Your nails are made up of several layers of a protein called keratin, also found in your hair and skin. The parts of the nail are as follows:
- The nail plate is that part of your nail that you see. It is the hard portion of the nail.
- The nail bed is the 'pink' part on the nail. It is the connective tissue beneath the nail plate holding the nail to the finger. When the nail grows it glides over the nail bed.
- The cuticle is the skin that overlaps your nail plate at the base of your nail. It protects the new keratin cells that are forming the nail and growing out from the matrix. This is one reason why you do not cut off the cuticle!
- The matrix is located under your cuticle and skin at the base of the nail. This is the root of the nail. The matrix produces the keratin cells that make up the nail and as the new nail grows, the older nail cells become hard and push out toward your fingertips creating the nail plate. Damage to the matrix can cause permanent damage to the appearance of the nail.
- The lunula is that whitish, half-moon shape that you see at the base of your nail. The lunula is actually the front end of the matrix and lies beneath the nail. The lunula is usually most visible on the thumb and some people do not have visible lunulae.
- The free edge is pretty self-explanatory. This is the part of the nail that extends beyond the finger and is not connected to the finger.