Nail Anatomy

As a nail technician I like to ensure that my clients are educated on their nails. This includes how our nails grow, what to expect when receiving a good manicure, how to ensure your nail coating lasts and how to look after your nails and keep them healthy.

Back to school

Before you go for a manicure, it is good to understand how the nail is constructed to ensure that you have the knowledge to decide which nail coating system is best for you. Here are some nail facts that can help you understand how the nail grows.

The nail Matrix is "the mother of the nail plate" because it produces new nail plate cells. It is located just under the eponychium and contains the blood vessels that carry nutrition to the new cells. The Matrix determines the shape, width and thickness of the nail plate; a long Matrix makes a thick nail; a short Matrix makes a thin nail.

The Lunula (or moon) is the front of the Matrix, it is not always visible. This is the thinnest and most delicate part of the nail, if this area gets damaged it can compromise the whole health of the nail.

The Nail Plate is a complex structure of proteins called keratin and is made from amino acids, it can absorb water or oil like a sponge, especially after prolonged soaking.

The Eponychium and Cuticle are not the same. The eponychium is the delicate nail fold at the base of the nail, its function is to protect the area between the nail and epidermis from exposure to bacteria. This area should never be cut during the manicure process as this can cause bacterial infections, if your nail tech starts snipping away, please ask them to stop!

The Cuticle is the semi-circular layer of non-living, almost invisible dead skin cells that "ride out on" and cover the back of the visible nail plate. The cuticle is removed during a manicure to ensure the nail coating adheres to the nail plate.

Nail Plate growth rates

Each fingernail grows at different rates, and nail growth is determined by many factors. Health and hereditary conditions determine how fast the nail plate will grow. Here are some interesting statistics regarding nail plate growth:

  • The thumb nail will grow about 1.5 inches per year

  • The index fingernail will grow the fastest

  • Nails grow faster in summer than winter

  • Growth rates decrease as we age

Factors that can slow nail growth rate:

  • Being immobilized or paralyzed

  • Poor circulation

  • Malnutrition

  • Serious infections

  • Psoriasis

  • Certain medications

Lets analyse your nails

There are five properties to understand when considering the condition of your nails

Hardness - Measures the difficulty of scratching the surface of the nail

Brittleness - Occurs when there is a lack of moisture in the nail plate

Weakness - Occurs when there is an overall loss of nail plate strength

Durability - The nail plates ability to resist cracks and breaks

Strength - The ability to resist force

The main problem I see when in the salon are brittle, flaking and weak nails. Usually I will find that the client has their hands in water a lot and does not wear gloves; water swells the nail and causes it to change shape, tiny cracks are enlarged, especially if the nail is soaked for more than two minutes in warm soapy water (washing up!).

Brittle nails tend to almost crumble when breaking, they don't create a clean break. usually caused by dehydration (this doesn't mean you can go stick your hands in water!) you need to hydrate the nails properly with the use of a nail oil and moisturiser.

Weak nails lack in proper strength, and will break more cleanly as opposed to shattering like brittle nails. Nails can become weak if over filed, improper removal of a nail coating, over exposure to solvents or you are using your nails as tools and not jewels! Again, we need to feed the nail cells to help strengthen them and protect them from damage.

Delamination (flaking) of the nail plate can occur when the nail is overexposed to solvents and improper removal of nail coatings. I have also seen delamination happen when a client's nail coating has started to lift, the nail is then exposed to moisture which causes delamination of the nail plate under the nail coating, this is also a great place for bacteria to grow! As the nail grows from the matrix the cells coming from the back end up on top of the nail plate. As these have been exposed to environmental damage for three to four months longer than the cells on the bottom side, delamination is always seen on top and not underneath.

How can we maintain healthy, strong nails?

Care - having your nails professionally manicured regularly keeps skin and nails healthy

Condition - Avoid exposing your nails to water and feed them with a plasticizing nail oil

Coat - Keep nails coated to seal older layers and protect from the elements

Everyone wants long, strong healthy nails like we see on Pinterest, with professional maintenance from a nail technician and daily homecare this can be achieved.

Please do check out my other blog posts "Are you getting the full treatment" and "The World of Shellac" to learn more about our much-loved treat, the manicure!

Love and Respect


#nailcare #healthynails #jewelsnottools #nailcondition #naileducation #hownailsgrow #nailgrowth

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