Whether you bite them, paint them or click them obsessively on counter-tops,
We all have nails and we all use them in very different ways. But, chances are you don’t realize how fascinating your fingernails really are.
The human hands are two prehensile, multi-fingered body parts located at the end of each arm. Normally, a human has five digits on each hand including the following: a thumb, index finger, middle finger, ring finger, and little finger.
Fingertips are the areas of the human skin that possesses the highest concentration of touch receptors and thermoreceptors. These dense areas of nerve endings make the fingers extremely sensitive to heat, cold, pressure, vibration, texture, and moisture. Attached at the distal end of each finger is a fingernail.
The nail is a hardened keratin plate (cornified zone) on the dorsal surface of the tips of fingers and toes, acting as a rigid support for the digital pads of terminal phalanges. They are horn-like envelopes covering the dorsal aspect of terminal phalanges of fingers and toes of human body.
Each nail has the following parts.
Root: Root is the proximal hidden part, which is buried into the nail groove and is overlapped by the nail fold of the skin.
Free border: Free border is the distal part free from the skin.
Body: Body is the exposed part of the nail which is adherent to the underlying skin. The proximal part of the body presents a white opaque crescent called lunule.
A fold of a skin, termed the nail wall, overlaps each lateral border of the nail body.
The skin (germinative zone + corium) beneath the root and body of the nail is called nail bed. The germinative zone of the nail bed beneath the root and lunule is thick and proliferative (germinal matrix), and is responsible for the growth of the nail. The rest of the nail bed is thin (sterile matrix) over, which the growing nail glides. Under the translucent body (except lunule) of the nail, the corium is very vascular. This accounts for their pink color.
The rate of growth of human fingernails varies, depending on the person, the nail in question, and the time of year. As a general rule, human fingernails grow between 0.5 inches (1 cm) and 4 inches (10 cm) per year, and a number of things can influence this growth rate. For those who are curious, fingernails grow approximately five times as fast as toenails.
Among the many factors, which influence the rate of growth, is age. Younger people tend to grow their fingernails more quickly, especially if they eat healthy, varied diets. To improve the strength and appearance of fingernails, people can consume gelatin, which will help build thicker, stronger nails. Gelatin can also contribute to hair health, as well, although it will not significantly impact the rate of growth for human hair. Dietary imbalances can cause spotting or ridges on the nails, and an overload of certain toxins can also have an impact on nail growth and appearance.
Many internal conditions or other bigger skin problems can show up in the nails. In fact, in psoriasis, the condition may be apparent only in the nails. From 10 to 50 percent of people with psoriasis have small pits or so- called oil spots on their nails.
The same sort of nail pits, small depressions in the surface of the nails, is also sometimes seen in alopecia areata.
In people with AIDS, one may see brownish spots on the palms and soles. When this same discoloration occurs in the nails, it appears as a thin brown stripe. Brown stripes in the nail may be worrisome because occasionally they represent a melanoma growing under the nail.
This is not very common but is important to know about and get diagnosed early, as there is a high mortality rate associated with this cancer. Although a dark line may develop from trauma (a bruise under the nail), any pigmented streak should be immediately evaluated by your doctor. This is especially true if the line has developed for the first time in a single nail in someone over fifty years of age.
Nails are not immune to showing outward signs of stress, and some people develop the nervous habit of biting their nails or picking at them when they feel stressed. Another stress-related nail habit is people who rub their fingers over their thumbnail, which can create a ridge across the nail. This rubbing causes a distortion of the nail plate, and when the nail grows, a raised ridge forms in the middle of the nail. In addition, physical or emotional stress, certain diseases, and chemotherapy can cause white horizontal lines to appear across the nails. Brittle, peeling nails also are a common side effect of stress.
Fingernails are one of the features that distinguish primates, including humans, from other mammals. They are essentially flattened forms of claws.
According to one particular study carried out by the University of Florida, a lemur like creature known as the teilhardina brandti was using its nails to keep hold of tree branches a staggering 55.8 million years ago.
In today’s society, very few of us now lead a life in which we would ever need to grab onto a tree or scale a mountain with haste during the average day – but that isn’t to say our nails are no longer important.
From switching off the alarm first thing in the morning through to putting the kettle on and typing up a document at work – without even being aware we rely extremely heavily upon the use of our nails – and the nerve endings beneath them.
Fingernails not only offer protection to the tip of the finger, but also enhance sensations in the fingertip, acting as a counterforce to provide additional sensory input when an object is touched.
Scientists suspect primates sort of lost their claws and fashioned broad fingertips topped with nails to aid in locomotion. While claws would have provided excellent grip as our mammalian ancestors clambered up large tree trunks, they would have been a nuisance for larger-bodied primates trying to grasp smaller branches while scrambling across tree canopies for fruits. Rather, primates developed broader fingertips made for grasping.
About 2.5 million years ago, fossil evidence suggests early humans first picked up stone tools, which is about the same time our ancestors also developed even broader fingertips than earlier primates. To this day, humans sport broader fingertips than other primates.
Whether fingernails are an adaptation that helps to support broad fingertips or a side effect from the loss of claws is still unclear.
Another reason for fingernails: They serve as a visual advertisement of a person’s health.
… Nail changes are clues about fundamental changes that occur in your body …”
The history of nail care reveals some intriguing facts. It was a part of aristocracy and a symbol of status in ancient times. It was in the nineteenth century that nail care started to become a part of fashion and glamour. Today nail salons all over the world offer various nail care services and plenty of nail care products are available for use in home but it still in some way reflects that symbolism of aristocracy and status.
The word manicure comes from a combination of the Latin words “manus” – hand and “cura” – care. The art of manicure has an ancient history. Today, manicure means a system for hand care, which includes skin and nail care, medical treatments and procedures, painting techniques and even fake nail application.
Our nails may be small, but they play an important and integral role in the impressions that we make and leave upon others. From shaking a person’s hand for the first time through to holding a pen in an interview – our hands and nails are one of the first things to get noticed, and though we may not mean them to they can say a lot about who we are.
Whilst of course this isn’t the case for everyone, bitten and very poorly kept nails for example may give the impression of low self-confidence or anxiety, whereas short, neatly manicured nails are more likely to indicate practicality and professionalism.
The desire to dress up nails dates back to the dawn of time, and it also seems to start very early in life.
The history of manicures spans more than a dozen centuries. In ancient Egypt, long nails were a symbol of wisdom.
It is said that hands speak for a person while you communicate. This is true especially in case of women. Having long and beautiful nails is definitely considered as a beauty symbol when it comes to women.
The history books tell us that the Incas used to adorn their fingernails with minute pictures of eagles, whilst the practice of painting nails with lacquer dates as far back as 3000 BC during Ancient Egyptian times.
In Egyptian times women had artificial nails created from ivory, bone or gold. The idea was to make them look as expensive and as beautiful as possible.
Beauty was of the upmost important to the Ancient Egyptians, and according to scriptures, men and women would rouge their cheeks, paint around the delicate eye area and redden their palms and nails using henna.
Women from Far East who grew their nails to extraordinary length were seen to have a special social standing in the society.
In ancient times, Egyptian women used to decorate their hands with artificial nails made out of ivory, bone or gold. Ancient Egyptians were very nail conscious, Cleopatra is know to have applied henna to tint her nails and archaeologists have found many solid gold manicure tools in Egyptian tombs.
Ancient Egyptian manuscripts reveal that women at that time used henna (also known as mehendi) to polish their nails. The colors however determined the class and status. Royal people choose their own color and normal people were not allowed to use those colors. At the time of Queen Nefertiti, royals would wear red nail colors to symbolize their status. It is also said that the great queen Cleopatra always wore rusty red color on her nails and at the time she ruled Egypt, the color was only reserved for the queen.
Nail coloring in ancient Egypt went by status. Kings and queens colored their fingernails and toenails ruby red, using solid gold manicure tools. Women of lower rank were only allowed to use pale colors.
After the Ancient Egyptian times the evolution of nail decoration and treatments disappeared off the radar somewhat, and only emerged back on the timeline as a growing trend during the thirties. It was during this post first World War period that nitrocellulose-based nail polishes were first introduced, and this was really the time when nail care and polishes (which were at the time being made popular by glamorous on-screen sirens) really began to come into their own.
Nail polish originated in China. It started off being made from a combination of beeswax, egg whites, gelatin, vegetable dyes, and gum arabic. Egyptians used orange henna. The orange henna would stain their fingernails.
During China’s Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), long nails were also considered to be an indicator of wealth and beauty, with aristocratic women growing them up to ten inches in length to indicate that unlike commoners, they did not have to carry out any manual labor.
In ancient China paints for nail was prepared from beeswax, egg whites, gelatin and gum arabic. Chinese women preferred to paint her nails painted gold or silver, during the Ming Dynasty became fashionable black and red manicure. Later on, his fingers began to wear gold and silver tips in the form of a cone, which served as a means of lengthening nails and became the prototype of the modern building. Rich women grew their fingernails long 10-13 cm, to show that they are not engaged in manual labor, while the men considered their long fingernails a sign of masculinity and an amulet against evil.
In Rome, the soldiers of Assyria and the length and color of the nails were talking about rank and status in society: the higher the social hierarchy was a warrior, the longer and brighter were his nails. In Babylon, manicures also emphasized the status of the owner: blacks could afford to elect, and the green – the lower classes.
The colors gold and silver were considered to be the royal colors; however, were later changed to black and red. Once nail polish was refined, it was often used in the place of gloves to cover up the grime underneath the nails.
Nail polish, or nail varnish, is a lacquer applied to human fingernails or toenails to decorate and/or protect the nail plate. Today’s nail polish is simply a refined version of the paint on vehicles. Car paint alone would be unsuitable for human nails, as its brittle formula is designed for the rigid surface of a car. Its formula has been revised repeatedly in order to prevent the cracking or flaking that occurs with the natural movement of the nail.
By the turn of the 9th century, nails were tinted with scented red oils, and polished or buffed with a chamois cloth, rather than simply polished. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, people pursued a polished rather than painted look by massaging tinted powders and creams into their nails, then buffing them shiny. One such polishing product sold around this time was Graf’s Hyglo nail polish paste. Some people during this period painted their nails with an airbrush. After the creation of automobile paint, Cutex produced the first modern nail polishes in 1917 with the introduction of colored nail glosses.
In the 1800s, purity was all the rage. French manicures became popular (although the term “French manicure” actually wasn’t coined until the 1970s). These original forms of French manicures consisted of a little lemon juice mixed with water, to whiten the tips of the nails. Also available were buffers, crystal stones, emery boards, cuticle creams, and bleaching powders.
Charles Revlon only created the first color nail manicure in 1932 in the U.S. This marked the beginning of the rapid development of industry manicure.
The first First Lady Of the United State of America to wear solid colors was Eleanor Roosevelt.
Never would have guessed that one, right?
Nail color, like so many seemingly innocuous choices in life, can say more about us than we realize.
Modern manicures may be a bit less specific to social rank, but the general feeling holds true: Choice of nail color and style can make a statement. Certainly, pink-rhinestone-coated nails say something very different from, say, a French manicure.
Though the worldwide trend of women splurging on manicures and pedicures has developed into more than a commercial industry but also an art, the preference of styles differ strikingly between East and West. Erica Weng, a Chinese nail technician who works in Canada, told the Global Times that while women in Europe and North America prefer a simpler style, such as French or single color, Asian customers mainly follow the Japanese trend, which leans heavily toward more delicate and fancy styles.
Nails also contributed to flourishing of cinema. Close-ups of the actresses obliged not only have perfect makeup, luxurious hair, but also a beautiful manicure. However, not all film star had a long, beautiful nails by nature, moreover, during the filming of the nails often broke.
To solve this problem, and experiments were carried out searches. For artificial nail extension implants were used originally, which was used as a natural nail tips, which were planted on the glue. In the course were also pieces of linen and papyrus paper and plastic film. But all of these materials do not have the strength, and they lacked only during filming.
New companies were coming in the market with new nail care tools and techniques. New nail paints and shades arrived together with polish removers, nail protectors and other tools that made it possible to choose any style at any time and complement the overall dress up with a matching nail color. At that time manicure was done in barbershops not in beauty salons.
The artificial nails were molded to look just like natural nails and using pigments, which looked like the teeth and the skin, perfected the colors. Originally a Polymers and Monomers mix was used to create the nails. It was applied over the natural nail and was extended onto a supporting material. It was left to harden and then it was shaped to look more like a natural nail. This was known as an acrylic artificial nail. So these days when you hear the term acrylic artificial nails, you know that they have been created using Polymer powder and Monomer liquid.
The 1970’s was the era of artificial nails. These nails looked real, were usually long and worn by the rich. Soon nail drills were introduced to use on acrylic nails. Nail charms, gold nails as well as nail art were getting popular. Then French manicure arrived in the market and it was ruled the manicure industry during the 90’s. Nail salon business bloomed at that time and many new nail salons in New York and in other states started to offer an array of manicure services.
For years, acrylic, or artificial, nails have been the answer for anyone who has longed for well-manicured hands. They don’t chip, peel or crack, and you don’t have to wait weeks for your nails to grow to have fabulous fingernails. Aside from time and money necessary to maintain acrylic nails, there can be some downsides, which usually involve nail fungus or an allergic reaction to the polymer-based substances in the product.
Whilst acrylics, gels and paraffin wax manicures may all be modern developments, nail decoration for aesthetic purposes is by no means new.
For most people, acrylic nails are a safe cosmetic enhancement. While it’s unlikely that acrylic nails will harm your health, some people may notice that their real nails get tougher or become discolored
. If this happens, simply remove the acrylic nails and let your fingernails grow out. However, there are some more serious consequences of having acrylic nails.
Some ingredients in acrylic nails are highly flammable, so they must be kept at a distance from hair straighteners, dryers or curling irons, as well as from heat and flames when cooking.
Infection is another potential health problem that can develop — this is especially likely if you bump the nails or if they begin to separate from your natural nail. The moist, dark space between your nail and the acrylic is a perfect breeding ground for fungus and bacteria. You may not immediately notice the signs of infection because your nails are covered, so it’s best not to leave acrylic nails in place too long. If your immune system is compromised in any way, perhaps due to drug treatments like chemotherapy, an autoimmune disease or a history of fungal infections or poor blood circulation, you’re at a higher risk of developing an infection and may want to forgo acrylic nails.
With the beginning of the twenty-first century, pedicure entered the nail care industry, and the nail care industry continued to blossom. In the year 2000, there were fifty thousand nail salons throughout the U.S. which has since now doubled.
Now, most nail salons offer different types of manicure and pedicure services for both men and women as boys are also getting interested in nail care and styles. The choice of color and shades are endless and the process has become safer for nails than it was 10-15 years ago.
Today, in nail style, anything goes and the women consider nails as an essential part of their overall professional outlook.
Try to pay attention to your nails and note any lasting changes to their texture, color, shape or growth rate. If you do happen to spot any of these changes they are usually accompanied by other changes in your general health.
Our nails and their appearance can act as an overall window to our health, so ensuring that they are well manicured and cared for not only means that we could gain important clues as to what is going on in the rest of the body.
Your body has a knack for letting us know when something has gone awry and your nails are no exception. Their shape, texture, color, and overall condition can clue you in on what’s happening with your health over the last six months.
Whilst we may now be worlds away from the nail care processes of ancient times, our goal still remains the same – to present our hands to the world as a symbol of good care.
Live and Learn. We All Do.
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