Nail Anatomy & Structure
This fact sheet briefly outlines basic anatomy of the
fingernail, the individual parts and how they participate in the
construction of the nail. Please study the diagram below.
What’s the purpose of the nail plate?
The nail plate acts as a protective shield, shielding the
delicate tissues of the underlying Nail Bed.
What is the Matrix?
The matrix is in fact the ROOT of the nail.
This area is not visible, it 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 loosing
their original white plumpish appearance.
They eventually become transparent and become part of the
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 nail folds protect the matrix.
The Proximinal Nail Fold and the Lateral Nail Folds are part
of our skin. The skin does
not just end there, it in fact folds at the edges and continues
beneath. This continuing skin
acts as a protective barrier, it in fact protects and seals the
matrix against bacteria and dirt that is common within our
Normally referred to as the cuticle, but it is in fact not
the true cuticle. 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.
Ptygerium/ Dead Skin Cells/ True Cuticle
We are constantly shedding dead skin cells throughout our
the nail folds are no
exception. The skin on the
underside of the nail folds sheds constantly as the nail plate grows
and rubs (sloughs) against it. These
dead skin cells attach to the nail plate and become visible as the
nail grows. This attached
skin is referred to as the Ptygerium, dead skin cell or the true
cuticle. This needs to be
removed regularly in order to prevent a build up.
The Lunula is often referred to as “moons”.
The lunula is in fact the front end of the matrix.
The whitish half moons are keratin cells that have not yet
been completely flattened and still have some of their content.
Not everyone has visible lunula’s
The lunula is normally more prominent on the thumbs.
The shape of the lunula determines the shape of the free
How fast does the nail grow?
The overall growth of the nail within one month is
approximately 3mm. However
this does vary from person to person.
To completely out grow a nail can take up to 6 months. As mentioned, growth rate does vary from person to person,
there are many contributing factors such as; weather, health,
age and a well balanced diet. The
nail tends to grow faster in our early years, reaching its peak
around the age of 10-14 and then the nail growth gradually slows
down, as we get older. Growth
is accelerated in the summer, during pregnancy and during sleep.
Poor blood circulation, malnutrition, certain illnesses and
some medications can slow down the growth rate.
Each nail grows at a different rate.
The smallest nail that we often refer to as our “pinkie”
is the in fact the slowest, then the thumbs.
The index finger generally grows at an accelerated rate in
comparison to the others.
Brittle nails tend to have a low water content.
The water content will effect the flexibility of the nails.
Water content can vary from 10% to 30%.
Nail varnishes and oils will prevent loss of water and
This fact sheet has been prepared for use as a guideline only.
You will find that guidelines differ from company to company and sometimes information compared from one to the other can be contradictive. Each company has their own set of recommendations.
These fact sheets may be used for your
personal use only. Nail Solutions fact sheets may not be
reproduced by any means and or distributed without the
express permission of Nail Solutions Limited.