Nail Structure: What’s What

As you learn more about nail care, it will be absolutely essential to know what exactly is what and where. To that end, I made a nail structure visual and vocabulary guide to help you through your nail art and nail care adventures!

Nail Structure

The Vocabulary

For all intents andĀ purposes, we’re going to call the end of the nail furthest from the hand “the tip,” and the end closes to the hand “the base.”

  • Lateral Grooves
    The curved hills of skin surrounding the nail on either side.
  • Free Edge
    The overhanging section at the tip of the nail that is not connected to the nail bed.
  • Nail Plate
    The hard, protein surface about which most people are referring when they say “fingernail.” This is the where nail polish goes. YAY!
  • Lunula (Half Moon)
    The lighter colored, half-moon shaped section of the nail closest to the cuticle.
  • Cuticle
    The transparent layer of dead skin that grows on and/or hangs over the base of the nail.
  • Eponychium
    The fleshy fold of living skin that surrounds the nail plate. This part is often mistaken for the cuticle, but will hurt and bleed if cut or removed.
  • Proximal Fold
    The soft tissue that covers and protects the matrix and emerging nail plate.
  • Lateral Folds
    The sections to each side of the nail where the nail bed meets the nail plate.
  • Hyponichium
    The soft mound of skin at the fingertip that sits under the free edge. This is basically to the nail bed what the free edge is to the nail plate.
  • Nail Bed
    The tissue layer that lies underneath the nail plate.
  • Matrix
    The segment composed of cells that create the nail plate.