What Are Toenails and Fingernails Made Of?
Fingernails and toenails are special growths of hardened skin cells. Most of the nail is made up of a tough, horn-like material called “keratin.” The living and growing part of the nail is beneath the white crescent-shaped area at the nail’s base.
As the new nail cells form, they pack together tightly and slowly push the nail forward. The old cells die and harden (into the same kind of horny material a cow’s horns and a horse’s hoofs are made of).
Our nails help protect the tips of our fingers and toes, and our fingernails also help us to pick up small objects. Our fingernails make it easier to scratch an itch or remove a dog hair from your sweater.
Our fingernails grow slowly — in fact, they grow about one tenth of an inch (2.5 millimeters) each month. At that rate it can take about 3 to 6 months to completely replace a nail.
The exact rate of nail growth depends on numerous factors including the age and sex of the individual and the time of year. Fingernails generally grow faster in young people, in males, and in the summer.
Fingernails grow faster than toenails. The fingernails on the right hand of a right-handed person grow faster than those on their left hand, and vice versa.