What is Cuticle Oil?

B. Miller

Cuticle oil is a moisturizing product used in nail care. Made from various types of oils, it is designed to be applied with a brush, cotton ball or pen on the cuticles, the small, slightly hardened strip of skin at the base of the fingernails and toenails. People use it as part of their daily beauty regimen or during a manicure to prevent the skin from losing moisture. Although it can be expensive, it can reduce pain and boost confidence. It is available in both department stores and pharmacies, as well as online.

Using cuticle oil can help prevent hangnails.
Using cuticle oil can help prevent hangnails.

Ingredients and Their Purpose

Cuticle oil is a fairly simple product. Manufacturers usually make it with oils such as avocado, jojobo, tea tree or almond oil. Other moisturizing ingredients such as shea or cocoa butter might be included, as well. Makers sometimes add Vitamin E.

With the help of cuticle oil, nails can look fresh and clean after a manicure or pedicure.
With the help of cuticle oil, nails can look fresh and clean after a manicure or pedicure.

The oil-based ingredients serve as emollients. They do not add water to the skin and therefore are not hydrating, but they form a protective barrier that prevents moisture loss — this is why cuticle oil is known as a moisturizer. This keeps cuticles soft, preventing cracking and tears. Certain oils also have antifungal properties, so they potentially can prevent nail infections. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that, when included, fights the free radicals that damage skin cells.

If you run out of cuticle oil, olive oil is a great substitute.
If you run out of cuticle oil, olive oil is a great substitute.


A person can use a specialized brush to apply cuticle oil. The brush typically comes in the bottle with purchase. If the oil doesn’t come with a brush, or if the brush is lost, it’s also fine to apply the oil with a small sponge or cotton ball. A “pen” is available that allows greater precision during application.

Tea tree oil is often used in cuticle oil.
Tea tree oil is often used in cuticle oil.

Regardless of which application method a person selects, a little bit of oil goes a long way. It’s best to allow it to dry for a few minutes before touching anything. Placing a towel under the hands or feet can eliminate a mess.

Cuticle oil seals in moisture after feet have been soaked in water.
Cuticle oil seals in moisture after feet have been soaked in water.


Nail care professionals typically apply cuticle oil as the final step of a standard manicure or pedicure. They put a small amount of oil on the cuticle or, in some cases, the entire nail. The idea is to seal in the moisture gained from soaking the nails and cuticles in water prior to working on them.

Individuals also can apply this product as part of their everyday nail care routine. For most people, a standard moisturizing cream is all that’s needed to maintain general cuticle health. Only individuals who are prone to very dry nails, hangnails, splitting or cracking really need to use it on a daily basis. Those who do opt to use it can apply it before bed or as needed during the day.

Effect on Nail and Hand/Foot Appearance

Cuticle oil keeps the skin around nails soft and supple, preventing unsightly rips and infections. The nails look smooth and well-groomed as a result, which can make the entire hand or foot look as though it is well cared for. This can be important when individuals rely on their appearance as part of their work or want to make a good impression.

Other Benefits

When a person uses cuticle oil, the retention of moisture and subsequent improvement in cuticle health can result in a reduction of nail pain. This can make it easier to complete basic tasks during the day. The product also can prevent nails from becoming overly brittle and breaking, allowing them to grow out. The improved appearance of the cuticles also can make a person feel more confident.


This substance is relatively expensive compared to other moisturizing products. It usually lasts a long time, however, because not very much is required each time a person puts some on. Many individuals who use it consider the product well worth any extra cost.

Where to Buy

Cuticle oil is available for purchase in the nail care aisles of most department stores. The majority of pharmacies also carry it. When one of these stores does not have the type or brand of oil desired, shopping online is always an option.

Avocado oil is highly moisturizing.
Avocado oil is highly moisturizing.

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Discussion Comments


What are the features of this product?


You can make your own homemade cuticle oil at home and it’s very simple. Mix together 1 teaspoon of natural clay, 1 teaspoon olive oil and 3 drops lavender essential oil. Mix it until it becomes a paste. Put it into an ointment jar or you can even use an old makeup jar. You can use it as your primary nail and cuticle oil and it works great.


@pleats -- You not only can, you should!

Keeping your cuticles nice and healthy is one of the keys to keeping your nails in shape between fillings.

However, you must use one specifically designed for acrylic nails, or at least one that doesn't have mineral oil in it, since that will cause your nails to lift.

You can find cuticle oil for acrylic nails (and any other acrylic nail products you might need) online, but I suggest you get one at your local beauty store; they should be able to set you up with a good one.


Can you use cuticle oil when you have acrylic nails?


If you're ever stuck without your regular cuticle oil, a dab of olive oil will do the trick.

I've even heard that some people use clear lip gloss, but I've never tried that!

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