History of Nail Art

Wall painting from 2330 BC found in a tomb shows people with painted nails

Nail art is a creative way to decorate, paint, embellish, and enhance nails. It is a kind of artwork that can be done on toenails and fingernails, normally after pedicures or manicures. Pedicures and manicures are beauty treatments that shape, trim and polish the nails. Often, these techniques eliminate the cuticles and melt the skin around the nails. Different kinds of manicures can vary from the polish on natural nails to acrylic nails and dipping powder.

History of Nail Art

The precise origin of nail treatments is unclear since it seems to have begun in various parts of the world around the same time (surprisingly). In ancient Egypt, from 5000 BCE to 3000 BCE, ladies would dye their nails with henna to show seductiveness and social status. Women of the lower class wore neutral and pastel shades, while the upper classes wore bright, deep shades. In Babylonia, 3200 BCE, men, not women, painted their nails with green and black kohl, an ancient cosmetic native to Babylonia. Babylon warriors spent hours having their hair curled, nails prepared, and other similar beauty treatments to prepare for war. As in old Egypt, nail color showed one’s status, black/brown for noblemen and green or maybe yellow for the commoner. Around the same time, 3000 BCE, the first nail polish began in ancient China. Ancient Chinese men made it from egg whites, beeswax, vegetable dyes, gelatin, and gum arabic. Chinese washed their nails in this blend for several hours or left it on to dry overnight. Colors ranged from red to pink, depending on the compound of the ingredients. During the famous Zhou Dynasty, 600 BCE, royalty used this simplistic nail polish with silver and gold dust on their nails to flaunt their social status.

The Ming dynasty (1368 CE-1644 CE) was known for incredibly long nails. Sometimes, these nails were shielded by jewel- and gold-encrusted nail guards. Attendants performed personal chores for the royals so their nails did become damaged or break. Empress Dowager Cixi of China, who ruled from 1835 CE to 1908 CE, was known for her extravagant nails. Many pictures show the empress with 6-inch-long gold guards guarding her long nails. All of those, as mentioned above, did not use nail art as it is widely known today; only dyed, stained, or dusted the toenails and fingernails. The first actual work of nail art was from the short-lived Inca Empire (1438 CE-1533 CE), which was one of the largest empires in South America. Incas adorned their nails by painting bald eagles on them. In 1770, humans created the first fancy silver and gold manicure sets. French King Louis XVI, who ruled from 1774 CE until his deposition in 1792 CE, always had his nails properly taken care by using these luxurious sets.

In the early 1800s, the contemporary manicure evolved with the orange stick’s invention, a thin wooden stick with one pointy end, normally made from orange wood. It was invented in 1830 CE by Dr. Sitts, a European podiatrist who picked a dental tool for manicure purposes. Before this invention, people used a metal rod, acid, and scissors to trim and shape the nails. In 1892 CE, Dr. Sitts’ niece created a nail-care line for women of any social class, which ultimately reached United States salons. Before then, girls had short, almond-shaped nails and often used essential oils for tint or additional shine. In 1907 CE, the first liquid nail polish was created, although it was colorless. Soon after that, it was available in a different blend of different colors. In 1925 CE, humans saw the lunar manicure (today, it is known as the half-moon manicure) everywhere. Pinks and reds were used on the nail bed while avoiding the area around the cuticles. In the 1970 CE, the natural look was back in fashion and fancied by many girls, but only for a short time. The French manicure technique was created in Paris in 1976 CE by Jeff Pink, who was the originator of the Los Angeles-based cosmetic company, a famous retreat, ORLY. Nail painting returns back in vogue in the mid-1980s and since then has been notably popular.

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