Refinery29 spoke to Juanita Hubert-Miller, founder of nail bar Townhouse, who explained that for the most meticulous manicure, you’ll probably want to push your cuticles back. “If you gently scratch your nail right near what you think of as your cuticle, you will see little white bits appear. This has to come off when having a manicure as paint and gel sticks best to a clean nail,” she explained. “What most people refer to as the cuticle is actually known as the eponychium, the fold of skin at the base of the nail. This you need to be much more gentle with as it is living tissue. It is absolutely fine to push it back and this is best done after a shower or bath, or in the salon with professional equipment to avoid damage or splitting.”
If you do decide to push your cuticles back at home, WebMD recommends using a wooden orange stick meant for doing just that. Real Simple further explains that you should remove your nail polish, moisturize your nails, soak your hands in warm water to soften the skin, and then use a soft cloth (or a cuticle tool) to lightly push back the cuticle.
While it is okay to push cuticles back, you should always stay away from cutting, as this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make with your nails. Aside from bacteria entering through the cut cuticle, dermatologist Ella Toombs, MD, explains, “Cuticles don’t want to be cut. They’re supposed to be soft, and cutting can make them hard, more likely to fracture. If you cut it, it has an increased tendency to split off.”