What are nails made of?

What are nails made of?

Fingers and toes are probably the reason your body movement, support, and gripping patterns are in such a perfect shape. And while keeping your face pretty and flawless is good enough, fingers and toes are the finishing touches to your overall beauty. Yet, one of the most critical accessories of this beauty is none other than your nails. Fingernails are to the fingers what lashes are to the eyelids. But have you ever wondered what the significance of nails is? What are they? And what are they made of?

Here is a quick guide on what you need to know about the composition of nails.

Nails Defined

Nails are one of the most notable accessories of the skin. They consist of sheets of dead cells, popularly known as keratinocytes, which are located on the far edges of your toes and fingers. The nail body is quite hard but flexible, a component induced by the keratin protein found in nails. The part of your nails you see is just but a thin end of the edge. There is a lot more going on beneath the surface of your nail plates that has to do with soft tissue activity, blood circulation, and cellular activity.

Your nails are so important that they are used as the standard measure of your mental health, recreational habits, and overall health status.

What are Human Nails Made of?

Now that you know what nails are, has it ever beaten your curiosity about what stuff makes up your nails? Here are some answers.

Nail Structure

The human nail consists of 3 crucial parts – free margin, nail plate, and cuticle. But that is all that you see. Beneath the nail is another complex structure consisting of the nail bed, root, fold, and matrix. Each part of the nail structure has a unique functionality that explains the overall outlook of your nails.

Free Margin

The free margin, also known as free edge or nail tip, is part of the nail that extends beyond the distal edges of the toe or finger. The free margin is the part of the nail you cut or file to keep your nails short and flawless. The length beyond which the free margin protrudes is a matter of an individual’s taste and preference. Also, the nail tip can be subject to severe damages due to such causes as extreme nail filing, impact, or incorrect trimming.

Nail Plate

The entire part of your nail that is external to the skin, which is typically what you see, is known as the nail plate. It runs from the distal edges of the toe or finger to the base of the nail. The colour of your nail plate may range from white to pink, depending on the temperature and other prevailing conditions.

The Cuticle

The sheet of dead epithelial cells that shields the hardening part of the nail is called the cuticle. While acting as a frame for the nail, the cuticle seals the exteriors of the nails to safeguard them against possible infections. Interestingly, the cuticle is always generating new cells while getting rid of old cells. In the event the cuticle extends to the nail surface, that could be a sign of unhealthy toes or fingers.

Nail Bed

This is the supporting layer directly below the nail plate. Due to a lot of blood circulation within and around this proportion of your nail, the nail bed is often pink in colour. The texture, colour, and health of your nail are embedded on the nail bed.

Nail Root

The nail root is the part from which the generation of the nail happens. It is found beneath the skin’s surface, where the nail begins.

Nail Fold

This is the tissue that overlaps the three sides of your nail. The primary role of the fold is to attach the nail to the skin through the cuticle.


This is the part that produces new cells that eventually make up the new nail plate. The new cells generated from the matrix tend to push the old ones forward forming the plate while increasing the length of the free margin.

Nail Lunula

Ever seen a crescent-shaped, white proportion at the base of your nail’s plate and wondered what that is? That part is called a nail lunula. Being part of the nail matrix, the lunula is involved in generating cells that become the nail plate.

Nail Formation

The formation of your fingernails or toenails is a complex process that occurs in stages, including cell division, cell reproduction, keratinisation, and free edge formation.
But exactly makes up this formation? Here are elements involved in the formation of a nail.


Nails primarily constitute Keratin, a protein type that composes the tissue in nails. Keratin is generally used in building and adding to the strength of skin, hair, and nails. However, when it comes to the nails, Keratin facilitates the hardening of the nail plate. This way, the nails are protected against impact and damages.


Keratinocytes are dead cells found in the outermost layer of the human skin. What this means is that the hard part of your nails that you see are purely dead cells. This is why nails don’t hurt when trimmed or filled.


Parallel to the skin and the nail fold are blood capillaries. The pink colour you see on the nail plate results from these small blood vessels flowing beneath the nails. Essentially, nails depend on these capillaries to grow and generate new cells.

Nail Dermis

There is a groove in the skin from which the nail body extends. This groove is known as the dermis. While nails are not painful to cut, there are sensory nerve endings supplied by the dermis inciting a signal to the brain every time pressure is exerted on the nails.

What are Acrylic Nails Made of?

The world of beauty has always been at the frontline of improvising nail enhancements to help individuals with short, undesirable, or damaged nails. An example of such enhancements is acrylic nails. These are a mix of a powder polymer and liquid monomer fashioned as a blob on the nails from which specified nail shapes are made.

The beauty of acrylic nails is that the application hardens with exposure to the air. But what exactly makes up acrylic nails? Here is a brief guide.

Polymer Powder

Simply said, a polymer is any substance made of extra-large molecules that are interlinked to make one long chemical chain. The powdered polymer used to make acrylic nails acts as a host for many other ingredients, including UV absorbers, colourants, and an initiator. It is also extremely hard and inflexible. When mixed with a monomer liquid, the polymer liquid forms a rigid structure that can be applied in finger-like shapes.

Liquid Monomer

A monomer is a single unit of molecules used as a building block for polymers. The liquid monomer used in acrylic nails may contain such additives as wetting agents, flow modifiers, UV absorbers, and crosslinkers. Mixed with a polymer powder, the liquid monomer reacts to create a cement-like fluid. The acrylic brush is dipped into this fluid to make a blob which is patted on the nail to the desired shape.

Resin Modifier

To control the hardening properties of the combo, resin modifiers are added.

What are Shellac Nails Made of?

One of the manicure trends that have stood the test of time is the Shellac nail polish. The convenience that comes with Shellac nails is what makes the product stand out, thanks to its no-chipping and fast-drying properties. So, what makes Shellac nails different, and what are they made of? Read on for more insights.

A Hybrid Polish

Shellac nails are a hybrid polish made of both gel and nail polish. Essentially, Shellac nails offer a blend of benefits for both, including durability, colour, shine, and quick removal. A shellac effect is induced every time the nails are to LED light, hence the name Shellac Nails.

High Level of Lacquer

Shellac nails are made of high amounts of lacquer, which is the thick line between shellac and other gel products. The value of high-level lacquer in Shellac nails is linked to the zero damages the product causes to your natural nails. In addition, you enjoy a high-gloss yet very hard finish on your nails, making them less susceptible to smudges, nicks, and chips.

What are Gel Nails Made of?

Gel nails are probably ones with the highest resemblance to your natural nails. The glossiness, durability, and availability are reasons why gel nails are a beauty mainstay to date. But what makes up gel nails? Here is all you need to know.

Liquid Monomer and Powder Polymer

There is almost no difference between the chemical composition of gel nails and acrylic nails. Both are generated from a mix of polymer powder and monomer liquid. The two react to form long polymer strands, which dry up into hard resins. The only difference between gel nails and acrylic nails is that the former contain oligomers, a type of short-chain monomers that enhance nail flexibility.

Light Cure

Gel nails come into forms, no-light and light-cured nails. While no-light nails require an activator to dry up, light-cured gel nails depend on UV or LED light to harden. LED-cured gels are considered safer than UV-cured gel nails, as the application process of LED does not expose your skin to risks, as is the case with UV rays.

What Are Nails Made of Really?

Different nail types are made using varying components. However, whether regular, gel, shellac or acrylic nails, there are equal pros and cons that come with each. The good news is that all nails are safe to wear. Follow us for answers to all your beauty-related queries!

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