Although the cuticles at the base of your fingernails and toenails are composed of dead skin cells, they're fully functional. They help protect the roots of your nails and promote strong, healthy nail growth. Without them, the risk of nail damage and even nail loss is higher, so it pays to take care of them by making sure you're ingesting the key vitamins that keep them strong.
According to Environmental Working Group, vitamin E is a main active ingredients in many over-the-counter nail products, including cuticle oils. Cuticle oils are designed to prevent hangnails and keep cuticles soft and moist. The National Institutes of Health states that vitamin E is an antioxidant, enabling it to seek out and neutralize the effects of free radicals, particles which attack and prematurely age all tissues. A report in the November-December 2010 issue states that supplementing with vitamin E at 1000 milligrams per day helped improve yellow nail syndrome.
B Complex Vitamins
According to The Healing Power of Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs by Reader's Digest, fingernail and cuticle health are dependent upon sufficient levels of all B vitamins, known collectively as the B complex. B vitamins that are especially important to healthy cuticles are biotin, or vitamin B-7, and folic acid, or vitamin B-9. Low levels of vitamin B-12 can also specifically affect the nails and cuticles by making them appear dark or discolored. Rescue Your Nails by Ji Baek, Barbara Smullen and Deborah Ory states that a general B complex deficiency can result in cuticles that are uneven, brittle and susceptible to fraying that will heal slowly for as long as B vitamin levels are low. Reader's Digest recommends a daily B complex multivitamin that contains 50 micrograms of B-12 and B-7, 400 micrograms of B-9 and 50 milligrams of all other B vitamins.
Vitamin C benefits cuticles in multiple ways. Baek, Smullen and Ory state that vitamin C helps to ward off fungal infections underneath fingernails and cuticles, and aids in the absorption of vitamin E, which has its own cuticle benefits. Also like vitamin E, vitamin C is a potent antioxidant. According to the June 2006 "Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology," vitamin C is essential to the synthesis of collagen, which helps make up skin and nails, and to the synthesis of keratin, the protein that gives strength and structure to nails and hair. The August 2004 "American Heart Journal" reports that vitamin C also promotes blood circulation, which helps deliver oxygen to cuticle tissues and ensure their growth. When taking vitamin C as a supplement for cuticle health, the recommended dose is 1,000 milligrams three times per day.