Your cuticle bridges the fingers and toes with the nails. Most people don't experience any problems with their cuticles. In some people, however, cuticles can develop dryness. This can be related to harsh external factors that irritate the cuticle, but any problems that develop are generally minor and easily treated.
While it may appear that the cuticle is the nail itself starting to develop and grow, the cuticle is actually a protective sheath that grows over the root of the nail. This is where your nail's new cells are developed -- the new cells grow and then push out existing nail, which is what causes the dead, whitened parts of your nail to grow over time and require trimming.
Cuticles appear over the nail where the nail meets the flesh of your finger or toe. The cuticle may appear as an extension of the skin, but it is actually a tough protective cover that bridges from the skin over across the nail root. The size and thickness of the cuticle can vary from one individual to the next and is based on the size of the nail. When scratched, the cuticle may appear to hang off the nail like a scrap of dead skin.
Many people develop dry cuticles in the winter months, when low temperatures, low humidity and wind conspire to drain the skin and cuticles of moisture, causing dryness and irritation. Redness can also develop in conjunction with the dryness. Washing the hands excessively can also cause this. Insufficient hydration through your diet can also cause dryness.
Your first step should be to make sure you are drinking enough water. You should also apply a moisturizing lotion onto the cuticle to help lock in moisture while also applying a topical treatment. According to Oprah.com, vitamin E oil and shea butter cream are effective when rubbed into the skin once or twice daily, and moisturizing gloves are a useful overnight treatment.
While some individuals try to minimize the appearance of the cuticles with some cosmetic tools, doing so can actually damage the cuticle and expose young nail and the cuticle to the elements. This can lead to dryness. Despite their appearance, it is best for the cuticles that you leave them alone.
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