Have you noticed changes in your fingernail or toenail health? Has the nail colour and texture changed? Are your nails thickening or becoming more brittle? Is the skin around your nails dry, broken or cracked? Over a series of articles we’re going to help you get to know your nails better so that you are aware of any early signs of nail infection and how to treat it before it becomes problematic. Leaving you with a solid understanding of nail health and how to improve the health and look of yours.
The different parts of your nail
Your nails are unique to you, from the shape of your nails to their rate of growth and strength but everyone’s nails are are made up of the same parts:
Nail plate: the part of the nail that you see. It’s made up of dead keratin cells that gradually become thinner as we age.
Nail bed: this is the skin underneath your nail plate.
Matrix: this is a part of the nail bed which contains the nerves, lymph and blood vessels. The matrix creates the cells that turn into the nail plate.
Lunula: the white ‘moon shape’ most noticeably seen on the thumb.
Cuticle: dead skin at the end of the nail plate which acts as a protective seal.
Eponychium: living skin cells at the end of the nail bed and nail plate and should not be removed due to the risk of infection.
Why it’s important to take care of your nails and surrounding skin
Taking care of your nails and the skin around them, including your cuticles, is not only important for hygiene reasons, it can actually help deter nasty nail and skin infections that can occur.
When your cuticles are dry or cracked you are more prone to pick at them and pull the skin back beyond the protective seal. This can provide an easy entry for germs to get in under the nail bed and wreak havoc. Nail biting can also cause nail splitting and fraying which can lead to problematic nail conditions.
If you love getting gel manicures or acrylic nails for their long lasting effect it’s really important to know how to remove these nails properly. Pulling or chipping these nails away can cause the nail plate to split and break. So it’s extremely important to either get a nail technician to safely remove gel or acrylic nails for you, or use removal clips which are specifically designed to safely remove gel or acrylic nails without damaging the nail plate.
Nail care routine
Having a good nail care routine is as beneficial as your skincare and hair care routine. Developing a short nail care routine, whether that is massaging nail oil into your nail plate and surrounding skin or regularly removing cuticle skin, can help you get to know your nails and pick up on any subtle early changes.
In the next article we’ll focus on fungal nail infections, what they look like, causes and importantly, what we can do about them.