The function of the nail is to act as protection for the delicate senses of the fingertips.

It takes about a month for 3mm of nail to grow and therefore it can take up to six months to grow a full fingernail.


• The nail wall and cuticle frame the nail

• This frame is made of skin and therefore generates new cells and throws off old dead cells.

• The cuticle should be kept free form the nail plate or dead cells will cover the nail plate. This will then make the nail look shorter.


• This is the only living part of the nail; therefore, it determines the health and strength of the nail.

• New cells are formed at the matrix and push older cells forward to the fingertip to form the nail plate.

• One fifth of the nail is hidden beneath the cuticle at the matrix.

• If the matrix is not injured any damage to the nail is only temporary.

• If the matrix is heavily damaged it could stop producing new cells.


• This is the pearly coloured half-moon shape section of the nail near the cuticle.

This is a bridge between the living matrix and the dead nail plate


• This consists of three compressed layers which are held together by fat and moisture.

• With age this moisture is lost, this can result in flaky nails that become brittle and break easily.

• The nail plate has a grain running through it and therefore it is important when filing to follow it from side to centre.


• The nail Bed supports the nail plate and has rich supply of blood vessels, lymph and nerves.

• It has matching ridges to the nail plate welding them together.

• Hard knocks to the nail will cause bruising to the nail bed, which can appear as small blue spots if sever or white spots if less severe.


• This is the white tip of the nail plate that extends over the fingertip.

• These can be easily broken and damaged.

• Care must be taken to file correctly following the grain of the nail plate or splitting and cracking can occur.



This lies below the eponychium and it is a small area of living tissue. This area is the most important part of the nail as this is where the cells are produced that make up the nail plate. These cells are made of the protein Keratin.


The Eponychium is the skin that lies directly on the top of the newly growing nail. It is a living tissue and often mistaken for cuticle.

Proximal Nail Fold

This is the bend of skin which folds underneath itself and is found at the point where the nail grows.


The Lunula is the whitish half-moon area at the base of the nail plate. The Lunula is the front part of the matrix that you can see. The Lunula is not visible on all nails.


Nail Fold The lateral nail folds are the tight skin folds that run on either side of the nail.

Lateral Nail Groove

This is the groove in the Lateral Fold within which the nail sits.

Nail Bed

The nail bed lies below the nail and is an area of pinkish tissue that supports the entire nail plate.


The Hyponychium is located under the free edge of the nail plate. It is composed of epidermis tissue and helps to seal the nail bed to the nail plate and protect it from bacteria.

Nail Plate

The nail plate is built up of layers of Keratin. Keratin is also found in hair and is made up of long chains of Amino Acids.


The Cuticle is non-living tissue that is shed from the underside of the Eponychium. It attaches itself to the nail plate and is pulled along as the nail grows outwards. It also helps to create a seal to protect the body from bacteria.

Free Edge

Is the part of the nail which grows over and beyond the finger-tip and does not adhere to the nail bed.