10 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Nails

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Nails are often considered as an afterthought, a simple canvas for color or a tool for scratching an itch. However, these small keratin plates at the tips of our fingers and toes have a lot more going on than meets the eye. Here are ten fascinating facts about your nails that might surprise you.

1. Nails Are a Window to Your Health

Your nails can provide significant clues about your overall health. Discoloration, indentations, and changes in growth or texture can signal various health issues, from nutrient deficiencies to systemic illnesses.

2. They Grow at Different Rates

Ever noticed that your fingernails grow faster than your toenails? On average, fingernails grow about 3.5 millimeters per month, while toenails grow about 1.6 millimeters. And the nails on your dominant hand tend to grow faster due to increased blood flow.

3. Nails and Hair Share the Same Protein

Both your nails and hair are made from a protein called keratin. This tough protein is also found in animal hooves and horns, which is why both your nails and hair can feel tough and resilient.

4. Cuticles Are Not Useless

The cuticle has a purpose: it seals the area at the base of the nail. This helps prevent germs from getting under your skin, warding off infection. So think twice before cutting them during your next manicure.

5. White Spots Are Usually Harmless

Many people believe that white spots on nails indicate a calcium deficiency, but they are typically caused by minor trauma to the nail. These spots are usually harmless and will grow out over time.

6. Nails Don’t Breathe

Despite what you might have heard, nails do not need to “breathe.” They receive their nutrients and oxygen from your bloodstream, not the air.

7. Stress Can Affect Nail Growth

High stress levels can take a toll on your nails, potentially leading to conditions like telogen effluvium, which causes both hair and nails to stop growing temporarily.

8. Your Nails Can Grow After Death… Sort Of

It’s a myth that your nails continue to grow after you die. What actually happens is that your skin dehydrates and retracts, making the nails (and hair) appear longer.

9. Nail Biting Is More Than a Bad Habit

Chronic nail biting can be a sign of a psychological condition like anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s not just a bad habit; it’s often a physical manifestation of stress.

10. Nails Can Reveal Sun Damage

Just like your skin, your nails can show signs of sun damage. Prolonged exposure to UV rays can lead to brittle nails and even skin cancer in the nail bed.