The history of … nail polish

Dear Gorgeous Reader,

A life without nail polish is hard to imagine for me, I have about 20 bottles in all colors, shapes, and sizes. It just goes without saying for us that nail polish exists. Yet there was once someone who must have thought for the first time: I’m going to put a color on my nails. Just because it’s possible! When and how and with what did that happen? Read on if you want to know more about the history of nail polish.

Back in the day, and we are talking about 3000 BC (before Christ), it was probably the first time nail polish was worn in China. At the time, nail polish consisted of a mixture of beeswax, gelatin, gum Arabic, and egg white. To add color to the paint they added crushed petals of the rose or orchid.
China had several Dynasty and per Dynasty, there were certain colors in fashion. During the Chou Dynasty, for example, it was metallic gold and silver, so the nail polish also had these colors at this time. Each Dynasty had its own colors and those colors were worn on the nails. Red and black nail polish have also been fashionable for a long time. The nail polish was colored with natural pigments.
But be aware, nail polish was only intended for the upper class. If someone of the lower-class was caught with colored nails then you were in trouble! Rumors have it that it even included the death penalty!

Marilyn Monroe

The ancient Egyptians used reddish-brown mixtures made of henna mixed with their own blood (ewl!) To “stain” their nails. The Egyptians used nail polish to indicate someone’s rank. The brighter red your nails were the higher your rank. Queen Nefertiti had her nails (and toenails) colored ruby red, and Cleopatra was a fan of crimson red (a dark, deep red with a hint of pink). Lower-grade women were only allowed to paint their nails with a pale red color.

It was not until the 19th century (1800-1899) that nail polish was “rediscovered” by us women. At that time they massaged colored powders, creams, or oil into their nails for the color, and then they were “buffed” to make them nice and shiny. They did this buffing with a Chamois Cloth, a very soft and supple piece of sheep leather. Funny detail: at this time, recipes for Nail Paints could simply be found in the cookbooks!
When car paint was invented in 1920, a bell rang at Michelle Manard. She is seen as the inventor of nail polish as we know it today because she was inspired by the ingredients of car paint. Others claim that the Revlon brothers invented nail polish. Anyways, nail polish was picked up by the Flappers who made it a real trend.


When Hollywood stars were later spotted with colored nails, suddenly every woman wanted nail polish and nail polish has been an integral part of our lives ever since. Marilyn Monroe was often spotted with bright red lips and nails and Bette Davis was also a big fan of the color red.

In recent years, many adjustments and innovations have taken place in the nail polish field. Every year new colors come out, different finishes, improved formulas, perfumed nail polish, mood polish, quick-drying lacquer, and so on. A lot is still going on in this area.
Because I am so busy with nail polish I found it really interesting to delve into this. It is nice to know where something actually comes today and how it all used to be. Funny to know that centuries ago women were also so busy with their nails.
In any case, I am happy that everyone can just wear nail polish without the death penalty and that we are not obliged to wear pale colors. I am also happy that we can just buy a bottle of ready-to-use nail polish and not have to fuss with crazy mixtures of our own blood and stuff, yikes! So how many nail polish do you have at home?

Bette Davis

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