The Fascinating History of Modern Nail Polish

by The Nail Company

The Fascinating History of Modern Nail Polish

Nail polish has gone through significant changes throughout the years. To truly understand its transformation, you must first learn about its history. Read this guide on the fascinating history of modern nail polish today!

We Begin Our Story in China

Nail polish originated in China around 3200 B.C., and it’s claimed that warriors would paint their nails before going off to battles. However, a warrior “manicure” was different than what we know now. Their polish ingredients of choice were coal, beeswaxes, eggs, gelatin, and flowers. Though it’s not exactly known what the colors signified, many warriors wore black and green polish.

Outside battles and warriors, members of famous Chinese dynasties wore nail polish to signify their class and high status. For example, the Zhou Dynasty preferred gold and silver polish, and others enjoyed red, black, and metallic colors.

The Mark of Class

Throughout the early years, different nail polish colors became a “mark” of someone’s social class. In Egypt, lower class people wore pastel colors, while high society painted their nails with reddish-brown colors. Typically, the deeper the pigment of your nail polish proved that you were someone of a high social class.

Henna Nails

Did you know that Cleopatra used henna to paint her nails? Henna is a dye from the Lawsonia Inermis (henna tree) that produces deep rich colors. When you allow the dye to sit on your nails, it creates a semi-permanent manicure that lasts a long time. Cleopatra’s color of choice was a deep blood red.

Long Road Ahead

Nail polish didn’t make its way to Europe until the 1800s, and modern nail polish didn’t become popular in America until the early 1900s. But once it arrived at these places, nail polish as we know it took off! From various shades to several products, nail polish became a popular beauty item.

The First Nail Salon

Mary E. Cobb created the first nail salon. While in France, Mary learned the art of a “manicure” and redeveloped it when she returned to the United States. In 1878, she opened her first shop called “Mrs. Prays Manicure” and developed an at-home manicure guide. Little did she know that manicures would become one of the most requested beauty service in history!

Birth of Big Nail Polish Brands

In 1911, Cutex launched an extract for softening cuticles, but fast forward 14 years later to 1925, Cutex created liquid nail polish. This product grew them into a beauty empire. Around the same time, Michelle Menard wanted a glossy polish that mimicked the shine on automobiles, so she perfected a formula to achieve this glossy look. Then, in 1932, she launched the notorious cosmetic brand Revlon! Before expanding to lipsticks and makeup, Revlon sold nail polish in a variety of colors at department stores.

Many nail polish brands continued to launch throughout the years and became popular in Europe and America. Some popular brands you may know include Essie, OPI, JINsoon, Deborah Lippmann, and many others!

Invention of Acrylics

Acrylics are a popular manicure choice that many people love. However, did you know that a dentist created this trendy look? In 1957, Frederick Slack broke his nail at work, and wanted to repair it. He used aluminum foil and dental acrylic from his lab and designed a fake nail that looked realistic! This prompted Frederick to collaborate with his brother, Tom, to create and patent acrylic nails.

Debut of the French Manicure

The French Manicure is not quite French. Jeff Pink, an American makeup artist, needed a suitable manicure to fit costume changes (for runway shows and photoshoots). So, in 1975, he created the French Manicure. This versatile manicure made its way to Paris as it debuted on the fashion runways and became a phenomenon! Though it has American origins, the French Manicure is a popular selection in Europe.

Iconic Nail Polish Shades

Although we can easily name over 300 shades of nail polish, some colors are more iconic than others. If you’re thinking about getting a manicure, you should consider one of these iconic shades:

  1. Ballet Slipper by Essie. This sheer pink polish is an iconic shade loved by royalty! Queen Elizabeth and Kate Middleton are amongst the fans of this neutral shade.
  2. Lincoln Park After Dark by OPI. This deep shade is not quite black, but rather a deep purple that many people enjoy!
  3. Cherries in the Snow by Revlon. This shade is the first red nail polish ever. In 1932, Revlon introduced this polish to the world. Talk about iconic!
  4. All Hail The Queen by Butter London. This shade is a neutral brown with glitter that’s perfect for all occasions! It’s also Butter London’s best-selling shade.
  5. Bikini So Teeny by Essie. Many agree that this blue pastel nail polish is a great color for spring and summer.
  6. Rouge Noir by Chanel. Though often imitated, Chanel is the holder of the iconic burgundy nail polish that’s simply amazing.
  7. Kundalini Hustle by Smith & Cult. Think of cherry red with a hint of orange, and you’ll get this lovely shade.

Interesting Nail Polish Facts

Though nail polish has a fascinating history, there are so many cool facts you should know. We compiled a list of the ones that sparked our interest. Check out these interesting nail polish facts:

  • Famous actress Rita Hayworth popularized red nail polish. Her bold polish choice launched a movement of bold colors!
  • In 1935, the cost of nail polish was 35 cents. Talk about a deal!
  • Due to hyperpigmentation, dark nail polish peels faster.
  • Black Diamond King is the most expensive nail polish. Priced at $250,000 and made with 267 carats of black diamonds, this nail polish is extraordinary.
  • In 2012, nail polish sales reached $768 million dollars in The United States. This was a 32% increase from the previous year.
  • Crimson, Olive Green, and White Pearl are among the “16 prettiest nail polish colors.”
  • You can store nail polish in the refrigerator to slow down its discoloration process, making it last longer.

From ancient China to now, nail polish made its mark on the world! We hope our guide on the fascinating history of modern nail polish was beneficial to you. If you’re interested in various nail polishes and looking for nail supply distributors, consider Nail Company Wholesale Supply. We have everything you need with a wide selection of polishes and manicure products. Please browse through our website today!

The Fascinating History of Modern Nail Polish