Let’s talk about nails!

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Well hello new readers. Since this is a blog about the two things that consume my life, nail polish and school, I felt it would be appropriate to do my first post about nail physiology and histology. Don’t worry, it won’t be that boring, I’m not going into much detail.


First, my nails are naturally a bit yellow, but the constant rate I polish them they’re a bit yellow-er, I guess? My nail care ranges from full force to non-existent, based on my weekly schedule. I use a glass file and a buffer usually on my nails, plus I am really loving bliss hand cream and Emerald & Ash nail oil (chai vanilla bean is AMAZING). I use felt pads to remove my nail polish, plus I soak an angled brush in Zoya remove and stab under my nails to get remnant polish off. Is it just me, or does anyone else have that ONE smudge of polish that is a stubborn jerk and refuses to be removed? That’s my nail care. Now onto what my body does with the care I give to it.

  1. Lunula: That’s the visible part of your nail root. Your nail root is surrounded by the nail matrix, which is responsible for making 80% of your nails. That means if you damage the lunula, your nail will be permanently disfigured.
  2. Nail Plate: Under the Nail Plate is the Nail Bed, which is responsible for the other 20% of your nail build. Your Nail Plate is held tightly to the underlying nail bed by desmosomes.
  3. Free Edge: The most distal part of your nail. The “quick” of your finger, or the hyponychium, is the thickened epidermal layer beneath the free edge of the nail plate. That greyish white band that separates the nail bed and the hyponychium is the Onchydermal Band.
  4. Cuticle: This is the most distal part of your eponychium, which is the most distal part of your proximal nail fold. The cuticle is the thin, almost transparent band of dead skin. Together, the eponychium and cuticle form a protective barrier. While some people remove their cuticles, PLEASE take caution into not impinging on your eponychium.

Now, what is really interesting is the pathological changes that can happen to your nails!

Want to know what those weird white spots you sometimes get on your nail plate? When the underlying nail bed has a bit of trauma, the white spots follow after as the nail bed repairs and reattaches itself to the nail plate. It takes a few weeks for this to happen, so by that time you’ll probably have forgotten when you hit your nail. That or you need zinc. Just eat that old sunscreen that’s about to expire (don’t do that).

What about those weird, splinter looking things under your nails? They’re called splinter hemorrhages, and they happen when a small capillary breaks under your nail bed.

If you have something physiologically wrong with your body, your nails can be almost like a road map to diagnosis.

  1. Clubbing: imbalances in growth hormone or thyroid hormone
  2. Beau’s Lines: transverse lines which appear after a severe acute febrile illness, and provide a “record” of the illness which lasts for several months.

  3. Separated nails (onycholysis): low thyroid hormone, Raynaud’s syndrome, Hansen’s disease.

So that’s it on Nail Physiology! I just did quick and dirty explanations, but feel free to message me if you have any questions about things, or ask in comments. I got all images from wikipedia creative commons and my own nails, and remember I’m not YOUR doctor or even A doctor. I just study all the time for school.


  • MommyDiDi

    This is super interesting, any ideas on why nails peel from the top or split on the side (like down the nailbed a mm or 2?)?

    Well done Bionic 😀

    • Polished Pathology

      I will get back to you on this, I have dishes to do and homework to procrastinate…

  • This is awesome! I never knew the scientific names of the parts of my nails. Just what I call them.

    • Polished Pathology

      Thank you! That means a lot <3