Nail polish as we know it today, was invented in the 1920s. But decorating nails goes way back to ancient Egypt, where women and even men used henna to paint their nails. In fact, archaeologists found evidence of this on mummified pharaohs.
In ancient China, nail colour was created with vegetable dyes, sticky egg whites, and gelatine, and was used to indicate class status. The highest-ranked members of society wore metallic colours, followed by red or black for the middle class and the lower classes wore lighter colours.
Before nitrocellulose (the key ingredient in nail paints today) was introduced, women before the 1920s would either manicure their nails with powder or cream polish. It was then buffed onto nails with a cloth which gave their nails a subtle pink finish, which was the only colour they had discovered.
And then during the first World War, America bought chemical patents to nitrocellulose from the Germans which allowed them to make nail polish in shades of pink for the first time. By the end of the 18th century, nail polish had gained prominence, it was only by the 20th century that manicures became popular.
In the 1920s, a trend was born. Women in France began to paint the middle of their nails by leaving the moon and the tips bare and natural (which we see today as well).
In the 1930s, nail art became popular in England when black nail paint made an appearance for the first time. Also, women started getting scenic landscapes painted on their nails.
In the 1950s, the same material that was used to fill in cavities was being used for acrylic nail manicures.
After the evolution of the colour TV, we saw lacquer in shades of pastel and neon throughout the ‘60s which led up to the ‘00s.