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What Nails Reveal

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What Nails RevealAttractive hands making gestures as you speak are often a great asset to your overall personality. Clean and aesthetic looking nails are an important element of such attractive hands. Even though the days of overly long, nails painted deep scarlet may have receded into fashion history, beautiful nails attractively polished in trendy colours that range from cool blue to violet and salmon pink to orange and rust add a great deal to one’s overall ‘look’.

And yet, maintaining a set of aesthetic nails may be harder than you realize at first. Not only do nails have to be guarded against chipping, breaking, infection and cuticle damage, you also have to take care that your nail polish is fresh and un-chipped, and matching the shades of your clothes. Quite a tall task! In fact, for most of us harried and hurried individuals, such painstaking nail care is a mere fantasy.

However, nails that make a beautiful statement are a must in some service sectors where grooming counts for a lot – the media and entertainment industry, hospitality and airlines, for example. So maintaining hands and nails is not as frivolous an occupation as it may seem at first. And as you gaze upon your own hands from time to time, the results may be truly flattering!

More than just being indicators of beauty and grooming, nails are also indicative of health. Fingernails are just another type of skin, that protects the nerve-rich fingertips and tips of the toes from injury. Nails are a substructure of the outer layer of the skin and are composed mainly of keratin, a type of protein. Nails grow at the rate of about 0.05 to 1.2 millimeters per week. The nail bed is the skin on the top of which the nail grows. Healthy nail beds are pink to dark pink, indicating a rich blood supply.

Understanding your nail helps you recognize if any part is affected by infection, or shows an alarming change. Nails are nothing but laminated layers of keratin, which is also found in hair and skin. Look closely at your nails to notice:

Nail plate - the part of your nail that’s most visible — the hard portion you see when you look at your fingernail.
Nail folds - the skin that frames each of your nail plates on three sides.
Nail bed - the skin beneath the nail plate. Cells at the base of your nail bed produce the fingernail or toenail plate.
Cuticle - your cuticle is the tissue that overlaps your nail plate at the base of your nail. It protects the new keratin cells that slowly emerge from the nail bed.
Lunula - the whitish, half-moon shape at the base of your nail underneath the plate. In many people’s hands, this is not distinctly visible by itself.

Healthy nails are smooth, without ridges or grooves. They’re uniform in color and consistency and free of spots or discoloration. Enemies of nail health are the usual suspects – prolonged soaking in water and over-exposure to chemicals and detergents, fungal infections, psoriasis, and nutritional deficiencies that turn nails brittle. There is also a kind of skin cancer that shows as a dark discolouration under the nail.

Nails can become a major pre-occupation in themselves. But even if you do not want to become nail-obsessed, some basic nail care can help in keeping your hands look well-groomed and stylish. Here are some suggestions:

  • Don’t abuse your nails by using them as tools to pick, poke or pry things.
  • Don’t bite your nails or pick at your cuticles. These habits can damage the nail bed. Even a minor cut alongside your nail allows bacteria or fungi to enter and cause an infection.
  • Protect your nails by wearing cotton-lined rubber gloves when using soap and water for prolonged periods or when using harsh chemicals.
  • Perform routine nail maintenance. Trim fingernails and clean under the nails regularly. Use a sharp manicure scissors or clippers and an emery board to smooth nail edges.
  • Never pull off hangnails or protruding cuticle ends — doing so almost always results in ripping living tissue. Instead clip hangnails off, leaving a slight angle outward.
  • Moisturize your nails frequently. Nails need moisture just like your skin does. Rub lotion into your nails when moisturizing your hands. Be sure to apply a moisturizer after washing your hands, whenever you can.

Have fun with your set of ten dazzlers!

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