What are our toenails for?

You might think they are there to provide provide protection, however this is not strictly the case because if your nail was removed the skin underneath would harden. Our toenails are thought to have helped our primate ancestors grasp small objects. Nowadays though, as our feet are enclosed in footwear for long periods of time our toenails can be prone to infection, they can be difficult to trim as we get older and they can be very painful if they become ingrown.

Nails often reflect our general health.

Many nail disorders – brittle nails, ridges and lines can be an indication of vitamin or mineral deficiencies, circulation problems or other illnesses.

The nail consists of the nail plate, nail matrix, nail bed and nail folds.

  1. The nail plate is hard and slightly transparent. It consists of about 25 layers of flattened, tightly packed cells formed mainly of keratin. It also contains lipids which provide flexibility.
  2. The nail bed lies under the nail plate and keeps it firmly attached. It also allows the nail plate to slide over it as it grows.
  3. The cuticle seals the nail matrix from foreign bodies and bacterial or fungal infection.
  4. The nail matrix lies beneath the cuticle. New cells develop in the nail matrix to form the nail plate. If the nail matrix is damaged it can affect the appearance to the new nail.
  5. The nail folds protect the nail matrix from the environment.

It can take up to 12 months for your big toenails to grow.

Toenails grow much more slowly than our fingernails and they tend to be thicker as a result of trauma or pressure from footwear. They also tend to be more neglected than fingernails, as they are often covered up and are harder to reach. This may also leave them more vulnerable to bacterial or fungal infection.

Healthy toenails

Are defined by their shape, size, shine, smoothness, consistency, colour and the surrounding skin. They should ideally be neatly trimmed, clean, smooth and pink with a narrow white band at the tip. Look at a child’s toenail and this is what you will see.

However, it is surprisingly difficult to keep toenails looking this healthy and good. There can be a number of different reasons for this – toenails are subjected to battering from shoes, can be poorly maintained or have been infected. Even dietary or health problems can affect the appearance and health of the nails.

For more information on how you can keep your toenails healthy and looking fabulous please click • here •

 

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