We're constantly paying attention to our nails, doing such things as painting them, trimming them, cleaning them, filing them, biting them. How much do you know about these parts of the body that play a surprisingly big role in our day-to-day lives?
You may already be aware that nails are made from keratin (the same substance our hair is also made from) but why are our nails and hair so different?
What is the science behind nails?
The nail as a whole is made up of six different parts: nail bed, nail root, nail plate, cuticle, perionychium and hyponychium (these final two being names for the skin surrounding the nail). The nail bed and nail root are the two key parts of the nail. The nail root, found growing deep within the dermis of the skin, creating and pushing the keratin forward. Our nails can give away a lot of secrets about the state of our health. Nails contain a large number of different nutrients at carefully balanced levels and if we are deficient in certain vitamins or minerals, or have too many, this will be reflected in our nails. For example, they might split or look discoloured. Nails have even been used to diagnose heavy metal poisoning in murder cases in the past! . As parts of the nail get older and move further away from the nail bed, this area becomes thicker and appears whiter standing out from the rest of the nail, which gives the illusion that nails may be growing from the very end, instead of at the base.
Why do we have nails?
Humans have evolved a long way from our ancestors in the ape world, however we largely use nails for the same purpose even now, from being protecting our fingers and toes to helping to grasp and hold onto items, and we can't forget about scratching!
Even though nails are still used for all of these primal purposes, we love our nails and want to keep them looking fabulous!