Save Your Cuticles

In 8th grade I capriciously decided to sign up for softball.  Since I didn’t know what I was doing, I spent a lot of time sitting on the bench.  Being the productive minded individual that I was, I decided that sitting on the sidelines during most of all the softball games I attended was the most efficient time to push back my cuticles.  Since then, pushing back my cuticles has always been a habit of “I have nothing to do but I’m forced to wait here right now” syndrome.  That way, I could feel productive when I was waiting in unplanned locations.

Growing up, my best friend’s mom was one of the best nail manicurists in town.  I loved going to her house to paint my nails due to the vast selection of colors she always had.  I learned early to maintain the beauty of my cuticles by regularly pushing them back.

When I met my husband in college, I made sure to let him know that he had the worst, ungroomed cuticles ever.  They looked like they were never pushed back even one time in his life.  I made it my goal to try to “sneak” pushing back his cuticles while we would hold hands, but he would often wince in pain and quickly yank away his hand.  If my fingers landed in close proximity to his cuticles, without touching them, he would still perceive a threat and swat my hands away.

Cleaning and pushing back the cuticle is a standard component of a nail manicure.  Whether you get your cuticle pushed back at the salon or you’ve been neurotically doing it yourself for years (like myself), you may want to hold off.

I recently learned in dermatology class that the cuticle serves to protect the lunula.  The lunula is the half moon shaped white area at the base of the nail.  This is the location responsible for nail growth and it is whiter than the rest of the nail due to its low blood supply.  By pushing back the cuticle, you are removing your body’s natural defense against nail infections, increasing the risk of paronychia.  Paronychia is the medical term for an infection of the nail.  Most nail infections are fungal or bacterial.  Fungal infections can be extremely difficult to eliminate and they can often be a lifelong problem.

It is especially crucial that you do not push back your cuticles if your hands are frequently in water.  Pushing back your cuticles in addition to having your hands in water most of the day can really increase your chances of getting paronychia.

Next time you get a manicure, think of your little cuticles and keep them where God put them.

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5 Responses

  1. KelseyJoy

    Wow! I never thought of that. I’ve never really been one to push back my cuticles anyways though…..mainly because mine tend to be naturally non-existant. They just don’t grow!


  2. Jeanne Powell

    Thanks Archer. I didn’t know you had a blog and have enjoyed reading it today. I sent your article on cuticles to my younger daughter who while in grad school has taken her stress out on her cuticles for seven years now! Hope she hears your words to the wise. Take care, Jeanne


  3. Dr. Archer

    Jeanne – thanks for reading my blog!


  4. Justyn

    Very informative. I’ve always heard stories about the lunula but never really knew its purpose or function. In the past, people told me the color of the lunula could determine heart health.

    I think my cuticles are fine in their natural state. It makes sense that bacteria and fugi would be able to enter your body without the cuticle acting as a barrier.

    Thanks for the information!


    Dr. Archer

    Sure, Justyn! I think a lot of natural health is just plain common sense. :) Thanks for reading my post!


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