Hair: sometimes unwanted, sometimes WANTED (luscious locks that reach our backsides!).
Nails: Short or long, or sometimes a pain… but how do they grow? Why do we have them? It’s about to get a bit biological over here – stay tuned for “Know Your Body: Hair and Nail Addition…”

Like a tree, your hair strand starts from where you can’t see it, beneath the skin. Your hair starts with hair root, the hair follicle and the hair shaft, where the hair grows out the top of your head (or in some people’s cases – everywhere!).

Your nails also start beneath the skin, at the nail root. The other main components are the nail bed, nail plate and the cuticle. All sounds complicated – but The Beauty Geeks are here to get your hair and nail knowledge up to scratch! (Pun intended!)

In both cases, the root is where new cells are made. In hair,  the cells here divide and get bigger, pushing up and through the hair follicle – this is the hair you see sprouting when you think it’s time to shave.  The nail roots ends at the moon-shaped base of the visible nail. This structure is called the lunula (‘lunula’ from ‘lunar’ meaning the moon!). It’s responsible for growing the nail plate and is made up of flattened keratin cells – which we’ll have a nosey at later.

When your hair leaves your head and becomes visible, or when your nail grows away from skin, its actually dead tissue – time to trim maybe?

The hair shaft is the other main component of hair. It is formed from the old cells that are pushed out by new cells growing underneath, “Going back to your roots” as Odyssey would say.

So now you know the background of hair anatomy, now we can delve into what the hair strand it made up of! It’s made up of three things – from inwards out; the medulla, the cortex and the cuticle.

The cortex: this makes the majority of the hair shaft. It’s made up of keratin – a super strong protein that makes the Hulk envious. The properties of this protein means it can form bridging bonds, such as hydrogen bonds, between molecules of itself and forms a fibre, which is super flexible. This is why we can twizzle, twist, pull, plait, straighten and curl our hair into many different shapes – all because of bonds and how they interact and reform to maintain new shapes!

The cuticle: the outside layers of your hair, responsible for the texture and glow that makes you feel sexy. It is made up of many layers of overlapping cells that are transparent and are water resistant due to it containing lipids, which means it’s a natural conditioner and leaves your hair shiny. Stripping away your hairs natural moisture can cause your skin to become weak and brittle, and unfortunately can be caused by heat damage. Yes ladies, your beloved hair straightening routine may have to stop if you want to rescue your hair!

Using too many chemicals on your hair, like dyeing it as many times as you change your socks (which we hope is a lot!), can weaken your hair and damage hair strands. So can do we retain that blonde bombshell look? Using hair dye without harsh chemicals like ammonia will allow your hair to retain more moisture, helping protect the cuticle barrier Hey presto! Natural-looking gorgeous hair is the result.

Now back to Nail Anatomy: Next up – the nail bed. This extends from the root or the germinal matrix, to the end of your nail and is underneath the actual nail. It contains lots of blood vessels and nerves and is the site of melanin production. Melanin is the protein responsible for the pigment of your nails (if only it made them your favourite nail vanish colour ey?!). The thickness of the nail bed is important for keeping your nails smooth and healthy.  Melanin is also responsible for giving the hair its natural colour!

The nail plate is over the top of your nail bed – it’s your actual fingernail, which is formed by lots of tightly packed epithelial cells bunched up together. It’s also made up of keratin – our trusty friend from the cortex of the hair, providing strength to our nails so we can get in cat fights. Keratin in nails also helps maintain their oxygen and water content to keep them healthy and moisturized. Applying nail vanish disturbs this balance, blocking water and oxygen absorption and leading to dry nails. Coloured nails or healthy nails? Your choice!

The cuticle in nails is also like cuticles in hair – provides a waterproof layer to keep nails smooth!

Keratin is the most important component out of these. When keratin is low, your nails can become brittle and weak, and same goes for your hair so without meaning to sound like your mum, it’s important to keep a good diet. Foods that contain gelatin should help do the trick!

So if you want to avoid nasty nails and horrible hair, keratin is the key! Generally, the thicker the layer of keratin the healthier your hair and nails will be. A good diet, a good moisturiser and good Beauty Geeks advice is all you need.

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