The History of Nail Polish

It may be safe to say that magnetic nail polish didn’t exist thousands of years ago. But rudimentary nail polish did in fact exist thousands of years ago. Technology and innovations in the nail industry have changed drastically over the years but what’s the history of nail polish? Who invented nail polish? Did they paint their nails hot pink with polka dots? Doubtful, but how nail polish become part of our world, may surprise you!

An Exploration of the History of Nail Polish

3200-3000 B.C.E.

The history of nail polish started in ancient Babylonia around 3200 B.C.E. Sources say males used kohl, an ancient cosmetic made from lead sulfide and other ingredients, as nail polish. It is black in color so the high class wore it to separate themselves from the lower class, who wore green.

According to sources, nail polish was used in 3000 B.C.E. in China. As the history of nail polish goes, it was used as a way to differentiate the upper class from the general population. Silver and gold were the main colors used as they symbolized power and wealth.

At that time, nail polish was made out of a mixture of egg whites, Arabic gum and beeswax. They would soak their fingernails in the mixture until they reached their desired color.

Around the same time in India and Egypt, they would use henna to color their nails. All classes of people were allowed to wear it but the upper class wore different colors from the lower class.

The 1800s and Beyond

In Britain, around the 1800s, simple nails were in. Just a light red tint and buffing of the nails were all women did. In the 20s, The Moon Manicure was popular in France and in the 40s and 50s, red nails hit Hollywood! The French manicure was first seen in the 70s, and today, intricate nail art is all the rage.

Who Invented Nail Polish?

But who was the mastermind behind the invention of nail polish? Well we probably owe it to four people (over the years, there has been dispute on who was the ultimate inventor). In the 1920s, Michelle Menard, a makeup artist, came up with a substance very similar to enamel used to paint cars, which was supposedly where her inspiration came from. Charles Revson, his brother Martin Revson and a chemist, Charles Lachman, formed a company, the infamous Revlon. Michelle supposedly worked for Revlon and together, they created nail polish.

The history of nail polish goes back centuries but the modern-day nail industry has completely evolved since then. If only they could see us now! Too bad the people from 3000 B.C.E. weren’t able to experience the luxuriousness of a mani-pedi!