are pronounceable and the smell is relaxing. Olive oil, avocado oil, castor bean oil, and grape seed oil make up the moisturizers. They also include vitamin E, and lavender, lemon, and tea tree essential oils, giving the oil a fresh scent. Tea tree is a natural anti-fungal treatment so I like the idea of applying that often to my nails. The cap has a brush applicator and the oil is a little thicker than a lot of the others on here. I have to say though, I was expecting there to be honey or a honey extract in this from the packaging and I was surprised to find there isn’t.
- All natural ingredients
- Blend of four oils
- Not for use in bed
- No honey
- Thicker than some
10. Best Cuticle Cream for Dry Skin: Crabtree & Evelyn’s Gardeners Nail & Cuticle Therapy
This cuticle cream is from Crabtree & Evelyn’s Gardeners Collection which is inspired by the intensive care needed for hands that work the earth. Even if you don’t spend your off hours pulling weeds, there are loads of activities that can create a hazardous situation for your nails and cuticles. I know for me, it’s washing dishes. This Nail & Cuticle therapy is full of plant-derived moisturizers, including shea butter, to restore the natural suppleness of your hands. It also contains keratin which is the protein our nails are made from. The scent is lightly floral and the tube is compact enough to carry with you in a bag.
- Shea butter
- Strengthening protein
- Easy to apply cream
- Can put on in bed
- Contains parabens and silicone
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