Contrary to our hair and skin, most of us tend to take our nails for granted, not giving them much attention or care.
But our nails are much more complex than we think. "The nail plate (hard part of the nail) grows out from the matrix (the root) in shape something like an ocean wave," says Jessica Krant, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, founder of Art of Dermatology and an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City. "The white portion of the nail at the base (most easily visible at the thumbs) is called the lunula (little moon). This is the end of the matrix showing."
Here are 13 facts you might not know about your nails:
Fingernails grow an average of 3.5 millimetres per month.
And nails on your dominant hand tend to grow faster. Toenails, on the other, uh, hand, grow an average of 1.6 millimeters a month, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
White spots on your nails don't indicate a calcium deficiency.
"Calcium deficiency causing white spots on nails is the most common myth, followed by zinc deficiency. The truth is that white spots are common and harmless and don't indicate any specific vitamin deficiency at all," Krant says.
Nails are made out of the same stuff as hair.
Both nails and hair are made up of keratin, just put together differently, Krant explains. And that means the same foods that are good for your hair are good for your nails. "A varied diet rich in vitamins, antioxidant fruits and veggies, protein, and minerals is key for healthy nails and hair,".
Nails are what separate the primates from the mammals.
While most mammals have claws to help them with daily tasks, fingernails distinguish primates (including humans) from the rest of the group.
Nail-biting is called onychophagia.
It's also the most common "nervous habit,"
You actually should let your nails "breathe" between manicures.
You might want to reschedule that weekly appointment -- according to Krant, it's best to reduce the amount of time your nails are polished to keep them at their healthiest. "Believe it or not, that hard thing on the tip of your finger is living tissue, and oxygen does penetrate through the nail plate to the nail bed,"
Nails are a window to the entire body.
"From nail bed discolouration (blueish means lung disease), to capillaries in the cuticles (autoimmune disease), to yellow, white, or banded nails, sometimes very serious or even life-threatening disease can be diagnosed just by examining the tips of your fingers,"
Nails grow faster in the summer than in the winter.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, different times of year (as well as your age, genes and a handful of other factors) can affect nail growth speed.
About 10% of dermatological conditions are nail-related.
Roughly half of nail disorders are caused by fungal infections. Other common conditions include white spots (see above), vertical lines, bacterial infections and ingrown toenails. Elders tend to have more nail problems than younger people.
Stress can take a toll on your nails.
Besides picking and biting, chronic stress can inhibit nail growth. It's essential to manage stress and get plenty of sleep for optimal nail health. "Chronic stress and fatigue divert the body's energy and nutrients away from growing healthy nails and hair".
The hardness of your nails is mostly genetic.
Not much can be done about nail shape or how quickly they grow in, Krant explains, but nails that regularly break or peel could signal being dried out. "Handwashing, doing dishes without thick rubber gloves, house cleaning, working with paper, getting frequent manicures, and using a lot of hand sanitiser are all culprits that contribute," she says. To protect your hands, use a thick hand and nail cream that you use regularly (not just once a day): "If you get into the habit of reapplying frequently, you keep your cuticles smooth and unclipped, and you gently file off rough nail edges instead of picking at them, your nails will start to peel and break less."