Properties and aims of nails Nails can claw, cut and tear. They can be used as a practical device for scratching, opening small fasteners and picking up objects. They also protect the tips of fingers and seem to be indispensable for the finger pad sensitivity.In ancient times, nails served both as useful tools and a means of defence. Later, they took on a cultural connotation as in the grotesquely long fingernails of Chinese mandarins.Today nails are an intrinsic part of one's appearance, although they still serve a functional purpose. Men, as well as women, are attaching more importance to nail care and grooming.