Your cuticle is a layer of clear skin. It’s located on the bottom of your finger or toenails, along the nail bed. It protects your nails by acting as a barrier for bacteria.

The cuticle area is delicate. It can get dry and crack easily. This may be more common in the colder months due to a lack of moisture in the air and exposure to dry indoor heat.

You can tell if your cuticles are dry if they’re flaking, cracked, or peeling. Cracked and peeling cuticles may allow bacteria to enter your nails and cause an infection, so you’ll want to treat them as soon as you notice dryness.

Read on to learn how to treat and prevent dry cuticles.

Illustration of the cuticle and nail

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The easiest way to treat dry cuticles is by moisturizing the area with a cream or oil. Some treatment options include:

1. Cuticle cream

A cuticle cream is an emollient that nourishes and moisturizes dry cuticles. Look for ingredients like vitamins A, C, and E, and natural oils such as almond and sunflower oil. The oils will help soften your cuticles and the vitamins can nourish and strengthen them, too.

To apply cuticle cream, massage a small amount into your nail beds after washing your hands. You can find cuticle creams at your local drugstore or beauty supply store.

Shop for cuticle creams

Some cuticle creams to try include:

2. Cuticle oil

Cuticle oil softens and hydrates the cuticle area. It’s usually made of a blend of oils and sometimes contains vitamins. Cuticle oil is quick-absorbing and also conditions your nails to help prevent future dryness and cracking.

Look for ingredients such as sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, and aloe vera for additional soothing.

To use cuticle oil, apply a thin amount to your nail beds using your fingertip or a soft brush.

Like cuticle cream, you should be able to purchase cuticle oil from beauty supply or drugstores.

Shop for cuticle oils

3. Coconut oil

If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, coconut oil is an at-home treatment option. The saturated fat in coconut oil can help soothe and strengthen nail beds.

To use, massage a small amount of coconut oil, using your fingertip or a soft brush, into each nail bed.

4. Nail care

If you get manicures, the Mayo Clinic advises against cutting your cuticles. If you do decide to trim them or have a nail technician trim your cuticles, it’s important to confirm the equipment your nail salon uses is sterilized. That will help prevent infection.

You also want to confirm that the cuticle cutters are sharp. Clippers that aren’t sharp enough may cause more peeling along the cuticles.

You can bring your own equipment if you’re concerned.

Shop for cuticle trimmers

5. Make a DIY biotin cuticle salve

Some research suggests biotin may help prevent brittleness and strengthen cuticles. You can find biotin in powdered and liquid form.

Combine biotin with antioxidant-rich vitamin E, hydrating argan oil, and coconut oil to make a homemade salve for dry cuticles. Apply daily or every other day for best results.

Some of the common causes of cuticle dryness include:

  • not moisturizing skin
  • washing hands too often
  • using hand sanitizer or nail polish remover
  • cold weather
  • eczema
  • malnutrition
  • some medications
  • nail-biting or cuticle biting

Although most of the above causes aren’t cause for concern, see your doctor if you think a condition such as eczema is drying out your cuticles. They may be able to recommend a medication to help.

Dry cuticles usually don’t lead to any health complications. But see your doctor if your cuticles are often bleeding or look infected. Signs of infection may include:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • pain around your cuticle

Your doctor may be able to recommend a stronger or prescription moisturizer to help with dryness. If your cuticles are infected, you may need prescription antibiotics.

The simplest way to prevent dry cuticles is to moisturize often. Use a cuticle cream, oil, or even coconut oil daily after washing your hands.

Avoid any products with harsh chemicals that can dry out your cuticles, such as:

  • harsh soaps
  • hand sanitizers
  • nail polish removers

Cuticles protect your nails and skin from getting infected. If they’re dry and cracked, dirt and bacteria may enter your nail beds.

Moisturize your hands and cuticles often with a cuticle cream or oil. Also, try to avoid harsh hand sanitizers and nail polish removers, which can dry out your cuticles.