Monday, December 7, 2009

Tip and Toe Care: Part 1 The Nail Anatomy

According to an article in Nailpro Magazine, the desire to have long beautiful nails first began during China's Ming dynasty (1368-1644), when aristocratic women grew their nails up to 10 inches long as a sign that they performed no manual labor. To protect their nails, they often sheathed them in gold or silver. Chinese men also grew long nails as a sign of their masculinity and to protect themselves from evil.

What can you do to protect and improve the health of your nails?

I wanted to make a little guide on how to get strong, healthy and beautiful nails without going to get professional manicures. I noticed pretty early on that the guide wont be so little, there's just so much I want to fit. I decided it's best to take it apart into smaller parts and post them all seperatly, like a little nail care series. So, here goes!

We'll start with the basics, the nail itself. It's important to have an understanding about the nail structure, it will answer alot of questions as to why you should do things a certain way and what that will accomplish.

Finger Nail Anatomy
The nail is more than just the nail plate. I will walk you thru all the parts of the nail.

The Matrix (not the movie)
This is where it all starts, it is the only living part of the nail and contains nerves and blood vessles. The matrix is in fact the root of the nail. This area is hidden and protected by the Proximinal Nail Fold. The matrix produces keratin cells that make up the nail plate. As more and more cells are produced the older ones are pushed outwards and flattened, all this pushing and flattening results in the cells losing their original white plumpish appearance. They eventually become transparent and become part of the nail plate.

Apart from producing the keratin cells that make up the nail plate, the matrix also determines the shape and thickness of the nail. The overall length of the matrix will determine the thickness of the nail; so the longer the matrix the thicker the nail. A short matrix produces fewer cells, as a result a thinner nail. Matrix shapes and sizes vary per person, a flat matrix will produce a flat nail and a curved matrix will produce of course a curved nail.

The matrix is the most important feature of the nail unit. Damage to the matrix can cause permanent damage to the appearance of the nail.

The Nail Folds
As mentioned previously the Proximal nail fold protect the Matrix. The Lateral nail fold is an extension of the proximal nail fold and protects each side of the nail plate. The skin does not just end where the nail plate starts it in fact folds at the edges and continues beneath. This continuing skin acts as a protective barrier, it protects and seals the matrix against bacteria and dirt.

The Eponychium
Normally referred to as the cuticle, but it isn't. It's the visible part of the proximal nail fold that appears to end at the base of the nail. The eponychium attaches closely to the nail plate and moves with it as the nail plate grows. This extra growth of eponychium is generally freed and pushed back during a manicure. The eponychium’s function is to act as a barrier seal to stop bacteria, infection from getting to the matrix.

The Ptygerium/True Cuticle
We are constantly shedding dead skin cells throughout our daily life, the nail folds are no exception. The eponychium will shed a thin, colorless layer of skin that rides on the nail plate and appears to grow from under the proximal nail fold. This needs to be removed regularly in order to prevent a build up.

The Lunula
The lunula is the opaque pale white 'half moon' at the base of the nail. The lunula is the front end of the matrix. The whitish color comes from keratin cells that have not yet been completely flattened and still have some of their content. Not everyone has visible lunula’s, it is normally more prominent on the thumbs. The shape of the lunula determines the shape of the distal edge.

The Distal Edge
The distal egde is more commonly reffered to as the free edge. It's the end of the nail plate, the part that is shaped during manicures and pedicures.

The Nail Plate
This is the visible portion of the nail that sits on top of the nail bed. It is made of keratin protein formed by amino acids. These proteins are a strong, flexible material made from many layers of dead, flattened cells. Hair and skin are also keratin protein; however, they are much softer and more flexible.

The Nail Bed
The nail bed is made of two types of tissue: dermis and epidermis. The dermis is the lower portion which is attached to the bone, while the epidermis lies just underneath the nail plate. The epidermis moves forward with the nail plate and is attached to the dermis by tiny 'rails and grooves' that allow the nail plate to move, much like a train rides on its tracks. As we age, the nail plate becomes thinner and we see evidence of the 'rail and groove' as vertical ridges in the nail plate.

The Hyponichium
This is the portion of skin at the end of the finger underneath the free edge, where the nail plate separates from the skin.

Conclusion
The matrix is the only live part of your nail and damage to that might cause permantent damage to your nailplate.
The matrix is different from person to person and can't be manipulated, but you can care for it and get the best possible nails your body can produce.
The nailplate is made out of dead cells and the only way to affect the health of it is thru the matrix.
The matrix and the surrounding skin are the most important parts to keep healthy.
The "half moons" are a a part of the matrix showing thru your nailplate, so be careful!

Whew! That was all! The most boring but also most important part is done!

Stay tuned for next time when I'll walk you thru Nail Growth.
How fast does a nail grow?
Can you make it grow faster or stronger?
You will get the answers to that shortly!

Sources:
My own knowledge
Marti Preuss - http://www.hooked-on-nails.com

Various other website where no author or sources were mentioned,
therefore I do not know who to credit.
If you recognize any of the material posted here as yours don't hesitate to contact me.

8 comments:

thriszha said...

wow!! very informative... nice post

Arie said...

Yes , very interesting, I have to take care of my matrix ^_^. I like your pre-birthday nails they look gorgeus!! You did a good job working with bullions!.

Ninni said...

Very interesting. Thank you for this. I've just decided to try to grow my nails long for the first time in my life, so it's like you read my mind :)

Ange-Marie said...

wow! that took me right back to beauty school! refresher courses are always a good thing :) thanks for the reminder !

Triskit said...

Great post, I can't wait to read the next part!!

Lucy said...

I'm a beauty school girl also. It's been a very long time since I went but I still remember it. It was all so boring then. I just wanted to get out and work on people.

deepak said...

British racing green is one of my favorite FAVORITE colors!
ez flow

Unknown said...

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I like this post. useful:x.

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Nail Nerd by day, Ninja by night! My favourite things are informercials and thumb tacs... NO! It's nails of course! and ninjas. Nails and ninjas.. yup!
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