Our nails are composed of a horny substance called keratin, the same substance in human hair and in hooves, claws and beaks in the animal kingdom.
The nail grows from an area beneath the nail bed called the matrix, and the shape of the nail is determined by the bone below. The half moon at the base of the nail, the lunula is normal, but if not present is of no concern. There is no point in “digging around” trying to find it.
Nails are attached to the underlying nail bed which receives a generous blood supply in healthy individuals.
A nicely rounded curved nail, is convex in shape, and is considered ideal, whereas concave nails tend to turn slightly upward, which is called “spooning”.
Nails are constantly growing and will take approximately six months to extend from the root to the tip, the part that is named the free edge, and extends outward from the finger tips.
A question has often arisen regarding nail and hair growth after death, which one somehow associates with horror movies.
There is actually some biological basis on this assumption. Factually, very soon after death the blood circulation ceases, resulting in a lack of glucose to the tissues. Dehydration and retraction of the skin then occurs. It is this detraction that appears to make nails and hair grow.
The function of nails is to protect the delicate finger tips, which have a mass of nerve endings, to pick up sensations from the exterior environment. Many people, however, regard their nails as nothing but a nightmare of a problem and there are many questions asked to obtain solutions. Some problems are simply due to neglect, others could be manifestations of systemic diseases.
The less serious are listed below and can be remedied:
White flecks in the nail plate are generally thought to be related to uneven keratin production.
Vertical ridges are more common in the elderly, being associated with arthritis. Keeping the body in a more alkaline state is good advice.
Nail biting is an unsightly habit causing bulbous fingertips and ragged cuticles. As a result of the latter, bacteria enter and a pustular condition called Paronychia results, requiring anti-biotic treatment.
Clipping of the cuticles is equally bad as thicker skin develops and the habit of clipping continues.
More serious conditions below should not be ignored:
Pitting of the nail surface is often associated with psoriasis.
Club nails which appear thick and well rounded might be caused by low oxygen in the blood. A basic cause is thickening of soft tissue below the nail plate.
Yellowish streaks that spread from the free edge down into the nail is caused by fungal invasion and is one of the most common complaints and has to be treated. If left, the entire nail surface could begin to crumble.
Onycholysis is serious, as this involves the lifting of the nail plate off the nail bed. Causes could include systemic disease or the use of certain nail hardeners.
It is worth mentioning here that the inclusion of formaldehyde in reputable products is acceptable, but the use of formaldehyde neat is disastrous and no chemist should sell it without questioning.
There are so many simple ways to maintain good healthy nails. Wearing of gloves when working with chemicals like dishwashing agents is essential.
Picking and fiddling with nails is most unnecessary – leave them alone!
Nails that are dry and brittle are crying out for nourishment, and neglected hands are, sadly, a sure sign of ageing.
A good habit can be cultivated by massaging one’s hands with a good cream or butter at bedtime allowing for hours of absorption, and to rub cuticle oil around the cuticles and into the nail surface too.
Matsimela Home Spa has the answer with preparations like Baobab Intensive Hand and Nail Repair, as well as Litchi and Rose Hand Cream.