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From The Hygienic Dictionary
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Category: THE SKIN
Source: A Handbook Of Health
How the Nails are Made. Another trade, which our wonderful skin has
literally at its fingers' ends, is that of making nails. Indeed, every
kind of scale, armor, fur, feather, and leather coating possessed by
bird, beast, or fish was made by, and out of, the skin. Nail-making,
however, is one of its simplest feats, as it is carried out merely by
turning a little patch, or area, of itself into a horn-like substance.
This, the skin of insects, of fishes, of crocodiles, etc., does all over
the surface of their bodies; but in animals and birds only a number of
little patches at the tips of the toes harden up in this way, to form
the claws or nails; and in birds, the beak; and in some animals, the
horns. So it is quite correct to call the substance of our nails
In some animals and birds, these little horny patches at the ends of the
toes grow out into long, curved hooks, or broad, digging chisels and
scoops; but on our own fingers, they simply make a little mould over the
finger-tip. If, however, they are protected from being broken off, they
will grow four or five inches long; in fact, they are carefully trained
to do this by some of the upper classes in China, merely for the purpose
of showing that they have never been obliged to degrade themselves, as
they foolishly regard it, by working with their hands.
You can easily prove that the nails do grow constantly from the root or
base, out toward the tip, by watching, some time when you have pounded
one of your nails, how the black or discolored patch in it will grow
steadily outward toward the tip, where it will be broken off and shed.
You cannot see the softest and youngest row, or layer, of the nail cells
at the base, because a fold of skin, the nail fold, has been doubled,
or folded, over them to protect them while they are young and soft. It
is not best to push this fold of skin back too much, as, by so doing,
you may uncover the young nail cells while they are soft and tender, and
expose them to injury. The reason why there is a little whitish crescent
at the base of the nail is that the cells of the nail do not grow hard
and horn-like and transparent until they have grown out a quarter of an
inch or so from under the fold, but at first look whitish, or opaque,
like the rest of the skin.
Health Shown by the Color of the Nails. Your nails and your lips are
not really any redder, or pinker, than the rest of your skin; but the
cells forming them are clear and transparent and allow the red blood to
show through. This is why we often look at the nails and lips to see
what the color of the blood is like, and how well or badly it is
circulating. If the blood is anemic, or thin, then both lips and nails
are pale and dull. If the blood is healthy and the circulation good,
then the nails are pink, and the lips clear red. If, on the other hand,
the circulation is bad, as in some forms of lung disease and heart
disease, so that the blood is loaded with carbonic acid until it is
blue and dark, then the lips may become purplish or dark blue, and the
finger nails nearly the same color.
Next: The Blood-mesh Of The Skin
Previous: The Glands In The Skin