Basic Nail Anatomy
The nail matrix is the living portion at the base of the nail. This is where new cells develop and push the old, dead cells forward to form the nail plate. The quality and health of these cells determines the general condition of the nail as it grows. This is the most sensitive part of the nail structure and can easily be damaged. Damage can impede normal growth, cause discoloration and ridges, or other irregularities to appear on the nail plate. These eventually grow out unless serious injury has resulted in permanent damage.
The nail bed is the continuation of the nail matrix. Acting as a support bed for the nail plate, it plays a vital role in the health, color and texture of the nail. The nail plate is joined to the nail bed by a series of minute connecting ridges that run from the nail matrix to just short of the fingertip, where the nail detaches to form a free edge.
The lunula or half moon, that whitish crescent at the base of the nail, is the only visible portion of the nail matrix. It is not always prominent, although it usually is visible on the thumbnail, diminishing in size until the little finger, where it is usually not visible. The nail plate is the visible part of the nail from lunula to free edge. Normally pale pink in color, it may become white or bluish depending on temperature and other physical conditions. The nail tip or free edge is part of the nail bed and it protrudes beyond the end of the finger. The length of the nail plate is a matter of taste. This is the most vulnerable part of the nail and can easily be damaged by impact, incorrect filing, et cetera.
The cuticle is the rim of skin framing the nail plate that protects the hardening nail. Unless this tissue remains soft and pliable, it can grow onto the surface of the nail where it becomes unsightly, splits into hangnails and can impede nail growth.
The hyponychium is the area between the nail plate and the fingertip. It is the junction between the free edge of the nail and the skin of the fingertip and provides a waterproof barrier.
The eponychium is normally referred to as the cuticle, but it is in fact not the true cuticle. The eponychium attaches closely to the nail plate and moves as the nail plate grows. Its function is to act as a barrier seal to stop bacteria and infection from getting to the nail matrix. The proximal nail fold and the lateral nail folds are part of the skin. This continuing skin acts as a protective barrier to protect and seal the nail matrix against bacteria and dirt.
Nail 911 – Identify and Treat Common Problems
Nail Health – Just as poor health and dietary deficiencies can inhibit nail growth, illness and diet can also influence the condition of otherwise sound nails. Some short-term damage can be reversed simply with changes in lifestyle. Most externally caused nail problems, however – as well as many of those systemic in nature – can be alleviated with the use of specially formulated nail treatment products. Learning to identify common nail problems will help you make the proper recommendations to your client.
Hangnails – Hangnails are small tears or splits in the nail plate or surrounding tissue. Usually the result of nail biting, they may also be caused by dry skin, injury or simply rough use of hands. Untreated they may tear and become raw, painful and subject to infection. Mild cases can be treated.
Hemorrhage – Bruised nails are those with spots of blood or bruises under the nail plate caused by injury. New nail growth will depend on the extent of the damage. Mild cases may be treated by taking special care to avoid further pain or damage. Do not buff the nail. Suggest weekly manicures until the bruise grows out. Refer to a physician if the nail is badly bruised.
Ingrown Toenails – An ingrown toenail is caused by pressure of the nail against the skin on the side of the nail. There are several factors that can lead to an ingrown toenail, but the most common is caused by tight-fitting shoes which can overcrowd the toes and push soft tissue against the edge of the nail. Improper cutting can also cause the nail edges to turn in.
Leukonychia – White spots on the nails are caused by a blow to the nail plate/nail matrix and/or by poor diet. Assure your client that in time, they will grow out. Onychomycosis – An infection of the fingernail or toenail that is caused by a fungus is called onychonycosis (on-ee-koh-my-kosis). Fungi are one type of tiny, plant-like organisms that thrive in warm, moist places, like underneath your toenails. Toenails are more likely to become infected than fingernails. Infections are also more likely in adults and often follow a fungal foot infection, like athlete’s foot. This infection can make nails thick and discolored and cause them to be brittle or change their shape. Clients may even have pain in their toes or fingertips. Prescription medication is usually required to cure a fungal infection, so suggest that your client seek a doctor’s help for diagnosis and treatment. If you see signs of nail fungus on a client, consult with spa management.
Onychophagy – Chronic nail biting deforms the nail plate and damages tissue surrounding the nail. The result is unattractive nails and the introduction of bacteria that may cause illness and minor but permanent nail deformities. A bitter-tasting deterrent can be applied to the nails to discourage biting. Regular manicures are a must to prevent hangnails which can encourage biting.
Easy Steps for the Perfect Manicure/Pedicure
When considering the steps needed to accomplish the perfect manicure/pedicure, one should start with a consultation. The nail care professional needs to determine the health and lifestyle concerns of the client. Furthermore, a treatment protocol needs to be agreed on (by both the client and the professional) at this time. The next step is preparation. During this stage, prepare the treatment room by lighting a candle or spritzing a fragrant mist to delicately scent the room. Now that the ambiance of the room is set, infuse four moist hand towels with a fragrant mist in a hot towel cabinet. Once the client is comfortable and relaxed the cleansing step can begin. This step begins with washing and drying the hands followed by misting their hands with a cleanser. Finally, the last step is the actual treatment stage which includes the following procedures. These are explained in greater detail on the following page: cleanse and prepare; cuticle treatment; refine, massage and moisturize; and prepare, color and protect.
At the end of the service, product recommendations are written for homecare. For slow aging benefits, always use hand serum and hand salve. If the nail technician observes certain nail conditions, then the appropriate nail treatments should be recommended such as cuticle products or treatment basecoats.
Marichu O. Cordero is Spa-Ritual’s education manager. Cordero travels globally educating SpaRitual clients and its resource partners on product knowledge and ritual treatments. In addition, she also educates SpaRitualists on the brand’s philosophy of Slow Beauty and how clients can incorporate the concept into their spa menus and spa services. Cordero is a certified master trainer, aromatherapy and reiki Level I certified and has over 25 years of experience in the beauty and spa industry.