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History of Nail Polish

Happy International Women’s Day! Since this month is also women’s history month, we are tracking the development of nail polish throughout history and the women who drove the movement over time.


To explore more about nail polish history, check out: Ways People of Color have Shaped the Modern Nail Industry and 8 Fun Facts about Nail Polish


Early Uses

Using pigments to decorate fingers and nails was nothing new. But painted nails were typically reserved for the rich and well-endowed to show off status and wealth. Pharaohs in ancient times often dyed nails with henna. The first instance of nail polish that could be applied to nails appeared in imperial China, where wearing nail polish separated the ruling class from the common people.


Evolution of Nail Polish

Before nitrocellulose was introduced around the 1920s to America, women would buff powders onto nails to create a subtle finish. However, the new chemical soon changed the nail polish scene into what we think of as nail polish today. Nitrocellulose is a leavening agent also found in paint and lacquers. It allows nail polish to dry smoothly. The first liquid nail polish was introduced in 1916 and was actually clear.


Nail polish took off from there. More and more colors were introduced. More and more women experimented with different colors. Colors like red, silver, gold, blue, green, black, and more were worn by women everywhere. Nail polish had become a part of the beauty industry and something women considered to be a part of their look.


As more people began using nail polish, more how-to’s, design techniques, nail art looks, and nail care advice emerged. Prominent nail polish companies such as Cutex and Revlon began producing their own lines for women everywhere. Soon, innovations in nails, from acrylic to gel nails to the now popular dip and press-on nails, blossomed everywhere. The industry continues to value convenience, the longevity of wear, and wellness.

Clean and Vegan Nail Polish

The discourse around clean and vegan nail polishes has grown in recent years. Original ingredients in nail polish that had made the formulation either smoother, more durable, or quick-drying were found to be damaging to nails. Perhaps not surprising, considering the original inspiration for nail polish came from automobile paint. Luckily, there are now many great companies out there, large and small, that offer nail polishes free of damaging chemicals. Indie nail polish brands such as DEMIblue have emerged to also participate in this vibrant and flourishing industry.

Now there are so much variety and choice in the nail polish world. You can decorate your nails however you’d like!

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