Cuticle Remover Substitute


Cuticle Remover Substitute - Top 8 Methods Explained for DIY



10 MIN READ | February 08, 2024

Cuticle is like a soldier to the nail and skin around it as it protects them from bacteria, viruses and other germs when they grow out of the root. So, cutting the cuticle won’t do anything but exposing nails to infections. This is the reason why many health experts advise to avoid doing it.

Unfortunately, many nail techs use cuticle remover only to cut the cuticle. Note that its main function is just to make the skin softer and flexible- an advantage that can be used to remove dead cells too. So, it’s recommended only when you wish to use it for that purpose.

But why spend on a cuticle remover when there are several alternatives that do the job similarly? What you need is something that can soften the nails and loosen dead skin around the cuticle. And this can be achieved through soaps, oils and emollients as well. The list of Cuticle Remover Substitutes is quite endless, but here are 8 of them that aren’t only effective but affordable and easily available.

Top 8 Cuticle Remover Substitutes

1. Soapy Water

A common ingredient of cuticle remover is sodium or potassium hydroxide which is also used in most soap bars. So, soap can be a good alternative to cuticle remover.

Just soak the fingers in a bowl of soapy water for around 5-10 minutes and it’ll soften the cuticles and loosen the dead tissues so they can be removed with ease.

Typically, those chemicals are quite alkaline which is what helps break down the protein of cuticles. Then again, it’s harsh and some people can be allergic to them. So, it’s not suitable for those with sensitive skin.

2. Milk

Alpha Hydroxy Acids, a compound found in many skincare products which helps the dead cells shed off by dissolving them. As milk contains such a content in form of lactic acid, it can be a good cuticle remover substitute.

The process of using milk is somewhat similar. Soak fingers in a bowl of milk for 5-10 minutes and this should do the job.

Many cuticle removers use AHA as it’s safer and gentler than hydroxide.

You can also opt for any product be it a cream, exfoliant or toner with AHA and it’ll work similarly.

3. Jojoba Oil

Jojoba oil as an alternative of Cuticle Remover

Jojoba oil is rich in Vitamin E, a nutrient that acts as skin softener which means it can soften cuticle as well while loosening dead cells. It’s also known for regenerating growth of nails and strengthening them. So, besides just softening the cuticle to take out the dead skin, it can be used as skincare routine.

Blend jojoba oil with warm water and spread the mixture over the cuticles for 10-15 minutes to have them relaxed. As they get softer, the dead skin can be removed easily with a wooden stick or nipper.

4. Lanolin-based Products

Lanolin naturally acts as an emollient which means its primary function is to soften the skin and keep it moisturized. It has a mix of several fatty acids and esters. While locking in moisture, it loosens dead skin around the cuticles so it can be scraped off.

Such an element is not only found in many cuticle removers but also in different creams, oils, balms and lotions. So, any lanolin-based product should work.

The process is easy. Apply lanolin liquid to the cuticles and leave it for 5-10 minutes because that’s how long it may take to break down dead cells.

5. Avocado Oil

Avocado oil as an alternative of Cuticle Remover

Avocado oil comes with a high percentage potassium content, mono-unsaturated fatty acids and Vitamin E- all of which help moisturize the skin around the nails as well as the cuticles. While softening the cuticles, it works to lift away damaged cells by breaking them down. So, it can be another suitable alternative to cuticle remover.

The process is pretty straightforward. Apply the avocado oil directly to the nail cuticle and leave it for around 15 minutes. As it gets softer, use a nipper or stick to scrape off the dead tissue.  

6. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has lots of fatty acids and a bit of vitamins that can be used to soften cuticles and remove damaged cells. Moreover, it has multiple benefits for the nails. Not only does it moisturize but also has anti-inflammatory properties to lessen skin irritation and redness.

Massage the cuticles with coconut oil and leave them for 10-15 minutes. As they become softer, push the cuticles back and take out dead tissue. 

7. Vaseline

Vaseline or Petroleum jelly is a popular emollient known for softening the skin around the nails. Besides keeping the skin moisturized, a layer of Vaseline also works as an exfoliant making it a good cuticle remover substitute.

Smear the jelly over the cuticles and let it sit for 5-7 minutes. As the skin softens, push back the cuticle and take out the dead skin.

8. Aloe Vera [Best Natural Cuticle Remover]

Aloe Vera is rich in vitamins, minerals, enzymes and salicylic acids and all of these work to keep the skin around the nails soft. It also helps remove dead skin cells so you can use it as a cuticle remover substitute.  

Just leave some Aloe Vera on the cuticles or soak the nails in the juice for 5-10 minutes. The dead skin should get softer to be removed.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Clean Cuticles Without Cuticle Remover?

Cuticles can simply be cleaned by soaking nails in lukewarm soapy water for 5-10 minutes, pushing them back and taking out dead cells with a stick. So, it can be done without cuticle remover.

Can You Make Your Own Cuticle Remover?

Yes, different ingredients like soapy water, milk, jojoba oil, avocado oil and Vaseline can work as DIY cuticle remover.

What Is The Main Ingredient In Cuticle Remover?

Sodium hydroxide and Potassium Hydroxide are the common ingredients found in cuticle remover as they work to break down dead skin and remove it from the nail plate due to its alkaline nature.


Dylan Mustapich is a NYC-based lead esthetician who has been featured in New Beauty, Teen Vogue, Wired, and The Huffington Post. With a lifelong love of all things skin, he is incredibly knowledgeable about skincare ingredients, routine refinement, and personalized skincare, and follows emerging technology closely.

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