How to Use Cuticle Remover

By | June 23, 2013

We all admire well-manicured nails with clean edges. Nails can look neglected with overgrown cuticles along their contours. If done properly and hygienically, removing cuticles is harmless since they are just dead skin (read up on the anatomy of the nail here). However, being too rough on your cuticles with either chemical removers or cutters can damage the living tissue (eponychium), which can lead to infection.

To break down dead skin, chemical cuticle removers in the form of creams or gels contain mild alkaline (<3% sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide). It is easy to tell apart the true cuticle and the living skin above it (the eponychium) when using a chemical cuticle remover, which means you may never need to use a cuticle cutter! Follow the simple steps below to achieve clean nail edges and to increase the paintable area of your nails:

What you need:

– Cuticle remover e.g. Butter London’s Melt Away Cuticle Eliminator or INM Cuticlean (many of us use Blue Cross Cuticle Remover or Sally Hansen Cuticle Remover – check out our nail care routines here)
– Wooden orange stick or plastic manicure stick or cuticle pusher
– Moistened cotton, lint-free gauze, paper towel or baby wipe to wipe off detached dead skin residue
– Cuticle oil or moisturiser

1. Apply a coat of remover around the clean contour of your nail.

2. Leave on for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Application time varies with individual cuticle removers (check the instructions). Insufficient exposure leads to ineffective removal. Leaving on for too long dries up the remover, making it harder to push back the cuticle, plus it may also damage the living tissue.

3.    In a circular motion, gently roll back the cuticle with a dry plastic manicure stick or an orange stick covered with damp cotton wool.

4.    Wipe the white dead skin residue off your nail.

*Repeat steps 1-4 two to three nails at a time to minimise problems with the remover drying and overacting.

5.     Wash hand thoroughly and scrub nails with brush.

6.     Moisturise cuticle with cuticle oil or cream – voilà!

Before ‘discovering the power of cuticle remover’:

After a few months of DIY cuticle removal:


– Do not use on broken skin. Test before use on sensitive skin.

– Do not use more than twice weekly to avoid traumatising the living skin above the cuticle (eponychium). For mid-week maintenance, pushing the cuticle back using a plastic manicure stick after a shower is sufficient to keep cuticle overgrowth at bay.

– To minimise infection, wash hands thoroughly before and after cuticle removal. It is good practice to wipe your nails and manicure stick with alcohol before applying the remover. If the eponychium is infected (e.g. if it’s red, sore or bumpy), apply antiseptic cream such as Betadine and consult a doctor or pharmacist for antibiotic ointment.

Ann loves multitasking – a scientist, a lecturer, a mother of two who paints her nail late at night, and finds social media fascinating. For more nerdy nail posts, check out her blog at Nailovelogy and Instagram (@annvsv).

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