Like your hair, nails are comprised of dead cells that make up a protein called keratin. The hardness of the nail comes from the presence of sulfur in the amino acids binding the keratin of the nails together. Between the layers of keratin are fat and water molecules that make nails shiny and pliable.
Glossary of Nail Terms
The nail bed is the pink part of your nail containing the capillaries that bring nourishment to the matrix, which is the area just beneath the cuticle. The matrix is where new cells are generated, making nails grow. The actual nail is called the nail plate, and the crescent moon at its base is called the lunula. The cuticle is the ribbon of skin at the base of the nail covering the matrix. This flexible strip seals off the finger to the nail, keeping out substances, like bacteria, that can damage the matrix.
Can You Change the Look of Your Nails?
If only we could alter our genetic plan! Like the rest of our body, it seems we have to work with what we've been given, but by taking good care of your nails -- grooming them weekly, moisturizing them daily, protecting them from the sun and caring properly for your cuticles -- you can make the best of what you have.
How Fast Do Nails Grow?
Nails grow about 1/8 inch per month -- so it takes anywhere from four to six months to grow an entirely new nail.
Nails grow faster during certain hormonal fluctuating periods, as in the beginning of pregnancy, or just before menstruation. Ironically, nail biting can also increase nail growth since it creates an increased blood circulation. For this same reason, those who are right-handed may notice that nails grow faster on their right hand than on their left.
Nail growth can slow down if your diet deprives the nail matrix of nutrients. Any illness can decrease nail growth, as can some prescription medications. Also, after you turn 30, your nail growth slows down.