7 Things You Never Knew About Your Nails
Your nails are one of your best beauty accessories-but do you know much about them? Here’s a quick crash course:
Cuticles Are There for a Reason
Although many manicurists will remove your cuticles, they actually play a vital role in protecting you from infection, says dermatologist Jessica Krant, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Too much cuticle clipping or picking opens the protective barrier and allows moisture and bacteria into your body, which can cause an infection, pain, and/or swelling-and eventually even damage the shape of the nail as it grows out (since “normal” nail shape is a reflection of healthy nails).
Nails and Hair Are Made of Similar Components
Nails are made of many layers of hard keratin, similar to hair. There’s also a thin layer of keratin covering most of the surface of your body; it’s thickest on palms and soles, says Kerith E. Spicknall, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. So what’s the difference between your hair, nails, and skin? Nail and hair keratins contain more cysteine (an amino acid) than the soft keratins of skin; this leads to stronger bonds between cells, says Spicknall. Nails also have a lower content of fat and water, and the skin regularly sheds its outer layer of keratin, while the nail doesn’t.
Nails Grow Faster on Your Dominant Hand
That’s why, if you’re right-handed, you may have noticed that you have to trim the nails on your right hand more often, says Adrienne Blanks, a licensed nail technician and esthetician and creator of the eco-friendly nail polish line D.I.D Nail Paint. The theory behind this is that nails that are used more often and exposed to the elements grow faster, says Blanks.
They Also Grow Faster in Warmer Climates
People who live in areas with higher temps tend to have nails that grow faster, says Shel Pink, founder of the company SpaRitual. (So a tropical vacation might be just what you need to get your nails growing!) Why does this happen? The sun helps your body create the vitamin D your nails need to grow quickly, says Pink.
Trips to the Salon Can Damage Your Nails
As much as you might like to pretend otherwise, your standing weekly manicure is likely hurting your nails. Continuous polishing can stain the nails, says Spicknall, and the adhesives and harsh chemicals used in acrylic and gel polishes can strip layers off of the nail, leaving them brittle. It takes six months for the fingernails to be replaced, so (hard as it seems!) taking a break from harsh nail treatments every once in a while is ideal, says Spicknall.
Your Nails Can Tip You Off to Other Health Issues
Your nails are one of the easiest ways to keep an eye on your health. Changes to their shape, color, thickness, and the color of the nail bed can all be signs of problems, says Christy Rose, owner of the bath and body company KBShimmer.
What You Eat Can Impact How Your Nails Look
Nails grow an average of two to three millimeters a month, and it only takes six months for healthy lifestyle changes you to show up in your nails, says Rose. She recommends boosting your keratin production-essential for healthy nails-by eating lean proteins, low-fat dairy products, and foods rich in vitamin C.
Source: Women’s Health