History Lesson: Nail Polish Throughout the Years

Hi everyone,

For the second installment in the new series, History Lesson, I thought I’d tell you a little more about nail polish and how it came to be.

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Even though a perfect manicure adds a definite mod-feel to an outfit or beauty look, the concept of nail décor dates back to approximately 5,000 BC in India where it’s believed that people used henna to color their fingers. Both the Ancient Chinese and Ancient Egyptians used nail polish as a status symbol for wealth and power. Nefertiti and Cleopatra both wore red nails, which only royalty was allowed to wear. Some historians say that if anyone from the lower classes were to be caught wearing nail polish, they’d be hit with the death sentence. Talk about going to extremes for beauty!

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The idea of the modern manicure came into popular culture in the 1900s. Women began clipping their fingernails with small pairs of scissor, the emery board was invented in 1910, and women’s magazines like Vogue began offering advice on how to care for your nails. But the real coup came in 1920 when nail lacquer was invented by a woman named Michelle Ménard. What she created was made with a similar formula to car paint, so it had that same shiny, glossy look. Then in the 1930s, Revlon tweaked the formula so that the nail polish was opaque and non-streak and so that its color came from pigments rather than dyes.

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After that, manicures remained a popular fashion statement. In the 1930s, the preferred style was the “moon manicure,” where only the middle part of the nail was painted and the cuticles and tips were bare. Then when Technicolor became mainstream in film and television, nail trends followed what was being presented on screen. Rita Hayworth was famous for sporting red nails, so the 1950s they were a definitive trend. Pastels and natural colors defined the 1960s and 1970s, while bright colors such as red (again!), fuchsia, and neons became popular in the 1980s.

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What are your favorite nail polish trends? Share them in the comments section!

<3 Mish

Photo Credits: XTimeline, Little Miss Nail Polish, Art Deco Gal, Attic Paper, IMDB, Flickriver, Madonna Scrapbook

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Words of Wisdom: Beauty Musings
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Words of Wisdom: The World According to Bob Ross

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