When Was Nail Polish Invented? – Exploring Its Colorful Past

Nail polish is not just how nails are painted. Nail polish is now a mode of expression! Expressing moods, creativity, and emotions – nail Polish is an artistic canvas for our feelings.

when was nail polish invented

Do you ever wonder how it came into existence? When was nail polish invented? Who brought on the trend? How men wearing nail polish was normalized? Nail polish is now an everyday thing. Honestly, it is impossible to imagine our lives without it. They would feel incomplete and colorless, quite literally.

The history of nail polish and its popularity is a fairly interesting one. If you’re like me and curious to explore the birth of this beauty, keep reading this post! I promise you will discover multiple exciting facts about when nail polish was invented.

When Was Nail Polish Invented? – The Colorful History of Nail Polish!

It is believed that nail polish was invented almost 5,000 years ago. There is an extensive range of topics to explore in the history of nail polish. Nail polish is known to be born in India or China. Initially, nail polish was called ‘nail dye.’ No, this is not a joke. Early nail polish was worn as a status symbol that indicated wealth and power.

when was nail polish invented

Initially, nail polish was made using natural ingredients like egg whites, gelatin, vegetable dyes (roses and orchids too), and beeswax. This nail polish (then called nail stain) was left to be dried on the nails for a bizarre number of hours. The color would not be as opaque, rather just a stain.

As for shades, the higher, richer families wore blacks and reds, while the lower-income groups wore lighter shades like nudes. When you think of this from this age-old perspective, you can understand how red manicures still remain a timeless classic! The lower class in China received death sentences for wearing nail polish.

Moreover, nail polish colors like gold and silver, and other metallic shades were applied only by the royals. These nail techniques then traveled to Africa and Middle Eastern countries. Cleopatra, the Queen of the Kingdom of Egypt, used to use plant extracts to paint her nails.

You guessed it right! We use similar plant extracts today as henna. In addition to Cleopatra, other Pharaohs and women in Indian and African countries made use of henna to add color to their nails.

The European population was not aware of the existence of nail polish until around the late 1800s. At the beginning of the 19th century, one of the first nail salons opened up in Paris. But even at this time, liquid nail polish had not been produced. People still used dyes and henna that took over one hour to dry. Additionally, these were chipped off within a few days of application.

Later in 1916, colorless, transparent nail polish was produced. It was inspired by automobile paint. During the First World War, the US Government seized chemical patents from Germany. The Charles Revson company (later renamed Revlon) released the first nail polish two years after the First World War broke out.

Despite being the star player in the cosmetics industry, Revlon faced issues as the strong chemicals present in their nail lacquer seemed to harm consumers’ nails. Here’s a fun fact you probably did not know. In 3200 BC, males in Babylon applied kohl to their nails before they went into battle.

Who Invented Nail Polish?

As discussed in the section above, we now know that regular nail polish was invented in the 19th century. But that’s not all. Let’s look at who invented nail polish, how different types of nail polish came into existence, and other fun facts.

when was nail polish invented

The man behind beautifying our nails with colors is none other than a chemist from Chicago named Northam Warren. Originally in the brokerage business, Warren shifted swiftly to creating a liquid cuticle remover called Cutex.

Looking at the massive success of Cutex, Warren went ahead and enhanced his range of nail care products. Little did he know that his liquid polishes would be another hit among the crowds.

It was in the year 1916 when he finally took the plunge and curated the colorless liquid nail polish. After regular and acrylic nail polish, a dentist named Fred Slack invented gel nail polish. Fast forward to gel nail polishes! Gel nail polish was introduced to us in the year 2009.

UV gel nail polishes come in bottles with brushes and are slightly different from regular nail polish. One day at work, Dr. Slack broke his nail. To fix this, he used some dental acrylic and created a replacement for the broken nail. And this is how gel nails were invented! This shows that originally, gel nails were invented in the 1980s but were not a huge success, until recent years.

The Birth of Modern Nail Polish!

    After regular colorless nail polish, modern nail techniques like gel nail polish, acrylic nails, dip nails, and more came into existence. Today we have instant and convenient options like press-on nails and quick or instant-drying nail polish too!

    when was nail polish invented

    Jeff Pink, the American makeup artist, played a significant role in the classic French manicure. Pink was looking for a versatile nail design that would not need to be changed with every costume change. In 1975, the founder of Orly created the French manicure. Debuted on multiple runways in Paris, it is still a cult favorite.

    This was about fashion and nail art. Now let’s dive into the nail color trends over time.

    Essie Weingarten is considered one of the key nail polish origins. Her range gained popularity in 1983 with a celebrity endorsement. Once Joan Rivers spoke of her preferred Essie nail polish, Essie became a household name.

    The Role of the Fashion Industry in Popularizing Nail Polish!

    Nail polish, as we know, has become a significant part of self-care and grooming. Nail art is on the rise in the corporate as well as the fashion industry. This is because those in the beauty industry are persistently feeding into nail polishes as an industry. The color and texture-seeking consumers have multiple innovations to be witnessed.

    The nail polish industry is projected to reach 27 billion dollars in the next decade. This is expected as fashion trends are ever changing and this evolution is on the rise. Not just in bold and vibrant shades but also in matte finishes, glitter nails are loved globally.

    Furthermore, studies show an increased demand for non-toxic, eco-friendly formulations of nail lacquer. Consumers are more focused on the packaging and its impacts on the planet. With celebrity endorsements, ever-changing trends, convenience of online shopping, the nail polish market will only expand.

    Iconic Nail Polish Colors Through the Decades!

      It started with nail care evolution and gradually drifted into the development of modern nail polish. From colorless nail polish to intricate designs with henna, the timeless reds to gel nail polish and press-on nails, we have seen endless nail art styles come, go, and stay.

      when was nail polish invented

      Cutex, the nail care brand, was launched in 1911. Exactly 14 years later, Cutex created liquid nail polishes. Then, a makeup artist Michelle Menard wanted glossy nails. She took inspiration from the automobile liquid but eventually perfected the concoction as a top coat. It was launched in 1932 under Revlon.

      In 1983, Essie’s Jelly Apple was a huge success. Another red by the brand Chanel was featured in the movie Pulp Fiction in 1994. Ever since this nail polish shade has gone out of stock almost instantly.

      These were the most-loved nail polishes throughout the decades. Personally, I second this! Brands like OPI, Revlon, Sally Hansen, and Essie are the ones I swear by. Not only are the pigments exceptional, but the variety and overall quality never fail to impress.

      The Influence of Pop Culture!

      To no one’s surprise, nail polish has had a lasting impact on pop culture, thanks to the super influential artists. Rap artist A$AP Rocky is of the opinion that men should feel comfortable enough expressing themselves via nail polish and nail art without feeling ‘feminine’.

      During the rock n roll days, ‘man’ icures were everywhere. Davie Bowie had his signature teal nails that struck a bold contrast against his flamed hair. We have also seen Steven Tyler rocking nail art with graphic black stripes.

      In the 90s, Kurt Cobain featured chipped nail polish for the grunge vibe. Now, in recent times, we see rapper Bad Bunny prancing around with the most attractively bizarre nail art. In his opinion, people should just do what makes them happy. The iconic One Direction boy Harry Styles rocked a raven-colored manicure during the 2019 Met Gala.

      Nail Polish Today: Trends and Innovations!

      Here is a list of the current nail trends and most popular nail polish colors and nail art styles in 2024. PS – Many of them are my favorites!

      when was nail polish invented

      Be it a new shape or a new color, the excitement of getting your nails done is unmatched. French glass nails are all the rage right now. Just like the classic French manicure, this is an exquisite style. Minimal nude nails are here to stay.

      Celebrities like Selena Gomez, Jennifer Lopez were seen rocking this and it made a mark in the nail polish history timeline. Inspired by a super comfortable fabric, we have velvet nails. Negative space nails have been around for a few years, but they are still as intriguing as ever.

      Long red nails have made a comeback from the Essie days. Chrome nails are another versatile nail art trend. Milky white nails are another trend that is here to stay.

      When Was Nail Polish Invented? – FAQs

      Did nail polish exist in the 1920s?

      Yes, nail polish existed in the 1920s. Michelle Menard partnered with Charles Revson and the brand Revlon came into existence. Revlon initially made liquids used to paint cars, and they had a thought that the same could be used for nails as well.

      When was black nail polish invented?

      Cleopatra did paint her nails a deep shade using henna. However, black nail polish came into existence only in the 18th century. It became a popular power statement among women. Though black nail polish was popularized later in the 1930s.

      What was the first color of nail polish?

      The first nail polish was colorless. After this, in the 600 BCE, nail polish was a mode of indicating royalty. Hence, they used silver and gold which is why historians think that these metallic shades were the first nail polish colors.

      When did people start painting their nails?

      While nail polish was invented 5000 years ago, people started painting their nails around 3000 BCE. Those in the Zhou dynasty preferred gold and silver nails. Eventually, these royal colors were replaced with power signifying shades like red and black.

      Wrapping up:

      This concludes everything you need to know about the invention of nail polish, nail beauty throughout history, and nail care evolution. We started by learning about nail polish origins and glided into who marketed the first nail polish.

      In my opinion, knowing who created nail polishes and the development of modern nail polish has made me fall in love with nail art and manicure even deeper. It was insanely exciting for me to read, research, and learn about nail polish in different eras, how fashion and nail art are connected.

      Without a doubt, the most exciting was learning when gel nail polish was invented. In addition to this, I loved reading about the formation of acrylic nails. Isn’t it funny, how a dentist developed this?

      These fun facts are going to keep me forever curious to learn more. Did you enjoy reading the birth of nail polishing as much as I did?


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