Our Nails

We like to decorate them, paint them, wear them long, short and in between, wear nail wraps, silk wraps and be creative with unlimited nail designs and nail art. But do we stop and wonder why do we have nails and what are they made of?

Apart from being a base for great nail art, our nails serve a purpose. The tips of our toes and fingers are very soft and the nail which is a hard surface protects these soft tips .We also use our nails to do essential jobs like scratching an itch or grasping fine objects.

So what are our nails made of? The same substance as our hair is made of, Keratin, which is a protein formed by amino acids. The top layer of our skin is also made out of keratin. Our nails actually start growing, not out of the cuticle but at the nail root. The nail root is under the cuticle and is made of up cells.

Just in front of the nail root is the Matrix, which means the” Mother of the Nail”. The length, shape and even the size of the Matrix will decide how thick and how wide the nail plate is. The Matrix makes more cells the longer it is. As these cells grow from the nail root the old nail cells are pushed out by the new cells. These cells make the keratin, which causes the cells to harden and become flat, which forms the new nail, known as the nail plate.

Above the cuticle each nail has a has a half moon shape, This half moon is the edge of the Matrix and is made up of the new cells which are still soft and a little thicker. As they move along the nail plate they gradually become thinner, transparent and hard, and are hardest at the nail tips.

The nail plate moves along the nail bed. This nail bed is made up of tissue, which gives the nail its pink colour, the result of the tiny blood vessels that give nourishment to the nail. It is joined together by bands of protein fibres’. These fibre’s are constantly being kept moist by the nail bed from which oils and moisture flow towards the nail plate.  These oils also give the nail the sheen on its surface. And these same substances enable the nail plate to be flexible and to bend. As we get older and the nail produces less of these moisturising substances, we see vertical ridges forming on the nail plate.

The nail plate is protected by the cuticle where the skin meets the nail.  It is here that a layer of colorless, thin skin grows and this is known as the real cuticle.

Our nails grow at different rates according to the size of our fingers, i.e. long fingers equals faster growth. Our nails also grow faster at night, especially the thumb nail and when you are expecting a child. Nails grow faster at different ages and slower as we get older. Each fingernail also grows at a different rate.

We can keep our nails looking good with a natural look, or by using nail polish, nail wraps, nail art designs or by applying artificial nails such as acrylic nails or gel nails to extend the nails.

So enjoy and take care of your nails, they are made with so much care and attention.

by Metallic Nails on February 16, 2011


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