What's the Difference Between the Cuticle and Eponychium?

Updated: Feb 2

Let's address the elephant in the nail salon, the Cuticle or should I say Eponychium? There have been many debates and confusion over the actual definition of what the cuticle really is. Many times in an effort to not seem confusing to my clients I always refer to the eponychium as the cuticle.

So let me elaborate a little bit on the topic.

You see, your cuticle is not the eponychium guys, and vice versa, the misconception following this idea has been lingering in the nail industry for a while now and it's basically our fault for not addressing it. Many of us attend nail school, study, practice a little and then leave behind the academic side of nails only to focus on the practical part. This is not good.

Some of us still find it difficult to identify simple nail diseases and fail to treat them appropriately. Another thing worth knowing well is the structures of the nails, these two work well hand in hand.

Here you can see a diagram showing the basic structures of the nail, taken from my personal notes from nails school;


What is the difference between the Cuticle and the Eponychium?!

Cuticle: This is non-living tissue that is attached directly to the nail plate. It is made of dead cells. On your nail plate, take a good look at your nails right now, can you see a very thin whitish layer that is situated up close and personal to the nail root? Well, that is your cuticle!

Eponychium: This structure is the skin itself, the living tissue. It protects the Matrix from infections like bacterias and other germs like fungus. Learn more about the parts of the nail in this earlier post, The Structure and Growth of The Natural Nail

I always hear about people or other nail technicians cutting into the living tissue, I don't recommend this at all! Yes! if there is a Hangnail, cut it but this is why you should keep your cuticles hydrated with cuticle oil, you can also use olive oil or body lotion after taking your bath. if you want to go to the extremes of wearing a glove while washing the dishes, and so on.

Some people cut into the living skin without a reason. but this is a huge no, no! Read this blog post How to give yourself a simple pedicure at home. while I stated the detailed steps to complete a home pedicure, I asserted that only a trained professional should trim or cut your cuticles.

As a nail technician, a good grasp of certain concepts is crucial. Nail anatomy is one of those concepts that any nail technician should master. The aim is not to just slap on some acrylic or gel then shape and polish, but to provide a service that is world-class and safe for your clients.

It is said that the eponychium protects your nails from infection. The Matrix is responsible for new nail growth because it produces the nail cells that later become the nail plate. Protecting the matrix is the role of the eponychium, I call it a defense mechanism because the eponychium grows back thinker and harder in an attempt to protect itself from further damage.

Overexposure to strong chemicals can cause your eponychium to peel or crack. during the cooler, dryer seasons this also occurs. if you cut too much into your eponychium it will bleed, so be careful. The Cuticle on the other hand is made up of dead tissue and it does not bleed. It is the part that is detached from the living skin and attached to the nail plate, we push it back so that it can be cut.

So please take care of your Eponychium and cuticles. Using good nail products softens the skin, prevents overgrowth.

Ladies and Gentlemen, yes Gentlemen, you have cuticles and eponychium too. I am begging you, please take care of your Eponychium, as well as your cuticles, they are separate structures and you should treat them as such.

Whether you are wearing your natural nails or rocking some sexy acrylic or gel set, applying cuticle oil will keep your nails looking natural and healthy, reducing the risks of getting a hangnail.

If you are new to cuticle oil, it is a moisturizing product for your nails and cuticles. It's commonly made up of vegetable oils and sometimes contains vitamins and citric acid. The oil can also help improve the health and appearance of your nail. Cuticle oil also protects your polish for a lasting shine. I explained a little more on the importance of using cuticle oil in my earlier blog post How to apply Press-on nails in 3 easy steps. Some of the products I strongly recommend, are also products I personally use, these are;

  1. Cuccio Naturale Milk and Honey Cuticle Revitalizing Oil

It moisturizes and strengthens nails and cuticles - soothing and nourishing - Paraben and Cruelty-Free with natural ingredients.

2. CND SolarOil Nail & Cuticle Care, great for dry, damaged cuticles, Infused with Jojoba Oil & Vitamin E for healthier, stronger nails.

3. OPI Nail and Cuticle Oil, ProSpa Nail, and Hand Manicure Essentials

Using these products at least twice a day will reward you with healthy, beautiful nails. Whether you call it eponychium or cuticles, please be aware of the difference and don't allow anyone to cut into your eponychium. A well-trained Nail technician knows exactly when to cut and when not to cut. This imformation is not only directed towards women, I also advise men to go get a manicure and pedicure done by a professional as I am all to aware of the damage men present with on their hands and feet. Too often we see men come into the salon with damage nails, hangnails, athlete's foot and even fungus under the fingers.

Please read this article I wrote on the male manicure and pedicure and how men can do a basic manicure and peidcure at home. Getting a Manicure & Pedicure for Men. A step by Step Male Grooming Guide for Men.

In the article I discussed how vital male grooming is and reasons a hard working man should practice it. I also recommended a few products like manicure kits and moisturizers that will keep your hands and feet looking and smelling fresh all year around.

I recommend sticking to my blog for more posts on nail education and other tips and tricks to the trade. Did you know this?! I hope you find this post informative.

To the ladies, who get their nails done regularly, this information is essential for maintaining beautiful nails. As I always say, Lovies, Stay fabulous!

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