What is a Cuticle Nipper?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

A cuticle nipper is a small tool that is used to trim or cut back the cuticles on the fingernails or toenails. These tools are usually made from a durable metal such as stainless steel. They are designed with a two-pronged handle that fits in the palm of the hand. At the end of the cuticle nipper is a metal jaw with sharp edges intended to grasp and cut away excessive skin around the cuticle. The jaw is usually one inch (about 2.5 cm) deep or less.

A cuticle nipper is used to cut or trim the cuticles on the fingernails or toenails.
A cuticle nipper is used to cut or trim the cuticles on the fingernails or toenails.

It is common for nail technicians to use cuticle nippers during spa treatments for the feet and the hands. In order to maintain important hygienic standards, a cuticle nipper must be disinfected between clients. Even skilled nail technicians sometimes accidentally cut the cuticle too low and cause a small amount of bleeding around the nail bed. The risk of bleeding, even in small amounts, means that a cuticle nipper must be sterilized between clients.

Soaking the fingers may help soften the cuticles so that they may be pushed back or clipped with ease.
Soaking the fingers may help soften the cuticles so that they may be pushed back or clipped with ease.

Some people who prefer to enjoy manicures and pedicures at home instead of at the spa use spa-quality products at home. Cuticle nippers fall into this category. In fact, some companies that sell personal care items offer kits which include all of the tools necessary to complete at-home hand and feet treatments. It is common for such a kit to include a cuticle nipper. The prices of nippers and the sets that they are included in vary widely. The more expensive models are usually spa-quality, made of durable materials, and are less likely to break.

There is some debate as to whether or not it is good to cut the cuticles around the fingernails and toenails. Some people believe that cutting the cuticles is bad for the health of the nails. Other people believe that long cuticles look unkempt and unsightly and that cutting them back does no real harm. Luckily, there is a tool that does pretty much the same thing as a nipper without cutting away the cuticles.

For those who prefer not to cut the cuticles, a cuticle pusher may be used instead of a cuticle nipper. Instead of actually cutting back the cuticles, a pusher literally just moves the cuticle back and away from the nail. This leaves the nail bare and prepared for buffing or polish. A cuticle pusher is also more hygienic than a cuticle nipper because it is much less likely to cause bleeding around the beds of the fingernails or toenails.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments


For anyone who’s thinking of nipping their cuticles, I strongly suggest using a cuticle remover solution before cutting them. I used to nip my cuticles without treating them first, and it really hurt!

My cuticles are tough, so sometimes I’d slip and cut myself, too. But after I soak my cuticles in some cuticle remover, they get softened up and are really easy to remove.

I use the kind that has lanolin and aloe. It works really well and my cuticles look much healthier now.


@ginSoul – You don’t really need to buy a sharpener. And actually, sharpeners are very hard to find. The best cuticle nipper is one made of stainless steel. Stainless steel is very durable. It doesn’t tarnish or rust, and since you’ll only be using it to clip your cuticles, it shouldn’t get dull for many years. I’ve had mine for 5 years and it still looks new.

There are really expensive cuticle nippers that can be sharpened. They can cost in excess of $100, but they can last a lifetime. You can get them at high end department stores.


I’m thinking of buying my first cuticle nipper. Do I need to get a cuticle nipper sharpener as well? I’m very frugal and like my tools to last as long as possible. If I need a sharpener, I want to know so I can buy one while I’m at the store.

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