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 • Nails  • Nailcare Guides  • What You Might Not Know About Your Cuticles, According to One A-List Nail Artist

What You Might Not Know About Your Cuticles, According to One A-List Nail Artist

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Main image – Albavitta/Stocksy

When it comes to nail cuticles, there’s still a lot to learn. Why? Well, there’s still so much misinformation out there about what the cuticle actually is and how to take care of it.

Celebrity nail artist and all-round nail genius Hang Nguyen is here to solve the mystery surrounding cuticles once and for all. Her work has adorned the covers of Vogue, she has collaborated with huge brands like Adidas and her Instagram account is both inspirational and, I’ll admit it, completely addictive. And it seems her 230,000 followers would agree.

Her career choice came as a bit of a surprise to her since she’d always thought as a child that sitting in nail salons was tedious. “My parents owned a nail salon, so I was one of those kids who hung out at the salon because they didn’t have babysitters,” she says.  “We’d just sit in a salon and chill. I’m like, this is boring. I’m not going to do this for my career.”

So, Nguyen initially had other plans. “I majored in fine arts and then did the starving artist thing for a while but eventually got my qualifications as a massage therapist,” she explains.



“When I was pregnant with my first child, I was a massage therapist, but I couldn’t do it when I was pregnant. So I was like, ‘OK, why not just do nails because I’m familiar with it? It’s easy, and I don’t really have to think about it.” That’s when she signed up to be a nail technician.

“I didn’t know nail art was this massive thing because when I was hanging out in my parents’ salon it was all just decorated flowers and very basic, simple, cheesy things.” But before she knew it, @thehangedit was born. “I just started posting my work on Instagram and it created a lot of opportunities like working with Adidas and [doing] Vogue cover shoots.”

Here, Nguyen gives her tips on how to maintain your cuticles and she also helps to clear up where on the nails your cuticles actually are. You might just be surprised. 


What you might not know about the cuticle

The common misconception about the cuticle is that it’s not where most people believe it to be. “It’s actually not the little bridge on the skin,” says Nguyen. Wait, what?! “It’s all the stuff that’s on the nail bed.” 

Nguyen often sees people making mistakes with their cuticles. “You need to be careful with cuticle work because the cuticles are there to protect you,” she advises. So, what is the worst faux pas? “People cutting or filing then back because they’re not understanding what the cuticle is. [Cuticles] are here to protect us from germs coming in.”

Whilst she thinks it’s good that people want to look after their cuticles, Nguyen says sometimes we can be a little over-zealous. “We’re just so used to seeing a super clean cuticle like they do at the salons that we’ve started doing it from home, but this risks infection,” she explains. 

“By over-cutting the cuticles they’re going to grow back in a more jaggedy way if you’re not doing it properly.”



How you should actually be caring for your cuticles

Think pushing, not cutting. “Just pushing them back is nice,” she says. “Cutting the cuticle ridge is not the best thing, she’s there to protect you!”

So how do we do a good ‘push’? “Using your own nails after the shower or bath when they’re moist,” Nguyen recommends. “Continue to do that daily and your cuticles will stay neat. Or, if you’re going to use a cuticle pusher, make sure you use a malleable plastic type rather than a metal one which is going to damage your nail.”


Hang Nguyen’s tips for maintaining healthy, natural nails

Nguyen believes there are four essential tools that help keep your nails in tip-top condition. “A file and a buffer are the most beneficial thing,” she says. “And the other most important thing is a cuticle oil. Just to keep those things moisturised and from getting dry and jaggedy!” 

My favourite is OPI Pro Spa Nail and Cuticle Oil (£19.90 from OPI UK /$11 from OPI US) which is fast-absorbing.



Also, a cuticle oil roller. “Mazz Hannah has the most beautiful cuticle oil roller ($29 from Mazz Hannah US),” she says. “It’s super easy to use and she makes it with love and crystals and it’s all just good energy.”

And finally, Nguyen suggests filing your nails once a week for both the health of your nails, and to save time in appointments.  “It’s quite subjective but usually once a week will maintain the shape and length instead of having to start from scratch every time you have a manicure.”


The takeaway

In short, your cuticles are there to protect your nails from germs which I would say is quite an important role when it comes to nail health. They aren’t the little bridge of skin you might think they are either, they are located on the nail bed itself.

Take five minutes to do some gentle cuticle pushing after you’ve come out of the bath or shower and remember to stay on top of your nail length once a week with maintenance filing.  

Finally, if you haven’t done so already, I urge you to have a scroll through Nguyen’s Instagram grid. There are so many clever nail designs on there that aren’t beyond the realms of possibility. 

Most of the looks Nguyen creates on there are on her own nails and they aren’t long talons either. They are quite short in length which makes her designs much more accessible.  

Sharing why she loves inspiring her clients to try new things, (and maybe even future-you too), Nguyen says, “I get such a boost by experimenting with different things. [Clients] come in with their own idea because I want them to have their own personality but then I boost them with something a bit different and it becomes mine and their own style, fused together.”


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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