Basic Nail Anatomy


The technical name for the nail is Onyx (On-iks). You will see this term frequently as it is used as a prefix to names given to nail disorders. Nail is made by Keratin protein.

Nail plate:

The nail plate consists of keratin and semi- translucent cells packed closely together. It is the visible portion of nail that rests on the nail bed. It extends from the root to the free edge. The nail plate can become dry, brittle and separate into two layers. This condition is caused by wear and tear as well as harsh chemicals.

Free edge

The free edge is the end portion of the nail plate that reaches over the tip of the finger or toe. This is the part of the nail that is filed giving it a desired shape.

Nail groove

Nail groove are slits or tracks at either side of the nail upon which the nail moves as it grows.


The cuticle is the overlapping skin at the base of nail. Cuticles become dry from excessive exposure to water and chemicals and also because of the natural aging process. A manicurist/pedicurist pays particular attention to cuticles ensuring that they are well conditioned. They prevent infection of the matrix.

Nail wall

The nail wall is made up of folds of skin overlapping the sides of the nail, providing protection for the nail.

Nail bed

The nail bed is the portion of skin upon which the nail plate rests. It contains blood vessels that provide nourishment for growth. It also contains nerves.


New cells are formed in the matrix and they move forward, hardening on the nail bed until they make up the free edge. It contains nerves, lymph, and the blood vessels that nourish the nail; it produces cells that generate and harden the nail. Damage to cells in the matrix will affect the growth of nails.


The lunula is seen as a half-moon located at base of nail. It is caused by reflection of light.

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