To trim or not to trim… that is the question.Okay, it may not be exactly what Hamlet said, but if you’re the type who gets regular manicures, you’ve definitely wondered whether to enthusiastically affirm or politely demure when your manicurist asks if you’d like your cuticles trimmed.

The answer is (excuse the pun) pretty cut-and-dry.“In general, you shouldn’t trim cuticles,” says New Orleans dermatologist Mary Lupo, M.D. “If they’re too short or lifted away from the nail, it allows bacteria, yeast and fungus to infect the nail bed.” What’s more, too much trimming actually makes cuticles look worse in the long run. “If you cut off too much of the cuticle, they’ll look good for one or two days, but then they’ll peel and get ragged again,” says New York City manicurist Jin Soon Choi.

No trimming is all well and good—hey, we’re all about healthy beauty—but let’s face it, everyone’s cuticles can look a little rough from time to time. And if you’re splurging on a mani, you don’t want janky cuticles ruining the effect, right? “The most important part of a manicure is making sure the nail plate is clean,” notes Elissa Schell, a manicurist at Paintbox in New York City. “Polish and gel won’t adhere to the nail unless it’s completely free of any oils or dead skin.”

Fortunately, it’s possible to get cuticles mani-ready sans trimming. Follow these three easy steps to neaten up cuticles and get rid of any annoying dead skin safely:

One more thing to note: Unlike cuticles, hangnails should always be nipped in the bud. “A hangnail is really just a loose or already-torn cuticle,” says Dr. Lupo. “They should always be trimmed to prevent from being torn further and causing bleeding or infection.”

Of course, it’s even better to prevent hangnails in the first place—and you can do that by applying oil or hand lotion regularly. “I know manicurists say it all the time, but that’s because it’s true!” says Schell. “Along with helping prevent dry cuticles, it helps tremendously with hangnails.” Try keeping a bottle of oil on your desk and rubbing it onto cuticles every once in a while.

You’ll love the instantly-neatened-up effect it has on your mani—and your cuticles will thank you.

READ MORE: The Best Ways to Strengthen Your Weak Nails