Home Science 30 Interesting Nail Facts

30 Interesting Nail Facts

by Sankalan Baidya
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30 Interesting Nail Facts

We have a tendency of taking some of our body parts for granted and unlucky for the nails, they fall in that category. We do a lot with our nails and the most important that we can think of now is that of scratching ourselves when our skins itch. Though our nails look pretty simple, they are far more complex than we really imagine them to be. When we say ‘complex’, we also mean to say that they have more complex functions than just as a tool for scratching our skins. Let us find out 30 interesting nail facts and understand why taking care of our nails is very important. Shall we begin?

Interesting Nail Facts: 1-10

1. Human nails are made of Keratin. It is actually a protective protein that also makes up our hair. However, arrangement of keratin molecules in hair is completely different from arrangement of keratin molecules in nails. This is why nails are tougher than hair.

2. Nails are designed for protecting not only the fingertips and toe tips but also the surrounding soft tissue from any external injuries.

3. Perhaps the most important function of nails is to provide a visual advertisement of the overall health of a person. Yes! Nails can actually provide an awful lot of information about a person’s health.

4. Fingernails have a faster growth rate compared to toe nails. Fingernails grow at a rate of 3.5 mm per month while toe nails only manage 1.6 mm a month.

5. There is a popular myth that white spots on nails are indicative of calcium or zinc deficiency. That is far from being true. They don’t indicate any kind of vitamin deficiency. They are rather outcomes of some kind of trauma that befell nail plates or the matrix which essentially is the source of the nail plate.

6. As we said earlier, nails are very complex and they are made up of several parts. The visible area (the hard part) is actually the nail plate.

7. A part of the nail is hidden underneath the cuticle. This part is the actual living part of the nail and is known as the matrix. The matrix actually produces the cells that eventually turn into nail plate.

8. A small crescent-shaped area on the nails that looks whitish is the visible part of the matrix. However, this crescent may not be visible on all nails especially, it is not always visible on the little finger.

9. The matrix is a part or extension of the nail bed which lays beneath the nail plate. As mentioned earlier, the matrix is a living part and has blood vessels, lymphs and nerves.

10. As new nail plate cells are produced by the matrix, the older ones are pushed out forward and they get compressed, translucent and flat. It is this translucency that makes the nail plates look pinkish because the capillaries beneath the nail plates become somewhat visible.

Interesting Nail Facts: 11-20

11. Underneath the nail plate is a layer of skin which is known as the nail bed. The nail bed in turn is made up of two layers of tissues. The first layer is the epidermis which moves along with the nail plate towards the fingertip.

12. Below the epidermis is the dermis which has glands and capillaries. The epidermis and the dermis are attached together by small (in fact tiny) longitudinal grooves. These grooves are known as matrix crests.

13. Then there is the nail sinus. This is the place where the root of the nail is located. The nail sinus grows actively from a tissue just underneath the matrix.

14. The distal edge or the free margin is the area of the nail plate that is actually cut off from time to time. It is more like a free hanging margin that extends out from the skin at the tip of the finger.

15. At the tip of the finger, at the area where the nail plate loses contact with the skin and extends out into distal edge, is a layer of epithelium cells. To be more precise, this layer of epithelium cells lie at the very junction of the skin of the fingertip and the nail plate and acts as a protective seal for the nail bed. This layer of epithelium cells is known as the hyponychium.

16. The hyponychium in turn is sealed with the nail plate using the onychodermal band. It is located right at the end of the nail bed and just under free margin or the distal edge.

17. On the top is the cuticle along with eponychium. The cuticle is made of dead cells and is semi-circular. The eponychium is made of living epithelium cells. Both of these work as protective layers.

18. During manicure, the cuticle is often removed but if the eponychium gets hurt accidentally, it can lead to infections. Hence, manicure should be carried out only by highly trained and specialized people only.

19. Children between the age of 10 and 18 have the habit of biting nails. This is not really harmful but of course, it is unsanitary. However, biting nails can actually lead to nail bed conditions as per Mayo Clinic.

20. The habit of nail biting has a medical name and is known as onychophagia.

Interesting Nail Facts: 21-30

21. Nails grow faster in summer months compared to winter months.

22. Scientists have found out that excessive stress can actually inhibit growth of nails in individuals.

23. 10% of all known dermatological conditions known today are related to nails. Fungal infections, bacterial infections, vertical lines and ingrown toe nails are some of common nail disorders. Elder people are more prone to nail problems compared to younger people.

24. As mentioned before, cuticles form a protective shield. They actually prevent the environmental germs from getting inside the body and also help to retain moisture. Thus, removing cuticles (manicure) for aesthetic purposes is not really suggested by experts.

25. Nails require blood and nutrients for survival (see point #9). In case of an injury, the blood and nutrient supply can be cut off and prevent the growth of the nail plate and it becomes dark blue. In such cases, nail plates can fall off completely and when the nail bed and matrix get attached again, new nails grow. However, there may be instances when nail root gets a permanent scar leading to misshapen nail growth.

26. The nail on middle finger has fastest growth rate while the nail on thumb has slowest growth rate.

27. Nails grow at a faster rate in males compared to females.

28. Nails never sweat because they do not have any sweat glands. Whatever sweat we see around the nails actually come from the surrounding skin.

29. When nails are used to scratch a chalkboard, people cringe. This happens because the sound produced by the scratching is amplified inside the ears due to the shape of the ear canals. Okay! The very thought of the act is making us cringe.

30. Nails tell us a lot about our overall health. Color of the nails, their shape, their size etc. can actually help doctors identify several health conditions. For example, nails can be slightly blueish in colors and this may indicate lung problems.

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Bonus Facts:

Nail plate is made of dead cells so they really cannot breathe. However, the plate allows oxygen to pass through to the nail bed which requires oxygen. Thus, whenever you paint your nails, the colors block the oxygen and prevent it from reaching the nail bed. Over the long run, continued use of nail paints gradually makes the nail bed suffocate and it dries. As the nail bed dries, the nails become weak.

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Sources: 1, 2, 3

 

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