The Science Behind Healthy Nails

June 25, 2024

Nails are more than just a canvas for beautiful designs; they are a vital part of our anatomy, reflecting our overall health. Understanding the science behind healthy nails can help us take better care of them, preventing common issues and ensuring they remain strong and attractive. In this article, we’ll delve into the anatomy of nails, discuss common nail health problems, and provide expert tips from dermatologists and nail care professionals.

Understanding Nail Anatomy

Nails are made up of several distinct parts, each playing a crucial role in nail health and function:

  • Nail Plate: The visible part of the nail that we typically refer to as the nail. It’s composed of keratin, a tough, protective protein.
  • Nail Bed: The skin beneath the nail plate, rich in blood vessels, providing nutrients to the nail.
  • Cuticle: The thin layer of dead skin cells at the base of the nail plate, protecting the area between the skin and the nail from infection.
  • Lunula: The white, crescent-shaped area at the base of the nail plate, visible on some nails. It’s the visible part of the nail matrix.
  • Nail Matrix: Located under the cuticle, this is where new nail cells are produced. The health of the matrix directly affects the growth and quality of the nail.

Common Nail Health Issues

Despite their resilience, nails can be susceptible to various health issues, including:

  • Brittle Nails: Often caused by frequent wetting and drying of the nails, leading to a loss of moisture and natural oils.
  • Fungal Infections: Characterized by thickened, discolored nails, often resulting from poor hygiene or walking barefoot in damp communal areas.
  • Ingrown Toenails: Occur when the nail grows into the surrounding skin, often due to improper trimming or tight footwear.
  • Nail Psoriasis: Causes pitting, discoloration, and separation of the nail from the nail bed, typically seen in individuals with psoriasis.
  • Beau’s Lines: Horizontal indentations in the nail plate caused by temporary disruption in nail growth due to illness or trauma.

Tips for Maintaining Strong and Healthy Nails

Maintaining healthy nails involves a combination of good hygiene practices, a balanced diet, and protective measures. Here are some expert tips to keep your nails in top condition:

Proper Nail Hygiene

1. Regular Cleaning: Keep your nails clean and dry to prevent infections. Use a soft nail brush to gently scrub the nails and surrounding skin.
2. Trimming: Trim your nails straight across and slightly round the tips to prevent ingrown nails. Use sharp, clean clippers.
3. Cuticle Care: Avoid cutting your cuticles, as this can lead to infections. Instead, gently push them back with a cuticle stick.

Moisturization and Protection

1. Hydrate: Apply a moisturizing cream or oil to your nails and cuticles daily to prevent dryness and brittleness. Products containing ingredients like shea butter, jojoba oil, or vitamin E are particularly effective.
2. Protective Gloves:
Wear gloves when doing household chores or gardening to protect your nails from harsh chemicals and physical damage.

Diet and Nutrition

1. Balanced Diet: Ensure your diet includes plenty of vitamins and minerals essential for nail health, such as biotin, vitamin E, iron, and zinc. Foods like eggs, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and fish are excellent choices.
2. Hydration:
Drink plenty of water to keep your nails and cuticles hydrated from within.

Insights from Experts

We spoke to a nail technician, Karina Nazarian, to gain deeper insights into maintaining healthy nails.

Karina Nazarian: “I always recommend my clients use a good quality cuticle oil daily. It’s a small step that makes a big difference in maintaining nail flexibility and preventing hangnails. Also, avoid using your nails as tools to open cans or peel off stickers, as this can cause breakage.”


Healthy nails are a sign of overall well-being and require proper care and attention. By understanding the anatomy of your nails and following expert tips for maintaining them, you can prevent common nail problems and enjoy strong, beautiful nails. Remember, if you encounter persistent nail issues, it’s always best to consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice.