Few know that coloring one’s nails is one of the most ancient fashions in history, so why not making a blog post out of it? Keep reading to discover about the history of nail polish!Image of Chinese cosmetics ritual, including tinted nails

The oldest record of colored nails is circa 3200 BCE, when Babylonian warriors would stain their nails with kohl to intimidate their enemies. Then, around 3000 BCE, wealthy Chinese women started using mixtures including beeswax and gelatin, tinted with crushed flowers to paint their nails.

Traditional Indian nails dyed with henna

Painting one’s nails was also a trend among Egyptian Pharaohs, who used bright red hues to show off their rank. Such bold colors faded out of fashion in the western world until the Renaissance, because of the modesty imposed by Middle Ages. In India on the other hand, nail coloring remained popular thorough the centuries.

After the renaissance, a stronger and stronger emphasis was placed on beauty and cosmetics, to enhance desirable traits like pale skin and rosy cheeks. Nails were buffed and polished (like you may polish silver or wood) so that they were extra shiny. In the 18th century color finally came back. In Versailles and all thorough Victorian age, soft pink was the favored shade.Nail Polish Ad, ca. 1926

The roaring ’20s brought bright hues back. Why? Because of luxury… cars! French cosmetologist Michelle Menard adapted the same lacquer used on cars to be used on nails, making a little piece of that luxury available to the masses. An instant success!

Even if the colors available nowadays are up to millions, red is still the most iconic and classic shade for nail polish. A symbol of seductiveness, playfulness and style that pairs perfectly with the equally iconic red lips.

Nail Polish Ad, ca. 1935

The history of fashion is always intriguing, something as simple as nail polish for example can tell so much about a certain historical period and a certain culture and, well, I don’t know if I’m the only one here but I have always liked history and learning about the way the tools and accessories we use everyday changed.

I hope this post was as interesting for you as it was for me and that you were able to learn something you didn’t know before. If you are interested in the history of fashion and cosmetics in general, go check, an amazing blog with pictures of historical clothes and accessories that features one different Fashion Fact each Friday.

All images on this post were taken from