Top Tips On How To Push Back Your Cuticles

A necessary part of your manicure routine, cuticle care is important for achieving perfect nails.

Removing unwanted skin from around your nails and nail bed leaves you with the perfect base for a flawless manicure. It also helps to prevent bacterial infections, split cuticles, and hangnails. 

Here are our top tips on how to keep your cuticles in check and maintain fabulous, healthy nails!

Table of contents:

What is the cuticle?

Should I push my cuticles back?

How can I push my cuticles back?

How often should I push back my cuticles?

Is it safe to cut my cuticles?

How do I care for my cuticles?

What are the best cuticle care products?

What is the cuticle? 

how to push back your cuticles

The cuticle is the thin layer of dead tissue that sits at the bottom edge, or base of your nails. 

Also known as the nail bed, the cuticle’s purpose is to form a seal between the nail plate and eponychium in order to prevent the root of the nail from becoming infected.

Nail products such as nail varnish and gel polish are built to bond with the surface of your nail. When they’re set on the cuticle skin, this can cause your manicure to lift or peel prematurely.

Should I push my cuticles back?

Here are 5 reasons you should push back your cuticles:

  1. Prepping and pushing back your cuticles allows your products to bond more easily with your nails’ surface for longer-lasting results. 
  2. By pushing back your cuticles, you’re clearing away dead skin cells from the surface and allowing your products to seal more easily.
  3. Nail roots can easily become infected if they’re exposed. Pushing back the cuticles rather than trimming them keeps them sealed to the nail root and prevents the onset of bacteria and germs.
  4. Trimming your cuticles can be painful, particularly if you cut too far into your skin or the area becomes infected. Using a cuticle pusher is less painful to maintain your cuticle area and won’t damage the living tissue.
  5. Your nails benefit from looking longer and neater.

How can I push my cuticles back?

Pushing your cuticles back is a great way to prevent them from splitting or getting infected and allows your products to sit much better on the surface of your nail. 

With the correct prep, tools and manicure routine, it’s super easy to keep your cuticles at their best.

Prepping your cuticles 

  • Wash and dry your hands, then remove any polish with an acetone-free nail polish remover and a cotton ball. It’s important to avoid pushing nail varnish chips into the cuticle bed when pushing back the cuticles, as this can cause infections.
  • Soak your nails in warm water for 5-10 minutes to soften your cuticles and make them easier to push back.
  • Shake off any excess water and pat your nails down with a towel.

How to push your cuticles back

  • Apply a drop of cuticle removing gel to your cuticles and soak for 15-30 seconds, or as per the product’s instructions. Allow the product to soak in to break down the overgrown skin.
  • The best way to push your cuticles back is to use either a cuticle stick or cuticle pusher. Then, with your hand placed on a steady surface, gently push back the overgrown skin around the nail.
  • Wipe away the cuticle remover gel with a cotton pad, then wash off any remaining residue.
  • Take your cuticle pusher again and push away any excess skin left on the nail, then sanitise the nail’s surface with spray-on hand sanitiser to remove any excess residue.
  • A cuticle nipper is a great tool to remove stubborn skin or hangnails. Specifically designed to minimise cuticle damage, this should be used to trim the translucent, dead skin. Doing so will help you avoid cutting and damaging the skin along the bottom of your nail. 
  • Angle your cuticle nippers as close as you can to the base of the torn skin, snipping away the hangnail (a piece of skin that has torn or split, found in the crease beside your nail) in a single, smooth cut. Trimming your hangnails prevents further tearing and decreases the risk of infection.
  • Wash your hands for a final time to remove any oil and skin residue.
  • Once your cuticles are groomed and ready, take a natural nail buffer such as a 220 to 240 grit or higher. Lightly buff over the nail surface around the cuticle area to finish off your cuticle grooming stage. 

How often should I push my cuticles back?

You’ll keep your cuticles in great condition by pushing them back at least once a week. By establishing a good routine, you’ll find that you probably won’t need to do this as often in the future.

Get into the habit of tending to your cuticles after a shower as your skin will be softer and easier to manage and, therefore, less painful to move. 

Is it safe to cut my cuticles?

Although you can cut your cuticles, it isn’t always easy to do this as part of an at-home manicure.

The purpose of your cuticles is to protect and shield your newly growing nails, so it’s important to avoid removing them completely.

It’s best practice to wait until your professional nail technician can trim your cuticles for you. However, if there are any hangnails or loose skin present after you’ve pushed your cuticles back, there’s no harm in trimming this away.

Be mindful not to pull the skin or trim too much away. If you’re in any doubt over this, seek advice from your manicurist.

How to care for your cuticles

how to push back your cuticles

The best way to avoid cracked and painful cuticles is to get into giving them some regulated TLC. 

Here are our top tips for keeping your cuticles in check and protecting them from damage: 

  1. Moisturise your cuticles daily with moisturiser or cuticle oil. Rub into your cuticles so they can absorb the moisture to prevent any splitting or cracking. Apply cuticle oil up to three times a day for an instant moisture boost for severely dehydrated nail tips.
  2. Add some nail-healthy supplements to your daily diet to give brittle nails and tired cuticles some much-needed rejuvenation. You can read more about this in our post on how to strengthen your nails.
  3. If you’re using a wooden cuticle stick to push back your cuticles, try to use a new stick every time you push them back. Wooden cuticle sticks are porous, making them difficult to sanitise fully. Therefore, it’s easier to throw them away after each use to minimise the risk of spreading bacteria to your nails. 
  4. Moisturise your hands with a hand cream after every wash to prevent your hands and nails from drying out. 
  5. Establish a regular manicure routine, regularly clipping, cleaning, and filing your nails to keep your nails looking and feeling at their best. If possible, visit a manicurist at least once a month to get your cuticles trimmed and pushed back correctly for best results.

How to avoid damaging your nails and cuticles

  • Try to avoid biting your nails and the skin around your nails to prevent adding irreparable damage to your nail bed. If your nails split or chip, use a nail file to shape and smoothen them.
  • If your cuticles look overgrown, it’s probably time to push them back. Overgrown cuticles are more prone to cracking damage, so keeping on top of your cuticle maintenance will allow your nails and nail bed to appear much healthier.
  • When cleaning, protect your hands by wearing gloves to prevent your nails and cuticles from cracking and drying out under the pressure of your cleaning product’s chemicals.
  • Avoid over-soaking your nails, as this can strip them of their natural oils, causing them and your cuticles to become dehydrated.

4 of the best cuticle care products available at Nail Polish Direct

  1. CND Vinylux Solar Nail Cuticle Care

CND’s award-winning cuticle oil helps to drive nutrients deeper into your skin and nail bed.  Infused with Vitamin E and Jojoba oil, it creates stronger and healthier nails and fully hydrated cuticles. 

how to push back cuticles
  1. Orly Cutique Cuticle Remover

Perfect for both manicures and pedicures, Orly’s cuticle remover helps to remove dead tissue from the cuticles, leaving them soft and easy to move. 

Shake well, apply to the cuticle and allow the product to sit for 30 to 60 seconds before pushing back the cuticles and rinsing with warm water. For stain removal, apply the product to a cotton ball and work into the nail. 

how to push back cuticles
  1. OPI Pro Spa Nail & Cuticle Oil

Inspired by facial skincare, OPI’s Pro Spa range is the perfect pick for pampering your hands and feet and helping to combat premature ageing.

This fast, absorbing formula helps to nourish and condition cuticles, adding much-needed moisture to tired and dehydrated fingertips. 

It contains cupuacu butter, avocado lipid complex, grape seed, kukui and sunflower oils for moisture. Furthermore, it can be used on elbows, knees, and heels for a much-needed moisture injection.

how to push back your cuticles
  1. Sally Hansen Cuticle Massage Cream

Perfect for moisturising dry cuticles, improving circulation, promoting new nail growth, and calming hangnails, this cream is essential to your everyday manicure routine.

For best results, use this product nightly by massaging a small amount into the cuticles for the ultimate skin conditioning.

how to push back your cuticles


Taking care of your cuticles is a surefire way of achieving a fabulous and flawless manicure.

With a larger, tidier nail surface to apply nail products to, without the risk of premature lifting and peeling, pushing back your cuticles is a no-brainer for stunning, perfectly polished nails.

Maintaining your cuticles helps to prevent infection, sealing the nail root and keeping it safe from harm.

Pushing back cuticles regularly and using cuticle care products to keep them healthy and fully moisturised will prevent them from cracking, for beautiful hands and nails.

Shop cuticle care at Nail Polish Direct

Shop our full range of cuticle care products at Nail Polish Direct to keep your cuticles in check. From cuticle pushers to oils, it’s never been easier to find the essential products tailored to your cuticle needs.

Related posts:

Here’s how to strengthen your nails

How to remove gel polish at home

How to create the perfect French manicure

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