The Chinese are often credited with inventing nail polish. 5,000 years ago women soaked their nails in egg whites, gelatin and beeswax and used dyes from rose petals to create shiny nails tinted pink. They wore highly decorated nail guards made from hammered brass sheets inlaid with precious stones which indicated status and wealth. If you were of a low class, working in the fields then it would have been impossible to maintain glossy 5cm nails.
The Incas in the 15th and 16th centuries used to decorate their nailsl by painting eagles on them.
Red nails have been fairly constant through the ages. Members of the Ming Dynasty sported crimson red nails and Cleopatra was famed for her long red nails. The hype surrounding the launch of 'Chanel Rouge Noir' caused it to sell out in 24 hours when it was launched. it is still Chanel's best selling product.
The French can be credited with introducing glossy nail polish in the 1920s using car paint! That changed in 1932 with the launch of what we now call nail polish by Revlon. This introudced nail polish to the masses. The popularity of nail colour continued through the decades with it considered to be an affordable luxury. Today, nail art is nto an unusual sight, most mainstream salons offer it.
In the 1980s a kaleidoscope of colours became available from neon yellows to shocking pinks. This gave way to the more muted 90s when more traditional colours made a come back although fans of grunge were known to colour their nails with sharpie markers.
Cue the 2000s and the invention of the long lasting gel nail polish. There has been an unprecedented interest in nail art from adhesives to acrylic, from rhinestones to hand painting. A never before seen level of intricacy. What will we be seeing next?