Hangnails 101: Why You Get Them, What To Do About Them & How To Prevent Them

August 17, 2015 by Lisa Fogarty
shefinds | beauty

Nothing ruins a fresh new mani quite like a hangnail or peeling cuticle. A nail polish chip is one thing–annoying and time-consuming to fix. But cuticle problems aren’t just unsightly, they can be painful, too. Add in the fact that few women are sure whether they should cut or push back their cuticles in the first place and you’ve got a major beauty problem on your hands.

Luckily, Greg Salo, co-founder of Caption Polish, knows a thing or two about peeling cuticles and is here to give us the skinny on hangnails.

SHEfinds: What are hangnails?

Greg Salo: Hangnails are dry, torn skin found around the edges of the nail bed or at the cuticle that can be equally painful and annoying.

SF: Why do they develop?

GS: Hangnails develop because of constant exposure to drying elements that remove moisture from the skin. Common culprits are cold weather and working frequently around water or chemicals (think doing the dishes or washing hands). The biggest culprit is self-induced from habitual nail biters. Constant exposure to saliva dries the skin (just like licking your lips when they are chapped). Biting tears the skin and can exacerbate sensitivity.

SF: How can people prevent hangnails?

GS: Make it a priority to keep hands moisturized. Keep some hand creme in your car, purse or at your desk. If you really want to get rid of hangnails the best thing to do is religiously apply cuticle oil twice a day, at morning and especially before bed since hands will be idle. Use gloves while doing housework or if heading out into colder climates.

SF: What is the best course of action to take if you have a hangnail?

GS: If you do find yourself with a hangnail, do not pick at it or try to bite it off. This will inflict more pain. Instead use a heavy duty hand creme or cuticle oil several times throughout the day and especially after hand washing. Properly moisturized skin will become more pliable and easily trimmed with nippers.

*Expert Tip: No cuticle oil handy? In a pinch, lip balm will do.

SF: Any other advice on dealing with hangnails?

GS: Like everything else in life, maintenance is key to keeping healthy overall. The same can be said for preventing unwanted hangnails.  Keep manicures in your regular beauty routine and whenever possible use a nail polish base with nail strengthener like Caption Base which helps nourish and fortify the natural nail.

For more beauty tips, check out the right way to shower and 11 facts you never knew about Sephora.

[Photo: Michelle Phan]



Lisa Fogarty is a lifestyle writer and reporter based in New York who covers health, wellness, relationships, sex, beauty, and parenting.

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