Let’s be honest: Nail envy is a very real thing. With so many nail artists posting gorgeous nailfies on Instagram and TikTok, it’s only natural to wish your nails were as long, colorful, or well-manicured. While all of these hopes and dreams can be remedied with a quick stop at your local nail salon, there’s one nail characteristic that can’t be bought: the half moons on your fingernails.
See, now you’re looking down at your nails and either wondering what they are or why you don’t have them. (Personally, I only have them on a few of my nails, so you’re not alone if you’re noticing the same.)
To find out what it means if you’re missing half moons on your fingernails, I chatted with board-certified dermatologist Dana Stern, MD, who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and surgery of the nail. Ahead, learn what she has to say on the buzzworthy nail topic.
Why you may have half moons on your fingernails
If you’ve ever wondered where your nails grow from, Dr. Stern points to your half moons (aka the nail’s lunula). “Half moons are half of the nail’s matrix,” she says, noting that the matrix is also referred to as the nail root. “The nail matrix is an oval-like structure that produces the actual nail plate—it is the ‘nail making center.’”
Although many nail influencers have visible half moons, making it seem like they’re a key component of healthy, beautiful nails, Dr. Stern says that lots of people can’t see their lunulae. “For many people, the half moon is not visualized on most of the nails because it is covered with the skin at the proximal nail fold, but we all have nail matrixes and therefore lunulae,” she assures us.
What do small or invisible half moons on your fingernails mean?
Some Internet folks are spreading misinformation that a lack of half moons is related to having a vitamin deficiency. And it’s often believed because other nail irregularities, such as ridges, are chalked up to the same thing. In reality, Dr. Stern says that our nail matrixes (and the half moons that accompany them) are determined at birth—not influenced by the vitamins we consume.
“We are born with our nail matrix and the size and shape is what determines nail quality to a large degree,” she explains. “When someone can’t visualize their half moon on their thumb nail, it generally means they have relatively small matrixes and are more predisposed to have thin, small nails.”
Additionally, she points out that just because you can’t see your half-moons doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. “They are not missing, they are just not visible because they are under the proximal nail fold,” she reassures us.
While half moons may look like a critical part of a healthy nail, Dr. Stern says that it’s typically nothing to stress about (nor anything to call your doctor about) if they’re not visible. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that if you do have visible lunulae, they should be pale white in color. If you notice that they turn black, brown, blue, red, or yellow, consult your doctor, as an underlying health issue (such as diabetes, heart failure, or renal failure) could be at play. Though, this is quite rare.