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At first glance you may think of the nail as just one piece, the nail plate. You might therefore be surprised to learn   that nails may be considered to have a number of major visible parts as well as some that you cannot see. Let us take a closer look at the nail structure.  




1. Nail plate.

This is the hard structure we normally refer to as the nail. The nail plate consists of two layers, the upper and the lower. The cells in these two parts are arranged differently and grow at different speeds. The upper surface is smooth, while its inner surface has parallel crests that correspond   to ridges on the nail bed. These ridges are unique in each individual and may serve as a means of identification. 



2. Lunule.

This is the half-moon shaped whitish part at the base of   the nail plate. Not all fingers have a visible lunule. The nail grows from a small area of living tissue at the base of the nail plate, called the matrix. This is the most vital part of  the nail unit. The lunule is the end of the nail matrix and,   as such, the visible part of the living nail. The rest of the   nail plate is composed of dead cells.


3. Nail folds, proximal and lateral.

These refer to the skin surrounding the nail plate. This skin is called the nail fold because it does not end at the nail plate but folds under and covers the emerging nail plate. These skin folds protect and support the surrounding    areas of the nail.


4. Eponychium.

This is the tiny strip of the skin fold that appears to end at the base of the nail plate. At times, this   is referred to as the cuticle.

5. Cuticle. 

The true cuticle is a tiny extension underneath the eponychium. It is a colorless layer of shed skin that   adheres to the surface of the dorsal nail plate. 


6. Free edge. The part of the nail plate that grows beyond the fingertip.

7. Hyponychium. Found underneath the free edge of the nail, this tissue forms a watertight seal that protects the nail bed from infection.      


                                                                                                               



  


                                                                                             
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