January 20, 2022 3 min read

Have you ever looked at your nicely polished nails and wondered where do they come from?

It’s very surprising for us, and probably for you, to find out that nail polish dates back millennia! Like today, people throughout history have also paid special attention to their nails. 

Keep scrolling to time travel and discover how the history of nail polish has evolved; it’s truely fascinating! 

The Origin

According to The Guardian, the origin of the manicure cannot be attributed to one culture. Archeologists discovered Egyptian mummies (dating to 5,000 BC) with gilded nails and henna-tinted fingertips. Around the same time, Indian women were colouring their nails with henna. Meanwhile, warriors in Babylonia had their nails curled and lacquered with kohl, a black powdery substance, before going off to battle.



The First Nail Polish

Around 3,000 BC, the first nail polish was invented in ancient China. The first form of nail polish is a combination of egg whites, gelatine, beeswax and dyes from flower petals, often are roses and orchids. This mixture created shiny nails tinted reddish pink, that were only worn by the rulers and those in high society as a symbol for their wealth and power.

Nail Guards 

Nail art continued to flourish in ancient China, remarkably during the Yuan dynasty, when long, highly decorative nail guards were first developed and adored by noblewomen to protect the long nails underneath. These nail guards became even more popular among the upper-class of the Qing Dynasty that followed, remaining an exclusive accessory of the elite to convey their affluence.



The social significance of red nails 

In ancient times, not only was wearing nails reflective of your social status, in some culture, the colour of your nails also mattered. Red nails were particularly believed to carry greater prestige than other shades. Members of the Ming Dynasty, the Egyptian queens Nefertiti and Cleopatra were known for wearing red nail polish to signify their power. Lower-ranking citizens were forbidden from wearing anything but pale shades; if they were caught wearing the wrong nail colour assigned to their class, they’d be in major trouble.

The First-Ever Nail Salon

Manicure wasn’t made common until 1878, when Mary E. Cobb, who first learned the art of manicure in France, then opened the first-ever nail salon title “Mrs. Pray's Manicure” in New York City.

This event marked the beginning of today nail industry, which is now one of the most popular and most requested beauty services in the history. 


The Birth of Big Brands

In 1911, a chemist named Northam Warren created the formula for Cutex Cuticle Remover, a strikingly popular product that removed dead cuticles without the need for cutting. Fast forward to 1925, Cutex went on to create what we know today as the widely popular liquid nail polish. The brand has since became a beauty empire. 

In 1920, a French makeup artist Michelle Menard wanted to create a glossy nail lacquer that mimicked the shine on automobiles. She eventually perfected her formula, and in 1932, she launched Revlon, which was first known for their nail enamel products, before expanding to lipstick and eventually an entire makeup line. The company has since grown to be a major player in today beauty industry. 


The Invention of Acrylic Nails 

In 1957, dentist Frederick Slack broke a nail at work, and to repair it, he used aluminium foil and dental acrylic from his lab. As it turns out, he designed a faux nail that looked entirely too realistic. This incident inspired the dentist to create, and then later patent—what we know today as acrylic nails. 

The Debut of The Classic French Manicure 

The original French manicure, which is recognised by the white polish across the nail’s tip, was indeed invented by Jeff Pink, an American makeup artist, and later founder of Orly, when he needed a nail look that would pair well with multiple costume changes. When debuted on the runways in Paris, the classic French nails instantly became a phenomenon. Until today, French manicure still remains one of the most popular styles of manicure ever invented.



Nails Are Here To Stay 

Today in 2022, nails are a multibillion-dollar industry and still growing fast. Nail technology has tremendously improved, offering a vast spectrum of manicure types suited for every individual’s needs and aesthetic, namely are acrylic nails, dipping powder nails, gel-polish (shellac) nails and traditional lacquer. Today nail art have become more creative with different shapes, endless colour variations, cool texture and embellishments. Haven been through the challenge of time, manicure continues to prove itself as a dedicated part of many women’s self-care routine. 

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