No matter whether your nails are always perfectly polished, you prefer to go natural, or you fall somewhere in between, cuticle oil is an invaluable asset to any and every manicure routine. The name is somewhat misleading because, while it does work wonders when it comes to hydrating the cuticle (the skin around the nail bed), it's also great for nails themselves.
Cuticle oils can penetrate the nails deeply and instantly, keeping them hydrated, supple, and healthy, explains celebrity nail artist Elle. "Nails are like a sponge — when they're dehydrated they're hard and can crack and turn brittle," she notes. And, to the point of protecting the skin, cuticle oils are wonderful for keeping the cuticle and other skin around your nails from drying out and causing hangnails, points out manicurist Anastasia Totty, a LeChat Nails educator. (Related: The Very Best Hand Creams, According to Dermatologists)
Here's the great news: Using one is ridiculously simple. "A little goes a long way, so all you have to do is apply a drop or two on top of or around your nail and gently massage it in," says Totty. Plus, cuticle oils are formulated to absorb quickly, so you don't have to worry about any leftover greasy residue. While you can absolutely apply a cuticle oil over polish or even acrylics, make sure to massage a little bit underneath the nail, too, she adds. (Sometimes the polish can impede penetration.)
Elle suggests applying a cuticle oil at least a few times per day but notes that following contact with water — think hand washing, showering, dish washing — is the most important time. When it comes to choosing a good formula, she recommends looking for culticle oils that contain vitamin E or jojoba oil, two top-notch hydrators for both the skin and nail. (Related: How to Prevent Dull, Dry Skin In Winter)
Ready to ace your nail-care game? Shop the 10 best cuticle oils below, as recommended by experts and customer reviews.
Amazon's choice for "nail oil," this drugstore find touts vitamin E, one of Elle's favorite moisturizing ingredients. With nearly 4,000 reviews, it's managed to maintain an impressive 4.7 rating from shoppers, lauding it for being "miraculous," moisturizing cuticles around acrylics, and even stimulating nail growth. Elle also likes that this one is a dropper, great for dispensing a good amount of product at once, she says.
Buy It: Sally Hansen Nail Treatment Vitamin E Nail and Cuticle Oil, $6, was $7, amazon.com
Another top pick on Amazon for "cuticle oil for nails," this is also a veritable cult-classic in the nail industry, as well as one of Totty's picks — a real triple threat. Satisfied reviewers love it too (it has accumulated more than 8,500 five-star ratings, in fact), raving about its ability to transform breaking, peeling nails. One user recommends applying the oil not only around the cuticle area but also under the nail a few times a day to really see a big difference in nail health. The subtle almond scent is an added bonus, and it also comes in various sizes.
This salon staple touts a blend of five different oils — grapeseed, sesame, kukui, sunflower & cupuaçu — for a maximum hit of hydration and nourishment. Nearly 7,000 Amazon shoppers have awarded it five stars, and users like how quickly it absorbs, without leaving behind any greasy residue, and how well it softens dry and cracked cuticles.
Given that you should be applying a cuticle oil daily, it's a good idea to keep one on-hand in your purse or car. Elle is a fan of this one from Dior and says the brush applicator makes it easy to swipe across cuticles and nails, even while traveling. Thanks to a blend of active oils, including argan oil, vitamin E, and apricot oil — which is rich in vitamins and minerals — this product intensely nourishes, moisturizes, and strengthens cuticles and nails, says Elle. (Related: How to Strengthen Your Nails)
A pen-like applicator with a brush-on tip makes delivery a breeze, and is great for minimizing unwanted drips. This particular option is an Amazon fan favorite, and reviewers call out how well it softens cuticles (credit the vitamin E in the formula) and how easy it is to use. (Related: This Cuticle Oil Pen Can Help You Maintain Salon-Worthy Nails Without Leaving the House)
Designed with three levels of moisture, this is like a hydrating cocktail for your nails and cuticles, since it boasts oils and humectants including glycerin. "This one is a rollerball, also great for travel, and has grapeseed oil for intense moisturization," says Elle. Also nice: The wallet-friendly price tag and a variety of fragrance options, including raspberry vanilla, orchid, and a beach-inspired scent.
For those looking for a totally natural option, this pick is the choice. It contains (among other ingredients) tamanu oil — loaded with fatty acids and anti-bacterial properties — and hemp seed oil, rich in skin-loving omega 6 fatty acids. Users report that they love how the oil smells, as well as how it makes their cuticles look and feel. (Related: The Best Clean and Natural Nail Polish Brands to Try Right Now)
Okay, it may technically not be a cuticle oil, but Elle says it's one of her favorites to use in the same way. "The jojoba butter and vitamin E keep nails, cuticles, and the surrounding skin very well-moisturized, and it gives natural nails strength and flexibility," she says, adding that the smell is, "divine." Not to mention, Amazon reviewers note they love it for repairing nails and cuticles that have taken a beating during quarantine due to excessive hand washing or sanitizing. (Related: How to Use a Cuticle Pusher for Flawless At-Home Manicures)
Both experts recommend this formula from LeChat. Elle praises the thicker consistency of the oil, which she says gives it a more luxurious feel, as well as the namesake ingredient. She says it's especially great to use during the winter months; the CBD helps calm inflammation, a nice benefit when skin gets red, cracked, and irritated. Totty notes that it also contains tea tree oil, which has natural anti-fungal properties. (Related: The Best CBD Oil Beauty Products)
The star of the show here is a 30 percent concentration of shea oil that conditions cuticles and has the added benefit of imparting a beautiful and healthy-looking sheen to nails. Amazon shoppers love that it moisturizes dry cuticles, the built-in brush makes it easy to apply, and point out that it's helped their nails grow longer and stronger. (Related: This Clear Nail Polish Gives You a Salon-Worthy French Manicure In Seconds)