Why do we have nails?


Share This Post

Just like the other parts of your body hide some secrets or have a ‘not-so-commonly’ known underlying fact about their presence and vital function in your body; your hands too are the center for many of the surprising facts. Out of those many surprises, the most interesting one is about the nails. I know we all have ignored this part of your body most of the time and have never thought about the reason of fingernails or toes-nails existence. But these personal little weapons exist for more reasons than we know. No! don’t think that your nails are just to comfortably pick up your nose or clean your ears with them. For a girl getting them painted to make their fingers look like a good colorful canvas and for a guitarist keeping them like a guitar pick, they do it all. But is it the reason God has bestowed us with our NAILS? And if these are the reasons in real then why do we have nails on our toes?

Of course not.  The above mentioned are not the only reasons. Evolution and origin of nails on fingers and toes are no less than a mystery to science since our own existence. Arguments like ‘they are flattened and blunt version of claws of animal version of our ancestors’; ‘they are completely a new adaptation to humans’; ‘they exist just for name sake’ etc. prevail among scientists as viewpoints abut nails presence in on fingers and toes. Well, here, in this article you’ll get to know functions of our nails and you may decide as to which theory for Human nails do you support?

To know further, let us discuss about the NAILS. What are they made up of? How do they grow?

Nails have several layers- from nail plate, which is the part that is visible to your eyes, to nail bed (skin under nail plate) to cuticle (tissue over nail plate) to lunula (white moon on bottom) to nail folds (that forms frame on three sides of the nail) to matrix (hidden part of the nail). Nails are made up of keratin mostly which also forms hair and skin. It is a kind of hardened protein. New cells in matrix keep growing and they push the older cells.


There are many factors those affect the growth of a person’s nails. New cells of nails are formed more often in young age, faster in summers and sometimes, nails of one hand of a person may grow faster as compared to other hand nails.

Well, moving towards the origins and functions of our nails the following can be stressed upon-

  1. From our primate ancestors: Our primate ancestors like apes and monkeys have nails on their fingers and toes. And it is argued that our nails are modern and evolved version of those claws-like nails which our ancestors had. That’s why we have nails on toes because we may not use our toes-nails a lot but our ancestors used to use them for climbing, gripping etc.
  1. Certain actions– Finger nails are now-a-days used for certain activities like peeling the veggie or fruits skin, just as our ancestors used to do so, and for cleaning certain body parts like scalp. Without fingernails these tasks would have been very difficult for us to perform. These are some of the functions that gives name to our nails as ‘grooming-claws’. These are our natural tools for grooming.
  2. Early weapons to us: Earlier Homo sapiens had no special tools or weapons to work with or guard themselves. They didn’t have claws and jaws like tiger, neither wings to fly and elope danger nor any other attribute to cheat on predators. They were many times required to fight bare hands. Yes, they took help of stones and spears but, finger-nails too played the role.
  3. Prototype for tools: Humans drove their inspiration to design their tools and weapons from their finger-nails. They made their spears more sharper and more powerful with following the prototype for finger-nails.
  4. Protection and support to fingers and toes– You cannot feel any pain when you cut your nails. Why? Simply because they don’t have any nerve endings. This features protects our fingers and toes from external shock (something hitting your fingers) since nails are in continuous contact with the environment. Also nails support our fingers and toes in staying flattened. Hard-structure of nails doesn’t let fingers to grow taller rather it grows flatter.
hand leg nails

6. Health Indicators– There are certain lines on the nail-plate those let doctors know about the health of a person by looking at his/her nails. For example- spoon-shapes finger nails may be sign of anaemia or we may know that we need more protein if we feel our nails to be softer or brittle. Pink nails are symbolizing malnutrition in a person.

nails zoom

So just imagine if you don’t have nails on your fingers or toes, what will happen?

If there will be no hard material on tips of fingers and toes, the soft lump of the skin would make it difficult for us to hold the things. Gripping will become tougher. Ends of our fingers and toes will not stay controlled and may not grow flat as they are now.

Now, not just for sake of designing, painting or cutting them, also thank your nails for all the purpose they serve on your fingers’ and toes’ ends.

Share This Post

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

Do You Want To Know more About Us?