What are Nail Parts and Their Functions

Table of Contents

What are Fingernails Made of?

Have you ever asked yourself what your nails are made of? Well, fingernails are made primarily of a tough, flexible protein known as keratin. Keratin is also found in the hair and the outer layer of the epidermis. 

The rest of fingernails consists of several chemicals known as nail hardeners which can vary depending on your age, diet, etc. 

The following elements might be part of your nail as well: citric acid (found in citrus fruits), calcium hydrogen phosphate dehydrate, magnesium silicate hydrogen phosphate dehydrate, paraffinum liquidum (mineral oil), isopropyl palmitate, ethyl acetate, butylene etc.

Nail Matrix and Nail matrix Function

The nail matrix is found under the cuticle line and extends four-five millimeters up to where your fingernail begins to grow. 

The nail matrix creates and secretes keratin to form a structure known as the nail plate. This area grows the fastest because it receives many nutrients through tiny blood vessels that run underneath it. 

 The cells of the matrix are constantly dividing which is what contributes to nail growth via keratinocytes flaking off at the free edge or tip of your finger.

 If you ever lose a portion of your nail due to other types of damage, you can see just how fast these cells work in order for your nails to regrow. They can even regrow if completely removed from their roots!

Nail Plate and Nail Plate Function

The nail plate makes up most of what you see when looking at fingernails. As the nail grows from the matrix, keratin that is made in the matrix begins to harden and flake off at the end of your finger. 

This causes a thicker layer to build up on top of this already forming hardened layer, causing the fingernail to form a convex shape. The function of a nail plate is to reduce stress on the soft tissues that lie beneath the fingernail.

 It takes about six months for a fingernail to fully grow out from the cuticle line, which is also known as shedding or desquamation by biochemists. This procedure can be sped up if there are any other factors involved such as damage due to other chemicals/mechanical stress/fungal infections etc.

Nail Bed and Nail Bed Function

The nail bed is made mostly of connective tissue that has blood vessels, nerves, and lymphatic vessels running through it.

 The nail bed can be divided into two parts: the tip of the finger where it meets your fingernail, commonly known as the lunula, and the part under your fingernail. 

There are tiny grooves in the nail bed where the cells that make up the matrix push keratinocytes (skin cells) while they are growing towards the free edge or tip of your finger. 

This is what causes melanin pigment to appear on your nails which gives them color. 

When you get a sunburn, this is why you will sometimes see white spots on your fingertips; these spots lack melanin pigment because those cells were pushed out by new cells during sun exposure or other types of damage/irritation.

Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash

Free edge

The term “free edge” comes from geometry, where it signifies an edge of a figure that does not touch another figure.

 In the case of the fingernails, this would be any area of the nail that is not attached to anything else. 

The middle of the nail is known as the “body” while the proximal-most part of the fingernail that is closest to the hand is called the root.

 The hyponychium refers to skin surrounding and protecting the free edge just before it splits into what are known as “lunula”.

Leave a Comment