Nail art. It’s creative and sometimes crazy. It is ingenious and sometimes wacky. It is interesting, sometimes festive but always arty. Nail art is something that a lot of people do, with nail salons featuring manicures and pedicures booming and seemingly on every corner. Some people opt to get their nails done by a professional, others go it alone and it’s part of the fun of many a slumber party. But where did it originate?
Painting our nails come from Ancient Egyptians where women would dye their nails with henna to indicate their social status. If you were in the lower classes, your nails would be pastel or neutral colours, leaving the bold jewel tones, the deep, bold shades to those in the upper classes.
Around the same time, in Babylonia it was the men who were dedicated to nail painting and nail art. They would either sport green or black nails, black for the noblemen and green for the common man and they would paint the nails as they prepared for war. They would also curl their hair and partake in additional beautification processes all before heading out to fight.
At around 3000 BC, in China, nail polish was first made. It was formulated from beeswax, gelatin, egg whites, vegetable dyes and gum arabic. The people would dip their nails into the mixture and let it sit for a few hours before being allowed to dry. The colours ranged from pink to red depending on the specific ingredients and how long you had left your nails to soak in the mixture.
That’s all about painting nails one colour, but in the Inca Empire they actually painted eagles on their nails and by 1770 the first manicure sets were created and widely available for purchase. By the 1800’s people were getting ‘modern’ manicures or what we would think of as modern anyway, and in 1907 the first modern nail polish was developed. At first it was just clear, but through the years they added colours and well, we know how many different colours and features nail polish of today has.
Today we have shiny polish, matte polish and polish with glitter added. We can have velvet manicures, we can have pictures painted on our nails and we are not limited to one colour for all 10 fingers or toes, as the fashion dictates at least one fingernail be a different colour. What’s next with nails??