Nail Anatomy And Prime Parts On The Nail

Last Updated on March 26, 2021
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written by nail expert Jess Rowley

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Nail Anatomy: A Professional Primer on the Parts of the Nail

Are you a new nail tech looking to build your knowledge about nail anatomy?

Well good news girly, you’re at the right place.

Nail anatomy is something every nail tech should have under their belt and lucky for you I’m here to break it all down. From base to tip, I’ve got you covered.

As a professional, we would replace laymen’s language with credential knowledge of all the nail anatomical parts.

Now:

Let’s boost and refresh our memory of the different parts of the nail, so when a client asks the question of what’s what you can explain with complete confidence that you know what you’re talking about.

Let’s jump in, shall we?

parts of the cuticle

Different Parts Of The Nail: 

First things first we need to familiarise ourselves with the different parts of the nail and the anatomy of each. 

Lunula:

The lunula is also known as the whitish ‘small moon’ found at the base of the nail. Firstly, it gets its color from the nuclei of the living nail cells transitioning from the matrix. 

Genetics is actually responsible for the lunula’s appearance– many people believe it is because of health, but this actually isn’t true.

As the nail grows out these cells lose viability and the nuclei breakdown, making the nail appear transparent. This is why you only usually see it as a moon shape at the bottom.

But not all fingers have a visible lunula, it is most commonly found on your thumb or index finger.

It is actually an exposed portion of the matrix which isn’t protected by the eponychium and can be easily bruised, causing white marks on the nail plate. 

Proximal nail fold: 

It is the fold at the base of the nail, it is at the point of attachment to the matrix.

This is the part of the nail that acts as a protective barrier to keep bacteria and infection from reaching the nail matrix.

Eponychium:

Now the eponychium is the visible part of the proximal nail fold. It is also referred to as the ‘lip’ of the nail.

It acts as a seal for the nail plate, protecting the matrix from bacteria.

It is often confused for the cuticle, which is why it is important to know the difference between the two when it comes to manicures.

You may have heard of the statement ‘never cut the cuticle’ but it is actually the eponychium you cannot cut as it protects the nail from infection.

Whatever you do, do not cut this piece of skin! 

Instead, you should either use a cuticle remover or a moisturizer to gently push back the eponychium back. If any dead skin is hanging then only trim the hanging part– nothing else!

To keep this part of the nail nourished I would recommend getting a cuticle oil with jojoba oil infused as it will help to nourish and strengthen the nail. 

The Cuticle:

So if the cuticle is confused with the eponychium what is the cuticle?

The cuticle is a layer of transparent skin that sheds from the underside of the proximal nail fold as your nail grows.

It appears beneath the eponychium and often seems as hanging dead skin after using cuticle remover, this is safe to cut but only cut the hanging bit– in case you cut the wrong thing.

It can be easily removed in a manicure with a little bit of scaping, this helps to remove the cuticle without damaging the eponychium.

By pushing back and trimming the excess cuticle will actually make the nail polish adhere better and actually make it last longer.

manicure tools and instruments

Nail bed:

Now the nail bed is the skin underneath the nail plate. It has blood vessels that nourish the fingertip with nutrients.

It is often confused with the nail plate when it is actually it is underneath the nail plate, providing nutrients to the nail.

Nail plate:

Now the nail plate is the hard keratin coating on the fingertip. It is where the most intricate nail designs– where the magic happens really.

After excessive exposure to acrylics, the nail plate can actually become very thin, weak, and sensitive– if you notice this happening to your nail then that is a sign to take a break from the falsies.

Usually, we have 50 layers of keratin to make up our nail plate– pretty cool right? 

You can actually get nail polishes that are infused with vitamins and keratin to help strengthen the nail plate and nails as a whole. CND Vinylux is infused with keratin and jojoba oil to promote nail health and strengthen nails.

It is important to keep the nail plate and nail healthy as it will improve the longevity and overall finish of the manicure!

Lateral nail fold

Now the lateral nail fold is the proximal nail fold that goes down around each side of the nail. The main purpose of the lateral nail fold is to protect the sides of the nails. 

It protects the side of the nails from infections and damage to the nail. 

Perionychium

This is the skin surrounding the nail, it is prone to hangnails and infection if you bite your nails. 

It is important to keep this area of the nail moisturized, whether it is with cuticle oil or a moisturizer– this will prevent splintering and hangnails. 

Hyponychium

The hyponychium is the piece of skin just under the free edge of your nail. It is the sensitive bit underneath the nail which you should be careful when cleaning. 

Often you will find dirt underneath your nail but removing quite aggressively can actually make it bleed and in some cases cause onycholysis. 

Damaging this part of the nail can make it more prone to infections and fungal infections as it lifts the nail plate up.

Onychodermal Band:

This is bunched up tissue behind the hyponychium. This band allows the hyponychium to stop pathogens from infecting the nail bed. 

It works in the same way as the proximal fold, if you notice a darker band of skin before the nail plate leaves the nail bed to become a free edge then that is the Onychodermal band.

 

Summary:

Today we have broken the nail anatomy, this really helps to understand where to be gentle during a manicure.

It is crucial that we know the anatomy of the nail as a nail tech, it will not only transform the finish of the manicure but also help us understand the cause of nail infections.

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