The practice of adding color to fingernails appears to have begun with the Japanese and Italians around 3000 B.C. The Chinese used a colored lacquer, made from a combination of gum arabic, egg whites, gelatin and beeswax.
They also used a mixture consisting of mashed rose, orchid and impatien petals combined with alum. This mixture, when applied to nails for a few hours or overnight, leaves a color ranging from pink to red. The Egyptians used reddish-brown stains derived from the henna plant to color their nails as well as the tips of their fingers.
Today, some people still use henna dyes to draw intricate, temporary designs on their hands in a practice known as Mehndi. It is unclear exactly how the practice of coloring nails progressed following these ancient beginnings. By the turn of the 19th century, nails were tinted with scented red oils and polished or buffed with a chamois cloth, rather than simply painted.
Even a century later, women still pursued a polished, rather than painted, look by massaging tinted powders and creams into their nails, then buffing them shiny. One such polishing product sold around this time was Graf鈥檚 Hyglo nail polish paste.
Some women during this period painted their nails using a clear, glossy varnish applied with camel-hair brushes.
When automobile paint was created around 1920, it inspired the introduction of colored nail enamels. Michelle M茅nard is credited with inventing the beginnings of our modern day colored nail lacquers