We bite them. We rely on them to peel fruit. We pop open cans with them. That’s a lot to ask of something smaller than a postage stamp and made from the same type of protein as hair. Our fingernails are made of a protein called keratin, and there’s more to them than meets the eye.
Each of our nails is made up of six parts. The nail fold is the ridge of skin around the nail. The part we can see and normally call a fingernail (or toenail) is called the nail plate. Beneath the nail plate is the nail bed, which nourishes the nail. That half-moon-shaped area at the base of your nail is called thelunula, and it’s part of the nail matrix. The nail matrix is at the base of each nail, although you can’t see it – it’s below thecuticle, a fold of skin made of dead cells that keeps bacteria from getting in. The matrix makes the cells needed to grow your nails.
Nails are complicated little bits of protein, and if we overlook them, things could potentially go wrong. The most common complaints we have about our nails is that they are brittle, they’ve developed an infection or we’ve injured them. You don’t need to rely on a mani-pedi to keep your fingers and toes looking good if you follow some basic at-home tips to help keep all of your finger and toenails healthy all year long. Let’s start with at-home remedies (and preventative tips) for brittle, easily broken nails.
Brittle nails that split, peel and break easily are a common complaint.
Brittle nails can happen because nails are too dry, but they can also happen if nails are too soft. Because of this, health care professionals often have two recommendations: Apply light moisturizer daily, and avoid harsh chemicals.
Applying a moisturizer to your nails and cuticles will help lock water into the nail, which is good for strong, healthy nails.
In addition to keeping nails hydrated, experts recommend we avoid exposing them to harsh chemicals, including cleaning products and acidic foods, such as lemons and oranges. When working or cleaning, wear gloves to protect your skin and nails from damage – use vinyl gloves for wet work and cotton for dry work.
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