Your nails may be small but they are vital for proper functioning of your fingers and hands. Understanding the anatomy and function of your nails can help you keep them healthy and strong. Which is why we’ve created this comprehensive guide to nail health:
The Basics of Nail Anatomy
Nails are made of keratin, a type of protein that is also found in hair and skin. Knowing what each part of a nail is called is the first step in understanding how they work.
Base – This is where the nail begins, just above the cuticle.
Cuticle – This is the thin tissue that overlaps the nail plate and protects nail growth at the base.
Lunula – This is the half-moon shape at the base of the nail. It’s naturally paler in color.
Nail Plate – This is the flat part at the top that we usually see and call the “nail”. It’s made up of several layers that can be susceptible to damage from water or trauma.
Free Edge – This is the end of the nail plate that extends beyond the fingertip.
Fold Lines – These horizontal bands run across the entire nail plate and let you know if your nail is growing normally or not.
Eponychium – Also known as the cuticle, it is the slightly wider tissue at the base of the nail that naturally overlaps the nail plate.
Nail Matrix – This is the area beneath the cuticle and above the base of the nail. It’s filled with capillaries, producing healthy and strong nail cells that are responsible for growth.
Understanding the Functions of Your Nails
Your nails play a vital role in so many of your daily activities, from picking up small items to keeping your hands and fingers safe. Here are the primary functions of your nails:
Protection – The curved shape of your nail plates helps protect the tips of your fingers and toes from damage.
Grip – Having strong nails makes it easier to grip small items, like coins or keys.
Flexibility – Healthy nails will bend and flex to adjust to the task at hand, from typing to tightening screws.
Manicure – Your nails can be both beautiful and functional. The right shade and shape can make your hands look more attractive.
What Can Impair Nail Health?
Nail health can be greatly impaired by certain conditions and behaviors. Here are the most common culprits:
Excessively Hot Water – When exposed to too much hot water, your nails can become dry, brittle, and prone to tears. This can lead to infection, if not treated properly.
Fungal Infections – Fungi can enter through nail beds and cause discoloration, peeling, and eventual destruction of the nail plate.
Injury – Even the simplest of injuries can lead to infection and loss of nails.
Poor Diet – Eating too much processed food and not getting enough vitamins and minerals can lead to dry and brittle nails.
Chemicals – Certain chemicals can weaken and damage nails if handled improperly.
The Benefits of Taking Care of Your Nails
The good news is that nail problems can usually be effectively treated with proper care and a healthy lifestyle. Here are the primary benefits of taking care of your nails:
Healthy and Strong – Taking care of your nails can help them stay healthy and strong for years to come.
Fewer Infections – Taking care of your nails can help keep them free from fungi and bacteria.
Less Pain – When your nails are healthy, they can help protect against cuts and scrapes.
Better Appearance – Keeping your nails healthy can help them look attractive, too.
How to Take Good Care of Your Nails
To keep your nails healthy and strong, the following steps should be taken:
Trim Regularly – Trim your nails once every week or two and file them into the desired shape.
Keep Clean – Clean your nails with warm water and a mild soap to help prevent infection.
Stay Hydrated – Drinking plenty of fluids helps keep nails hydrated and healthy.
Use Moisturizer – Applying a nail-friendly moisturizer to the nails protects them from damage and keeps them looking shiny.
Apply Sunscreen – Your nails can get sunburned, too. Applying a good sunscreen helps protect them from the sun’s UV rays.
Be Careful – Be mindful of not picking at your cuticles or nails, as this can lead to infection.
Eat Healthy – Eating an all-around balanced diet helps keep your nails healthy.
Visit a Podiatrist – Your podiatrist will be able to diagnose and treat nail-related issues.
Taking care of your nails is important for protecting your digits and also for looking good. By understanding the anatomy and function of your nails, you can make sure they stay healthy and strong. Regular care such as trimming, cleaning, and moisturizing, can help keep your nails resilient and damage-proof. Eating a healthy diet and visiting a podiatrist can also help keep your nails in the best possible condition.