The fingernails are made of layers of a protein called keratin. This protein is also found in your hair and the top layer of your skin. Fingernails are resilient to a point. There are a variety of problems and conditions that might affect the nails. Many of these conditions are fairly harmless. If you are regularly exposed to water, soap or harsh chemicals, you may notice that your nails have become soft or brittle, and are prone to break easily. You can prevent this kind of damage by wearing protective gloves when you are working with water, soap and harsh chemicals. Try applying organic coconut oil to your nails and cuticles for brittle nails. For soft nails, applying a nail hardener, a type of polish that contains protective properties, should help.
The part of your nails that you can see, are dead cells. The live cells you can’t see push your nails forward. Humans have nails to help scratch that itch or pick lint from your shirt, but they’re really there to keep the tips of your fingers safe from injury. Animals have claws that they use to grab prey, climb trees or dig holes, but humans lost theirs so they could hold onto smaller things.
Even after you die the human tissue dries, shrinks and pulls back from the nails, which can make them look longer. They need hormones to grow and that takes life. The fingernails actually grow about 3 times faster than toenails. It will take 3 to 6 months to completely replace one of your fingernails and 9 to 18 months for a new toenail. There is a higher risk for infection if you chew your nails. You can damage the tissue that makes your nails grow and make them look weird and become very sore. Break the chewing habit by keeping them trimmed and filed down. Get a good manicure and use nail polish that tastes bad to help break that habit.
Nail polish can dry your toenails out and lets yeast, bacteria, mold and mildew grow underneath that can cause problems. Let them breathe free for a week or so in between those pedicures to keep them healthy.
It actually looks like your nails grow directly from the edge of your cuticle, but they really start in the nail root that is a little farther back under the skin. That area is protected from infection by the cuticles themselves.
Those nasty hangnails can really hurt. They are a little piece of skin that you shouldn’t pull on. You might tear away the top layer of skin and cause bleeding. Infection can also set in. Just carefully trim it with clean scissors or nail clippers.
If you have an infection it’s possible your nail might fall off. Fungi will cause athlete’s foot that feeds on keratin and can get in your nails. If you hurt your toe or drop something heavy on it, you can end up with an infection. There might be pain and swelling and might even turn a different color. The infection might have a bad smell and pus and the nail might get thicker. Infection will also make your nails weak.
Dierts Bently once said, “The people I have always loved listening to had a little dirt under their fingernails because they had done some living and had these stories to talk about.”
Take care of those nails and give both the fingernails and toenails a little rest from polish every now and then.
-Dr Fredda Branyon