Nails are similar to hair in that they are comprised of proteins containing sulfur, and also grow, thereby recording health information over time. However, nails can be a bit more complex as they have different layers that each tell a different story.
Above is a heat map of a cross-section of a human nail analyzed using LA-ICP-MS for a variety of nutritional elements and toxic metals. Due to the difference in nail layer protein composition, elements will accumulate in the layers differently. Like hair, we continue our research using chemistry in nails to tell stories about the people they come from:
- Potential nutrient deficiencies
- Heavy metal exposure (e.g., mercury, arsenic)
- Nail layer thicknesses
- Cuticle thickness
- Contaminants present in your environment (e.g., lead pipes)
- Forensics – timing of deficiencies and metal exposure