Which ingredients give you stronger, healthier nails?

By John Woodruff | Published: 3-Apr-2023

Nails are prone to fungal infections, brittleness and splitting – we explore formulations and ingredients targeted at keeping our nails in tip top condition

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The skin is the largest organ of the body and products abound to protect, care for and decorate it.

Similarly, head hair is very visible and requires regular cleansing and there are numerous products to condition, style and to change its colour.

In contrast, nails have a very small surface area but are an important part of human appearance, with many of us making a feature of our nails by caring for and decorating them.

However, they are also prone to fungal infections, brittleness and splitting.

The anatomy of a nail

Onychology means the study of fingernails and toenails, which unlike hair, are not dead, they just contain dead cells and are linked up to a richly vascular system in the toe or fingertip.

The visible area of the nail is made up of the nail plate and the cuticle, which is a layer of clear skin that overlaps and forms a rim at the base of the nail plate.

Under the nail plate is the nail bed, comprising tissues and blood vessels that supply the plate with necessary nutrients and give the nail its pink appearance.

Under the cuticle is a matrix containing nerves, lymph and blood vessels.

All nail growth occurs at the nail’s base, where the specialised cells that make up the nail’s plate are produced; these cells are pushed forward as new cells form behind them.

As the older cells are compacted and pushed out of the skin by the formation of new cells, they take the hardened, flattened form of the fingernail.

When the cells push beyond the nail bed they die and turn white.

The whitish, crescent moon-shaped part of the nail, known as the lunula, is also not attached to the underlying nail bed.

The nail’s chief function is to protect the terminal portions of the toes and fingers.

Fingernails grow at a rate of 3.5mm per month while toenails grow much slower at around 1.6mm per month.

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