Anatomy of the Nail

Let me walk you through 11 aspects of the Nail’s Anatomy that you need to be aware of during your work as a Nail Technician and MOST importantly, share and explain where the REAL cuticle lies! Let’s jump straight in, or, watch the video version above!

1. Free Edge
This is the white-ish looking area at the front of your nail that extends beyond the flesh of the nail bed. Its not attached to any skin and this, is the part that we may trim, cut, file and shape during a nail service

2. Hyponychium
This is the thickened area of skin between the nail bed and the free edge. It creates a seal that protects anything from getting under the nail plate. The hyponychium dictates our natural smile line shape (which you’ll know about if you’ve been studying pink and white extensions). Sometimes, clients have extended hyponychiums, where the free edge starts as much as half way down the nail plate, and comes all the way up the tip of the finger. This means, when placing nail forms, they can often pinch the sensitive skin there and need customising the relieve the pressure at the tip of the finger.
On long nails, that haven’t been trimmed for sometime, the hyponychium can also grow really high beneath the free edge and be accidently clipped when filing or trimming the nails. In these instances, it is best to trim the nail as short as can comfortably be done so and use lots of cuticle oil beneath the nail. In time, the hyponychium will retract. If the clients is not willing to trim the nails shorter – oil, oil and more oil (daily) will help.

3. The Nail Plate

Essentially, the entire body of the nail that we can see. Its the entire nail area covering the flesh of the nail bed.

4. The Nail Bed

The fleshy area of the finger upon which the nail plate grows. In simple terms, if I were to pierce the centre of the nail (which would not be comfortable) I would first puncture through the nail plate, and the pin would then extend down into the flesh of the nail bed (which would bleed
 or blood blister)

5. Nail Grooves
Have a look at your own finger right now. Gently pull the tip of your finger away from where the free edge extends from the nail bed. There is a slight groove or indentation on the finger. This groove guides and aligns the nail as it grows.

6. Nail Walls
This is the edge area of your nail and where the skin either side of your finger, protects your nail

7. Lunula

This is the white moon shaped area at the base of the nail plate. This is the visible area of your nails root and for this reason, is softer and requires delicate care. In fact, some people’s lunulas can feel really quite spongy. Often, clients will ask you what it means if they do or don’t have visible Lunulas. It simply indicates how high or low your nails matrix sits which we’ll talk about next. They would be more indicative of a health problem, if the shape or colour of their lunulas has recently changed.

8. Matrix

The matrix lies at the very base of your nail, beneath your fingers skin. It is living tissue which produces new nail cells and controls the new growth of the nail. Damage to the matrix often by jamming the finger is a drawer or door, an accidental hammer thump, can create deformed growth and sometimes, no new growth at all.
 The matrix, is the ‘New Nail Factory’ where all new nail cells are created.

9. Mantle

The mantle is simply the area of skin that protects the matrix.

10. Eponychium
Like the hyponychium at the front of the nail, the eponychium is living tissue that protects the base of the nail. This is the skin that we gently push back during a nail service to provide more ‘nail estate’ to paint or extend onto. Many people, and clients, still believe this piece of skin to be ‘the cuticle’, I will repeat, it is living tissue, that should almost never be cut or trimmed. By trimming this away, you are removing it’s safety barrier and opening the finger up to potential infection.

11. Cuticle
Cuticle is actually dead tissue that is shed from under the eponychium and clings to the oils on the nail plate. Polish and enhancement products will lift if applied over this tissue but, because it’s dead, this can be easily removed with your chosen method of cuticle work to allow for better adhesion of product.