People with lots of money to spare can indulge themselves in ways that are obvious to the rest of us: big houses, fancy cars, designer wardrobes and jewelry. They are also able to indulge themselves with “little things” we usually don’t see – but might make us just as jealous as we are when we watch them driving away in their Mercedes, Navigator or Tesla.
Take cuticles, for example. (Has anyone ever written that sentence before?) When it’s no big deal to go for regular manicures, you never have to worry about caring for this often-annoying skin that does nothing but cause problems at the base of your nails . If you are a mom, it's not bad to treat yourself once in a while. The manicurist takes care of pushing back or trimming cuticles and removing any rough or damaged skin; people who have frequent manis and pedis never have to worry about things like cuticle removers.
Those of us for whom a manicure or removal of callus is only an occasional indulgence, however, don’t have the luxury of leaving our cuticles to someone else. Cuticles left to grow without proper care not only leave dry or dead skin, they are actually a major entry point for bacteria which can cause infections. It’s tempting to simply cut them when they get long, but dermatologists warn that’s a bad idea; it creates even more of an opening for bacteria and can also cause white lines or spots to develop in your nails. The right approach is to gently push them back with a cuticle stick once they’ve grown past the nail bed, and using a gel, cream or liquid cuticle removing product makes that task a whole lot easier.
Cuticle removers are easy to use, cheap and safe, and there are many of them on the market, some very similar or even identical to the products used at a nail salon. None will make a major dent in your purse, but as you’d expect, there are those which are much better – or cheaper – than others.
Sally Hansen (and her husband, who was a chemist) founded her brand of quality yet affordable nail care products well over half-a-century ago, and it remains the best selling brand in America. Instant Cuticle Remover wasn’t her first product (that was the Hard As Nails protection formula, still very much around today) but it has become one of the line’s most successful offerings.
One of the selling points of Sally Hansen products is that they’re “salon quality.” We’ve never seen a salon actually using any of them, but it would be hard to imagine that a high-end cuticle remover sold just to nail salons would do a noticeably better job. Instant Cuticle Remover is a gel that is easily applied to the cuticles; after 15 seconds, you push the cuticles back with a pusher or manicure stick, and then wash with soap and water. All of the dry, flaky and dead skin that’s grown or accumulated at the base of the nails will be broken down and dissolved. That’s all it takes, and you’re done until the next application is necessary. Once every week is the recommended time frame, and the company says not to use the gel more than twice a week.
The Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover really works, and works well. It completely eliminates the need (or temptation) to trim. The gel can also effectively be used on calluses (which require a 60 second application), or under the tips of nails to remove the dead skin that often builds up in that area. The only potential problem comes with leaving the gel on the skin too long, because if it isn’t removed quickly it can cause burning and can start dissolving skin around the base of the nail. It’s also not the best product to use if you have lots of cuts around your nails.
Not being scientists, we can’t tell you with certainty which of the Instant Cuticle Remover’s ingredients is primarily responsible for its efficacy, but we’d guess that it’s the potassium hydroxide. There is also green tea, aloe and chamomile in the formulation; those natural substances are often used in the skin conditioners and softeners you should be using on your hands regularly, so it would make sense that they would do a great job softening and conditioning cuticles as well. If you’re looking for a completely natural product, you should know that the Sally Hansen remover does contain ethanol, parabens and a number of other synthetic ingredients. That’s probably to be expected; we wouldn’t think that just putting aloe or green tea on cuticles would dissolve them so quickly.
This product works extremely well, a bottle only costs a little over five bucks, and it will be months before you need a new one. You can’t ask for more than that.
Details of the Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover
Deborah Lippmann is a “celebrity manicurist” known for working on famous hands like those belonging to Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Lady Gaga and (of course) Kim Kardashian. Naturally, her line of nail care products and polishes is a high-end line (you can usually tell when someone spells their name with lower-case letters instead of capitals). That also means her cuticle remover is pretty expensive, selling for $20 for a half-ounce bottle which is about four times the price of the Sally Hansen remover.
You would probably expect faster results when paying so much more – but it’s hard, and unfair, to compare the two products. The deborah lippman cuticle remover isn’t designed to fully dissolve cuticles in 15 seconds like the Sally Hansen remover, so if that’s what you’re looking for you should look somewhere else. On the other hand, this liquid is terrific at slowly exfoliating the area and softening cuticles so they can be gently pushed back with a stick or pusher. There’s absolutely no chance that your skin will start burning if you leave the product on too long. And you only need to apply two drops per nail, so the bottle will last a long time and isn’t as expensive as it might seem at first glance.
There are only a few ingredients in this liquid, with virgin wool wax (lanolin) oil serving as the primary active ingredient, and no harsh formaldehyde, sulfates, toluene or parabens. That makes it a good choice for those who want a natural product which does a terrific job on cuticles.
This is another exfoliation product which not only is sold for salon use, but according to the manufacturer’s disclaimer is not intended for home use. That doesn’t stop you from purchasing it and using it, though, and you could do a lot worse. The CND Essentials comes in cream form and works in much the same way as the deborah lippman Cuticle Remover, exfoliating rather than instantly dissolving dead or flaking cuticle skin.
The active ingredient in the CND Cuticle Eraser is a blend of alpha-hydroxy acids, which exfoliates dead skin cells and moisturizes the cuticles. That means it won’t do the magic act of dissolving cuticles in seconds, but is great for long-term care and maintenance as well as making cuticles much easier to push back with a stick. You’ll find that you need to use this product more often than the deborah lippman, but it’s much less expensive ($13 for 1.75 ounces) so that will balance out in the long run.
This is not an organic, all-natural cuticle cream. While it has several handfuls of organic ingredients including kiwi, chamomile, cucumber and aloe, it also contains parabens, alcohol and artificial fragrances (the cream has a distinct fruit aroma). With that many non-natural ingredients, we would have expected the CND Essentials to dissolve cuticles like Kool-Aid in water, but it’s still a very nice product for exfoliation and moisturizing.
There are definitely pros and cons to the Blue Cross Cuticle Remover, which is used in many lower-end nail salons because of its inexpensive price. The pros are all things you’d want to see when considering purchasing a product: it works well for its intended purpose, it’s cheap, and it can stay on your cuticles for longer than 15 seconds (in fact, it needs to stay longer in order to work properly). The cons are that the liquid is extremely runny and difficult to work with, unless you put it into a bowl and apply it from there – and that it’s not going to dissolve your cuticles in a flash.
The Blue Cross is much like the two products we’ve looked at earlier, more of an exfoliant and conditioner than a harsh solution to quickly vaporize dead or damaged cuticle skin. In fact, it has just about all of the same ingredients as the deborah lippman remover. However, it does contain potassium hydroxide, so it will act faster than the CND remover while not being as caustic as the Sally Hansen product. That puts it right in the middle of all of the products we’ve examined on this list of the top 5 best cuticle removers – not quite as easy to use as CND, not as fast as Sally Hansen, and cheaper than deborah lippman.
That may be just what you’re looking for. It does a good job of softening the cuticle so it can be pushed back easily and dead skin can be removed without effort, and it’s inexpensive; its list price is less than $6 for six ounces, but it can often be found in larger sizes at an even lower cost.
Butter London produces high-end nail products, at high-end prices. Their Cuticle Eliminator cream works much like the last four products we’ve reviewed, conditioning and exfoliating cuticles to make them easier to push and manage while getting rid of dead or damaged skin, albeit somewhat slowly (you’re supposed to leave it on for 3-5 minutes and warned to remove it before eight minutes have passed).
The Melt Away Cuticle Eliminator is somewhat of a chameleon; those with “problem” skin will tell you that it’s harsh, those without breaks, cuts or other skin issues will swear that it’s gentle. We had no problem with it, but be aware there may be better options if you’re a nail biter or work with your hands a lot. Butter London uses no formaldehyde, toluene or parabens, although the product is definitely not completely organic, either. The active ingredient that works to remove dry skin, as with most of our other reviewed products, is potassium hydroxide.
This product will certainly do the job of softening and cleaning up your cuticles, but you may not be willing to pay the price it takes to give it a try. A 0.6 ounce bottle will cost you almost $20, which is almost more than you’d pay for the deborah lippman product and substantially more expensive than Blue Cross or CND. We like the Butter London – just not enough to pay this price regularly for it.
Details of the Butter London Melt Away Cuticle Eliminator