Nail art is a creative way to paint, decorate, enhance, and embellish nails. It is a type of artwork that can be done on fingernails and toenails, usually after manicures or pedicures. Manicures and pedicures are beauty treatments that trim, shape, and polish the nails. Often, these procedures remove the cuticles and soften the skin around the nails. Types of manicures can vary from polish on natural nails to dipping powder and acrylic nails.
The exact origin of nail treatments is unclear, since it appears to have originated in different parts of the world around the same time. In ancient Egypt, from 5000 to 3000 BC, women would dye their nails with henna to indicate social status and seductiveness. Women of the lower class wore pastel and neutral shades, while the upper classes wore deep, bright shades. In Babylonia, 3200 BC, men, not women, painted their nails with black and green kohl, an ancient cosmetic. To prepare for war, warriors of Babylon spent hours having their nails prepared, hair curled, and other similar beauty treatments. As in ancient Egypt, nail color indicated one’s status, black for noblemen and green for the common man. Around the same time, 3000 BC, the first nail polish originated in ancient China. It was made from beeswax, egg whites, gelatin, vegetable dyes, and gum arabic. Chinese dipped their nails in this mixture for several hours or left it on to dry. Colors ranged from pink to red, depending on the mixture of the ingredients. During the Zhou Dynasty, 600 BC, royalty used this simple nail polish with gold and silver dust on their nails to show their social status.
In the early 1800s, the modern manicure developed with the invention of the orange stick, a thin wooden stick with one pointy end, usually made from orange wood. It was invented in 1830, by Dr. Sitts, a European podiatrist, who adapted a dental tool for manicure purposes. Previous to this invention, people used acid, a metal rod, and scissors to shape and trim the nails. In 1892, Dr. Sitts’ niece invented a nail-care line for women of any social class, which eventually reached United States salons. Prior to then, women had short, almond-shaped nails and often used oils for additional shine or tint. Not long after, in 1907, the first liquid nail polish was invented, although it was colorless. Soon thereafter, it was available in variety of different colors. In 1925, the lunar manicure (today known as the half-moon manicure) was seen everywhere. Reds and pinks were used on the nail bed, while avoiding the area around the cuticles. Then again in 1970s, the natural look was back in fashion and preferred by many women, but only for a short time. The French manicure style was created in Paris in 1976 by Jeff Pink, who was the founder of the Los Angeles-based cosmetic company ORLY. Nail painting came back in vogue in the 1980s and since then has been extremely popular.