Today, there are endless manicure trends with a dedicated industry of artists and nail salons. However, wanting a little color on your nails dates back to ancient times.
Nail polish originated in 3000 B.C. in China, where aristocratic women would soak their nails overnight in a concoction of beeswax, egg whites, gum arabic, and gelatin, adding in dyes from flowers to color their nails. Popular colors were metallic, such as silver and gold, to symbolize power and wealth. From the Chou Dynasty and beyond, women and noblemen began to grow their nails longer, which became a status symbol. In 50 B.C., Cleopatra dyed her nails blood red with plant extracts. She was the first to apply color to just the fingernail instead of her entire hand.
During World War I, the United States got German chemical patents and licensed them to American companies, which led to adding nitrocellulose in nail polish. In 1917, Cutex made the first modern liquid nail polish with nitrocellulose. In the 1930′s, Revlon began to use pigments rather than dyes in nail polish, and made polish readily-available in drug stores. During this era, silver screen actresses helped to popularize manicure trends, such as the French Manicure.
New nail technology arrived in the 1950s, such as nail wraps and using hair spray to dry polish. In 1957, dentist Frederick Slack used aluminum foil and dental acrylic to invent the first acrylic nail extensions.
In the 1960′s and 1970′s, pastel shades became increasingly popular. The 1980′s finally introduced nail art with increased experimentation with color, texture, and print. Manicurists also began filing nails into squares instead of almond shapes. Today, nail care and nail art continue to develop, while also building upon the trends of the past.