Who Invented Nail Polish?
Millions of people all over the world, particularly women, use nail polish on a regular basis. However, it is very rare that someone would take the time to find out who invented nail polish or how the practice of using it began in the first place.
The history of nail polish goes back 5,000 years and today you got a number of choices from liquids to strips that you can paste onto your nails, as shown above. Things have certainly changed a lot.
It is generally believed that the Chinese were the ones who invented nail polish back in 3000 B.C. In those days, they didn’t have the conveniently bottled nail polish products that we can so easily buy from any pharmacy or beauty supplies store nowadays. Instead, those who wanted to use nail polish had to make the solution themselves.
Making nail polish was not necessarily an easy process but back then, people didn’t have much of a choice. The key ingredients used at the time were egg whites, beeswax, gelatin and gum arabic. In addition to these, you would need to add the coloring pigment, and the choice of ingredients would depend on what kind of color you wanted your nails to have.
The most popular colorants used were flower petals, particularly those of roses, impatiens and orchids. These flower petals were mashed and mixed with alum, then added to the basic nail polish mixture. The solution is then applied to the nails and left untouched for several hours until it dries with the desired color.
The Ancient Egyptians
Ancient Egyptians were also known for using nail polish but their mixture was quite different from that of the Chinese. They used henna extracts instead, which had a reddish-brown hue, to color their nails as well as their fingertips. This is the same henna that is very popular in many parts of the world nowadays for making temporary tattoos on the skin.
Traditionally, red and reddish hues were always the most popular color choices for nail polish. However, these are not by any means the only available colors. During the time of the Chou Dynasty in China, both gold and silver nail polish colors were very prevalent especially among royalty. But from the time of the Ming Dynasty onwards, red became the top choice.
Colors signified social status
In Egypt, the color of one’s nail polish signified social status. Queen Nefertiti was known to wear her nails ruby red all the time and Cleopatra preferred a rust red hue. No other woman in the whole of Egypt dared to wear these bright hues of red as these were reserved for royalty. Paler shades of red were permitted for women of lower rank.
Modern day nail polish
These days, nail polish products are available in any hue you can think of. In addition to painting their nails, many people are also taking it a step further by practicing nail art, or the painting of intricate designs onto their nails using different colors of nail polish. Some even add 3D elements to their nails like tiny beads, glitters and other embellishments.
As for who invented nail polish in the form that we know today, records show that it was Michelle Menard, a French makeup artist, who takes credit for the modern day nail polish. It is said that Menard took her inspiration from the enamel used to paint cars, which was very similar to the substance that she came up with for painting nails.