3 Things You Didn't Know About Nails
Did you know that your nails are made out of keratin, the same protein that makes up your hair, your skin, and even some of your internal organs and glands? Or, that your nails are actually alive?
As we learned how physically damaging and environmentally hazardous traditional polishes are, we also came to appreciate so much more about nails themselves. What they’re made of, how they work, and how they function.
We believe everyone benefits from understanding their nails, because everyone deserves to enjoy gorgeous nails without harming them. Once you understand how they work, you also comprehend the importance of taking care of them, and you’re able to make the best possible choices about your health.
So today, we’re excited to share what we’ve learned over the years in our newest blogpost: 3 Things You Didn’t Know About Nails!
1. Your nails are more permeable than your skin.
The nail is often thought of as a barrier because it is “harder” than skin to the touch. However, this is absolutely not true. In fact, your nails are not only permeable, but they are significantly more permeable than your skin - anywhere from 85 - 1000% more permeable (depending on substance)!
This means substances can penetrate through your nails (more easily than through your skin) to the underlying tissue - ultimately affecting your nervous system.
We’re talking about substances like water, yes, but also harmful chemicals; chemicals present in pesticides, herbicides, bleach, industrial skincare products, and traditional nail polish lacquers and removers such as Phthalates, Parabens, Butylate and Toluene compounds. These toxic substances are proven carcinogens (a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue) and endocrine-disruptors (think hormones and fertility).
We think it’s only fair that you know these chemicals often enter your body through your nails.
If you take one thing away from this blogpost, let it be this: Your nails are not an impenetrable barrier! They are an open pathway into your living, breathing body.
2. Your nails are alive!
Contrary to what is visible to the human eye and how we refer to the nail in our everyday lives, the human “nail” consists of over six different parts (See Figure 3). Only one of these parts is made up primarily of dead cells. The rest are very much alive. Being made of mostly living tissue, your nails need oxygen, minerals, and vitamins just like the rest of your body’s living cells.
What we refer to as the “nail” in everyday language is actually the “nail plate.” The source of new nail growth is the “nail matrix,” a small area of high-growth tissue located at the base of the nail underneath the cuticle.
As new cells are produced in the nail matrix, they move up to the surface of the skin. Those closest to the base of the nail get flat and pressed tightly together into a thin plate, piling into layers to grow and form the entire nail plate. Those farthest from the base of the nail and nail bed are dead cells, the rest are alive.
Meanwhile, the "nail bed" is a pink-colored, soft, thin, body of tissue that lies below the nail plate and extends from the nail matrix to the tip of the nail. Below the nail bed lie tiny blood vessels called capillaries, which are responsible for the pinkish color of your nails. The nail bed also has sensory nerve endings, which are responsible for sensitivity to light, touch and pressure; this explains why a bad hangnail or jamming your fingernail can be incredibly painful.
Indeed, your nails are far from dead!
3. The overall appearance of your nails can reveal clues about your overall health.
The nails of healthy adults are a healthy pink color, have no ridges or abnormal textures, and grow at an average rate of about 3.5 millimeters each month.
When your nails are not a healthy pink color, have ridges, splitting, or dryness, and/or have stunted growth, it’s important to investigate the reason.
More often than not, unhealthy nails are caused by the use of substances that contain toxic, harsh chemicals such as traditional nail lacquers, bleaches/detergents, and hand sanitizers. Trauma - such as slamming your fingers in a door, stubbing your toe, or increased wear and tear due to lifestyle habits - can also be to blame. (Note: If neither of the above explanations account for your nail abnormalities, please consider seeing your doctor).
When our skin has blemishes, we know to consider the cause - but what’s lesser known is that the same goes for your nails! As living, breathing, parts of our body, they are worth taking notice of.
Body Safe + Planet Safe = Clean Beauty
To close, we hope you learned something new today. Remember to treat your nails as you would any other part of your living body. Always use non-toxic (and ideally, water-based) nail products when possible. If this is not possible, be sure to take frequent breaks from your lacquer polishes, gels or artificial nails, to let your nails “breathe.” We also highly recommend the use of non-toxic nail repair/strengtheners in between manicures.
If you need a place to start, know that all of our nail products are 100% toxin-free, water-based, certified vegan and cruelty-free. We are proud of the system that so many of our wonderful customers are calling the best non toxic nail polish they’ve ever tried, and we invite you to join our community.
Above all, we want you to know you do not have to sacrifice health for beauty.
Body Safe + Planet Safe = Clean Beauty with Kapa Nui.
-Dr. Lyn Lam and Terry Lam (Co-Founders)
Nail Conditions and Diseases:
Nail Disorders and Systemic Diseases - What the nails tell us
Toxicity of Traditional Nail Products:
10 Toxic Ingredients that Might Be In Your Make-Up