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Nails are one of the more prominent symbols of culture and status. It has a long history of being one of the markers of a privileged person as compared to a commoner. Not only that but, as in western cultures, nails also separate women from men. Usually, females are the only ones who decorate their nails. In some Asian cultures however, some men underline their working class privileges, such as white collar workers, by growing their nails longer.

As a body part, nails are made of keratin which is a tough protein. The nail is actually similar in structure to the hair. The parts of the nail include the free edge, the cuticle, the paronychium, the hyponychium, the nail plate, the nail bed, the lunula and the nail fold. Of the parts of the nails, the free edge is the part where most stylists work on and they define the length of the nail as they are the part of the nail which extends past the finger.

The growth rate of the nail is dependent on many factors such as the age of the person, the season, the activity level of the person and other factors including those of heredity. In some studies, nails have been measured to have an average growth rate of 0.03 centimeters a day. This translates to one centimeter of nail growth after every one hundred days. Fingernails have different growth rates when compared to toenails. On average, fingernails can completely be regrown in four to six months. Toenails, on the other hand will need 12 to 18 months to fully regrow.

Nail growth has been shown since ancient times to show any recent health problems of the person. It has, in fact been used as an effective diagnostic tool even during ancient times. Illnesses of the body can leave their mark on the nails. These marks often take the form of nail discoloration, nail thickening or thinning, brittleness, grooves, splitting, white spots on the nails and other nail abnormalities. Nails can also become infected with fungus which is one of the main reasons to be sure of the nail care givers one uses. The tools that nail care givers use are good vectors for the spread of fungus infections.

Nails also need proper care. Just like skin, the nails can become dry, infected and injured. The most common nail maintenance anybody can do is to trim their nails to a comfortable length. This length, of course varies depending on the person. In general, women are more prone to keeping their nails long for aesthetic purposes. Beauty salons also offer pedicures and manicures which are procedures for the proper caring of the nails and for nail cosmetics such as nail painting.