Humidity key to healthy nails suggests new research

Aug 24, 2009
An electronmicroscope image of a fingernail.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Maintaining normal humidity around you could be the key to attractive and healthy fingernails, according to new research from The University of Manchester.

Natural material scientists and biomechanics experts have joined forces to examine how nails cope with various stresses under different environmental conditions.

Dr Stephen Eichhorn from The School of Materials and Dr Roland Ennos from The Faculty of Life Sciences performed tests on a large number of fingernail clippings provided by healthy young adult volunteers.

Samples were placed into special metal grips under controlled lab conditions and several tests were performed under different levels of .

The results suggest that fingernails resist damage such as splitting and shearing most strongly in environmental conditions of 55 per cent relative humidity.

Researchers report that nails are more brittle when humidity is lower.

They found that at higher levels of humidity nails are more flexible - although they are more susceptible to shearing.

They also found that nails recover their if they are pulled and then relaxed.

It’s thought this is due to changes that occur, when moisture is present, in the material that binds together the fibrous components of the fingernail.

Controlled bending tests showed this material undergoes a dramatic change in its properties at 55 per cent relative humidity, becoming more flexible at higher humidities.

Researchers say this seems to explain why it’s easier for people to cut their nails after a bath or shower - and may give clues to how our nails have evolved for use in ambient conditions.

Dr Roland Ennos said: “The mechanical properties of fingernails are important because of their impact in preventing damage and in maintaining their appearance.

“In particular, knowing the effect of local environmental conditions can tell us how they might best be protected.”

Dr Stephen Eichhorn added: “We have found that cope remarkably well over a range of humidities, but it is best to not get them completely dry or wet.

“At an average of 55 per cent humidity, which is what you would experience normally, it appears that nails have optimum mechanical properties, and resist bending.”

The research team presented their work in a recent issue of The Journal of Biomechanics.

Provided by University of Manchester

Explore further: Video: Researchers instruct scientists in giant role tiny fungi play

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Influenza spreads readily in winter conditions

Oct 19, 2007

Low temperatures and relative humidities have been linked to the rapid spread of influenza in a new study by researchers, led by Dr. Peter Palese, from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The study, published in PLoS Pa ...

Sticky gecko feet: The role of temperature and humidity

May 14, 2008

A team of five University of Akron researchers has published the paper, “Sticky gecko feet: the role of temperature and humidity” in PLoS ONE, an open-access, online journal for peer-reviewed scientific and medical research.

Link found between influenza, absolute humidity

Feb 09, 2009

A new study by Oregon researchers has found a significant correlation between "absolute" humidity and influenza virus survival and transmission. When absolute humidity is low - as in peak flu months of January and February ...

Acitretin therapy may help reduce nail psoriasis

Mar 16, 2009

Low-dose acitretin (a drug used to treat skin psoriasis) therapy appears to reduce nail psoriasis symptoms, according to a report in the March issue of Archives of Dermatology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Dust mite levels in Sydney are seasonal

Nov 26, 2007

House dust mite (HDM) allergen levels in Sydney beds are determined by the season, with new research discovering fluctuations of such magnitude between summer and autumn levels they may be sufficient to influence asthma symptoms ...

Recommended for you

Researchers look at small RNA pathways in maize tassels

16 hours ago

Researchers at the University of Delaware and other institutions across the country have been awarded a four-year, $6.5 million National Science Foundation grant to analyze developmental events in maize anthers ...

How plant cell compartments change with cell growth

16 hours ago

A research team led by Kiminori Toyooka from the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science has developed a sophisticated microscopy technique that for the first time captures the detailed movement of ...

Plants can 'switch off' virus DNA

17 hours ago

A team of virologists and plant geneticists at Wageningen UR has demonstrated that when tomato plants contain Ty-1 resistance to the important Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV), parts of the virus DNA ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Bob_B
not rated yet Aug 25, 2009
Someone is actually scratching out a living doing this!