The History of Nail Polish: A blog about the history of nail polish and what you should know.
Every time I walk into a nail salon, I am always amazed by the different kinds of nail polishes there are. From a wide variety of colors to different brands to high-end or cheap ones, it’s all very interesting. Let’s go back in time and learn more about the history of nail polish.
The earliest recorded use of nail polish goes back to China in 3000 BC where it was made from gum arabic, beeswax, and egg whites. It was later on used by Egyptians in 600 BC with various ingredients such as henna and red dye from the fucus-algin plant. They believed that nails were an indication of social class and that red colored nails were an aristocratic status symbol. In fact, only those who were rich were able to wear this color because the production process was very labor intensive and expensive. During this era, women also used henna to stain their fingers and toes along with using kohl on their eyes. This gave them that sun-kissed look that is still popular today!
While you may be familiar with the manicure aspect of nail polish, its history is a little less well known. Nail Polish has been around for centuries, and while it has evolved in many ways since then, it remains a classic staple in the beauty industry.
The first evidence of nail polish came from China in 3000 BC when it was used to signify class between royals and non-royals. Soon after this discovery, China began using natural ingredients such as beeswax, egg whites and gelatin to create their own polishes. The color choices were limited to reds, black and occasionally gold or silver.
Several thousand years later, nail polish made its way into the world of Hollywood. In 1925 the American company Revlon created its first line of nail polishes. This gave way to a whole new level of popularity and availability in nail polishes worldwide. Now there are hundreds of companies that make different types of nail polish and many more who specialize in creating specialty products such as gems and stickers that can be used on nails.
The invention of nail polish is attributed to the ancient Chinese, who mixed beeswax, egg whites, gelatin and vegetable dyes to create a shiny color on their nails. This first nail polish was a far cry from today’s products which use nitrocellulose and plasticizers to achieve their glossy look. The trend of painting one’s nails did not make it out of China until the 19th century, when Polish manicurist Michelle Manicure introduced it to America. Manicure is credited with inventing the first nail polish bottle and brush in 1920. In 1932, Revlon debuted its first nail polish line after Charles Revson teamed up with fashion forward manicurist Charles Lachman to create a quality product that would dry quickly and be long lasting. Revlon’s marketing campaign targeted a younger audience by focusing on bright colors and fun bottles; this strategy was incredibly successful and helped propel Revlon into the forefront of the cosmetic industry.
In the late 1960s, Sally Hansen created her Hard As Nails line as well as First Nail Enamel for Beauty Without Cruelty, a line that was never sold in the United States due to regulations on animal testing. In 1979 Sally Hansen launched her Hard As Wraps line which featured flexible polishes that
Nail polish has been around for millennia. Evidence of its use has been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. In China, during the Zhou Dynasty, nail color indicated one’s social status. Royalty wore gold and silver; other members of the upper class painted their nails red or black.
In the 19th century, nail polish was made from a mixture of beeswax, egg whites, gelatin, and vegetable dyes. It was applied in multiple layers and later buffed to a glossy shine. By the beginning of the 20th century, carmine dye was used to create red nail polish (the first commercially available nail polish). The 1920s saw major advancements in nail polish formula, including fast-drying formulas, non-chip formulas and colored polishes (other than red).
In the 1930s and 1940s, Revlon began selling the first widely popular nail polishes with a wide range of colors. As of today there are over 3000 shades of nail polish!
Nail Polish has been around since 3,000 BC. The first recorded use of nail polish was in China. The color of the nail polish that was used was either red or black. Red symbolized courage but black was more frequently used to signify a person’s social class or rank. In other words, every high class woman wore black nail polish and lower class women wore red nail polish. The ancient Chinese also believed that nails with a dark hue were able to absorb negative energy and evil spirits.
The most popular part of manicure history would have to be when Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife Josephine banned her maids from wearing colored nail polish because she wanted to be the only person allowed to wear it. This is when colored nail polish began to become popular in France and then spread throughout Europe and eventually to America.
In the 20th century nail polish history took another turn when Max Factor Jr created an enamel for nails in the early 1920s. He wanted to match the color of his mother’s mouth so he had her lipstick formula adapted into a product known as “X-Factor Nail Gloss.” The product soon became popular among actresses of the day including Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, Betty Grable and sisters Vivian and Marlene Dietrich.
Nail polish, also known as nail varnish or nail enamel, is a lacquer that can be applied to the human fingernail or toenails to decorate and protect the nail plates. The formulation has been revised repeatedly to enhance its decorative effects, and to suppress cracking or flaking.
Nail polish consists of a mix of an organic polymer and several other components that give it its texture and consistency. Nail polish originated in China, as early as 3000 BC. The ingredients were gum Arabic, beeswax and egg white; it was believed that this strengthened nails. In ancient Egypt nail polishes contained a variety of pigments and colours such as yellow, green, red, black and orange.
In ancient Babylonian times they used kohl which was made from a mixture of antimony, burnt almonds, ochre, lead oxide and lime (calcium). This mixture helped soften their nails. They would then colour their nails using red-orange pigment derived from the Henna plant.
The Incas painted their nails red with paint made from seeds mixed with egg whites. Not only did they use this as colouring but they also used them for medicinal purposes.
In China during the Zhou Dynasty (1046-
In ancient China, nail color indicated one’s social status. Royalty wore gold and silver, while lower class people wore red. In Egypt, Cleopatra used to paint her nails with henna. It was also common for women to use natural materials such as gum Arabic, beeswax and gelatin.
In the 19th century, Queen Victoria had a strong influence on fashion by wearing black polish to mourn the death of her husband in 1861. The use of colored nail polish was not popular until the 1920s when Americans started using it more often following World War I.
Nail Polish comes in many different colors, but what is it actually made from?
The main ingredients are resins and polymers that form a film on your nails when they are dry. There are also plasticizers that help soften the film and make it flexible so your nails don’t break or chip off easily. Pigments give the polish its color.
There are also solvents such as ethyl acetate that make sure all of these ingredients are combined properly and evenly distributed in each bottle of polish.