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Okay, so admittedly a cuticle cream probably isn’t at the top of your list of beauty needs. But it really does deserve a seat at the table. The humble product can go a long way in keeping your nails strong, healthy, and looking good. (As a quickie reminder, the cuticle is the piece of skin at the base of your nail bed that prevents bacteria and grime from getting in and causing infection.)
You can definitely use cuticle oil to keep your cuticles in tip-top shape, but think of those as more of a fast fix and a cuticle cream as a long-term solution. Packed with ultra-hydrating ingredients such as butters and oils, they’re usually even thicker and richer than hand cream, delivering a concentrated hit of hydration. Our favorite way to use one? Slather it on nightly before you hit the sack, just as you would a lip balm or hand cream, to keep your cuticles moisturized and your nails looking that much better.
Below, check out the best cuticle oils and creams on the market right now.
Best Overall: Deborah Lippmann The Cure Ultra Nourishing Cuticle Repair Cream
This formula is packed with nourishing and reparative ingredients, making it well worth the price. We’re talking shea butter and sodium hyaluronate for hydration purposes, but also a ton of protective antioxidants—vitamins A, C, and E, raspberry stem cell extract, and red algae. Oh, and it can penetrate your nails even if you have polish on.
If your cuticles are in really rough shape, apply a cuticle oil then layer this on top for a super intense overnight treatment.
Best Drugstore: Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream
The addicting citrus scent is reason enough to make you want to keep slathering this on, improvements in your nails aside. But it does, in fact, help get your nails into tip-top shape, thanks to almond oil, cocoa seed butter, and beeswax (which promises to lock in all the hydration). As an added benefit, it also boasts vitamin E and sunflower oil which claim to help boost brittle and peeling nails. Plus, it’s 100% natural, with no parabens or petrolatum.
What Our Testers Say
"The Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream is the kind of product that you don’t realize how much you need it until you’ve allowed it into your life. It instantly enlivens your hands and is a small-but-significant form of self-care, both of which we could all use right now." — Nicole Kliest, Product Tester
Best Natural: Beekman 1802 Pure Goat Milk Cuticle Cream
You can definitely feel good about this squeaky clean, chemical-free ingredient list where the star of the show is, you guessed it, goat milk. Not only is it hydrating, but it’s also packed with different good-for-your-skin vitamins, including reparative vitamin A. Goat milk's lactic acid claims to provide a little bit of gentle exfoliation, never a bad thing for your cuticles. Those who are sensitive to scents will appreciate that this has no fragrance.
Best Ointment: Lanolips The Original 101 Ointment Superbalm
There are, wait for it, 101 different ways to use this all-purpose ointment. It contains just two ingredients, lanolin and lanolin oil, but works wonders pretty much all over your body. (Just FYI, since lanolin is derived from sheep, vegans may want to take a pass on this one.) Dry cuticles are no exception, and we also appreciate that because it’s an ointment, it also imparts a healthy-looking sheen onto nails.
Best Balm: butter LONDON QuickFix Moisturizing Cuticle Balm
Avocado oil is an edible oil pressed from the fruit of the avocado. For the skin, it contains vitamin E to help nourish and soothe, as well as oleic acid to promote collagen production.
First, this delivers moisture to dry cuticles, thanks to coconut and avocado oils. But then it promises to maintain those moisture levels, using phospholipids. Read: Cuticles stay looking and feeling hydrated, longer. Bonus points for the easy-to-use massaging tip, that makes application both easy and mess-free.
Best for Weak Nails: Dermelect Rejuvenail Fortifying Nail & Cuticle Treatment
Dry cuticles and dry, breaking nails often go hand-in-hand (no pun intended). Enter the beauty of this option; with ingredients meant for both hydrating and strengthening such as keratin, it quenches cuticles and reinforces weak nails in one fell swoop. Reach for it if your nails need a little extra TLC post-gel manicure.
Best for Hands & Nails: Caudalie Hand and Nail Cream
You’re likely already using a hand cream daily, so why not make it one that can also do good things for your nails? This vegan formula is hydrating but still absorbs quickly, so you can slather it on with reckless abandon day or night. It also boasts plenty of antioxidants, always a good thing.
Best Exfoliating Formula: Mario Badescu Skin Care Cuticle Cream
Going above its basic moisturization responsibilities, this formula has the unique distinction of boasting exfoliating salicylic acid. Why is that important? The ingredient is a great exfoliator, helping to gently slough of ragged, excess dead skin on your cuticles. The gel-cream formula is also slightly lighter than many others, ideal for those who don’t like ultra-thick creams on their hands.
Best Multi-Tasker: Indigo Wild Almond Zum Rub
Shea butter is a plant lipid that comes from African shea tree nuts and is rich in fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins. It's used to help moisturize, nourish, and soothe the skin.
If you don’t want to shell out money solely for cuticle cream, consider picking up a multipurpose balm, such as this one. Shea butter plus goat milk plus a blend of natural oils make for a hydrating formula that can truly do it all. Dab it on beat-up cuticles and/or use it to tamp down frizz, hydrate chapped lips, soften cracked heels—you name it.
What To Look For in a Cuticle Cream
If repairing dry, cracked cuticles is at the top of your to-do list, look for a formula filled with hydrating ingredients—like shea butter, coconut, and avocado oil—to add some much-needed moisture. Slather it on all year round, or when you feel your cuticles need some extra TLC.
Cuticle creams arrive in a variety of consistencies, ranging from thin to thick. Opt for the one that you'll use the most. All in all, make sure you select a formula that fits with your lifestyle (i.e., if you hate thick hand creams, you likely won't love a thick cuticle cream, and so on). They all work the same, it's just a matter of personal preference.
Select a formula that absorbs quickly to avoid spreading the cream everywhere. You don't want your cuticles to feel oily or for the cream to rub off, so a fast-absorbing formula is ideal. Can't find one? Not a problem; wear the cream at night with gloves on to keep all the goodness where it belongs—on your cuticles.
What does cuticle cream do for nails?
Cuticle cream adds hydration to the cuticles, which may help repair and strengthen dry or broken nails. Some cuticle creams also claim to protect nails against damage.
How often should you apply cuticle cream?
Most cuticle creams will recommend you apply at least once a day, but you may apply it more frequently if you feel your nails need more TLC.
How long do you leave cuticle cream on?
Cuticle cream should be left on for at least 30 seconds, but many can be left on all day. Be sure to read the instructions, though; some will suggest you wash your hands before applying nail polish.