I’m all for manicures. But I also take a lot of pride, comfort, and autonomy in knowing that I can make myself look just about as good as anyone else can. I’ve got buffers and oils and files and polishes, but the last part of the kit—the thing even a frequent self-manicurist is unlikely to have—is a cuticle remover. But I've vowed to never be without one again. If anything, it’s the only thing I need now.
So, I tested a lot of these suckers and found an interesting motif running through the instructions printed on the backs. Please follow along:
The Butter Melt Away Cuticle Eliminator suggests you leave it on for a leisurely and gentle two minutes. The formula is milky and scent relatively neutral. Skin becomes emollient and yielding over time.
Whereas the Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover is like harnessing nuclear power, suggesting only a 15-second window of exposure. I found this to be best for toes. It’s like a chemical version of that baby-piranha pedicure. My own feet have never looked better, and, even a week out, those cuticles have no comeback.
Deborah Lippmann, the consummate manicure auteur, puts out a lovely option which clocks in at a 60-second limit. A truly professional-grade product that makes you feel like a professional-grade person. Cuticles glide away with a whisper on a cloud of angel-goo. I should note that it was Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Oil I applied after all of these removers, which nourishes back to health the bald bed you’ve left behind. Plus, it smells like tanning oil. Sine qua non, y’all.
A happy surprise was Orly’s Cutique, which I assume is a portmanteau of “cuticle critique.” And what a scathing critique it is. In 30 seconds, a swift castigation of dead skin. Ran those cuticles straight out of town. That weird kind of affixation that isn’t quite skin, but isn’t quite nail—it gets that too. It did start to eat away a tad at the base of my actual nail, but it’s possible that that’s a hazard I failed to guard against.
Which brings me to a brief caveat. Over the course of the two weeks I’ve been testing these, as is often the case with anything else you’ve never done before but do intensely for a brief period, I became a bit fixated. I started seeing what wasn't there, and taking great exception. It’s true that in general you’ll want to go easy. But it’s also true that with products like these on the market, you should never feel like you have to hack through that nail-bed skin-overgrowth alone.
Photos courtesy of the author.