Nails are an important part of the human body. They protect fingers and toes; they are reliable indicators of general health, and when well-cared for, they are important assets adding to the overall attractiveness of the individual.
Nails are made of a hardened protein called keratin, which is also found in skin and hair. Each nail is made up of several different parts:
(a) the nail plate- the visible part of nails on fingers and toes
(b) the nail bed- the skin beneath the nail plate
(c) the cuticle- a layer of tissue that overlaps the plate and circles 3 sides of it
(d) the matrix- the area under the cuticle where growth takes place
(e) the nail folds- folds of skin that frame and support the nail on 3 sides
(f) the lunula- part of the matrix, a whitish, half-moon shape visible at the base of each nail
The rate of nail growth in humans varies, depending on the person, the nail in question and the time of year. Finger nails grow about 5 times faster than toe nails. Generally, human fingernails grow about 3 mm a month. It takes from 3 to 6 months for a fingernail to replace itself completely.
Here are some factors which affect nail growth:
* Nails grow faster in summer than in winter
* Men’s nails grow faster than women’s, except when she’s pregnant and just before her period; then hers will grow faster. Hormones affect the growth rate.
* The nails on your dominant hand grow faster.
* Aging causes nail growth to slow. The nails may become brittle, discoloured and have a tendency to split.
* Nails grow more slowly on infants and the elderly.
* Nail biting causes the nail to grow faster because it increases blood flow to the area.
* Fungal or bacterial infections can make nails discoloured, fragile, brittle and crumbly.
* Adequate nutrition is important. A diet rich in protein, iron, zinc and Vitamin B contributes to the production of healthy, attractive nails.
* Adequate hydration is necessary. The nail beds require moisture to support healthy nail plates comfortably.
* The overuse of nail products such as nail polish or polish remover can weaken nails and cause them to break.
* Chronic illness, such as poor circulation, can slow nail growth.
* Injury to fingers or toes can damage the nails. The damage may be temporary or permanent, according to the severity of the injury.
* Heredity can account for weak or thin nails. There is no permanent cure for this, but nail strengthener and growth formula may help on a temporary basis.
Toenails and fingernails were created for the protection and benefit of human beings. When they are appreciated and cared for they serve useful functions: they protect our digits, they help doctors diagnose our illnesses and they may even help attract the love of our lives. Who would have thought those ten little plates of keratin could be so useful?