STYLE
06/13/2012 08:23 am ET Updated Oct 11, 2012

To Cut Cuticles Or Not? Dermatologists Tell Us How To Answer The Manicurist

To cut cuticles or to not cut cuticles? The predicament presents itself every time we get a manicure. While our nail ladies insist on snipping away, it always end the same: With somewhat janky-looking nails a few days later. And there we are back at the nail salon one week later only to find them snipping away again. It's perhaps the biggest racket in the nail industry -- but also possibly one of the most harmful.

In this week's installment of Beauty Myths, we turn to dermatologists Dr. Eric Schweiger and Dr. Michael Gold to get their expert opinion on whether or not it's safe to cut your cuticles.

"Cuticle trimming should be avoided during a manicure," advises Dr. Schweiger. "If you prefer the look of trimmed cuticles, it is safe to have the cuticles pushed back."

Other than the fact that it seems to perpetuate an endless cuticle-cutting cycle, what's the actual harm?

"Trimming the cuticles can break the seal that protects the surrounding skin from infection," says Dr. Schweiger. "Not only can biting or cutting the cuticles introduce infection, but without the cuticle barrier to protect that surrounding skin and developing nail, an infection is more likely to develop. This potential infection around the base of the nail, called a paronychia, is unsightly and often painful. If a paronychia develops, it is important to see your dermatologist for prescription treatment or sometimes to drain the area surrounding the nail."

Dr. Gold adds that "the main concern with trimming your cuticles is getting an infection from instruments that are not cleaned and sterilized properly. One needs to understand that cuticles play a very important role in preventing things like bacteria from entering the area at the base of the nail." Even if you aren't getting your cuticles cut, Dr. Gold urges the importance of "questioning a nail tech who sits down with instruments that are not packaged and look like they might have been used on other people without being cleaned."

So why does cuticle-trimming run so rampant at nail salons? (You really have to stand your ground if you don't want them cut.) Dr. Shweiger notes, "Cuticle-trimming is not necessary; the only benefit of trimming the cuticle is the cosmetic look that some people prefer."

Conclusion: Trimming cuticles isn't necessary and can cause infection, especially in an environment like a nail salon where tools are used on different people. Even if you aren't trimming cuticles, it's crucial to make sure that tools being used are sterilized. Inquire and find out what measures your nail place is taking.

In Beauty Myths, we've enlisted the help of pros to help debunk and demystify some of the most popular advice out there. Do you have a myth you'd like us to investigate? Let us know in the comments below.

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