Americans are in love with nail polish, manicures, and pedicures. We fork over anywhere from $15 to $35 for our favorite color, design, and style weekly. For many women getting a weekly manicure or pedicure is a status symbol.
Our love affair with getting our nails done however, is not a new phenomenon. Nail polish originated in China back to 3000 BC and was initially used by the ruling class to distinguish themselves from the general population. There are reports of several common people who were caught with nail polish being publicly executed. In 600 BC during the Zhou Dynasty, the preferred colors were silver and gold, a symbol of power and wealth, but red and black eventually replaced these as the royal's favorite shades. During the Ming Dynasty, nail polish was made from beeswax, egg whites, gelatin, vegetable dyes, and gum Arabic.
From China, nail polish spread through India, the Middle East, and northern Africa, where it enjoyed immense popularity. In Egypt, pale colors were worn by commoners, while high society chose red to adorn their nails. After the fall of the Roman empire, nail polish disappeared from European fashion and did not reappear until the Renaissance, when new trade connections were established with the Middle East and India. By the 9th century, nails were tinted with scented red oils, polished or buffed.
As the centuries progressed, nail polish and manicures became more common place, first in France in the late 18th century. By the 19th and early 20th centuries, people sought a polished, rather than painted look by massaging tinted powders and creams into their nails, buffing them until they were shiny. One polishing product that was sold during this time was Graf's Hyglo nail polish paste.
With the creation of automobile paint, Cutex produced the first modern nail polish in 1917. In 1932 the Charles Revson Company, later Revlon, produced their first nail polish. Once the technique was refined, it was often used in place of gloves to cover up grime and dirt underneath finger and toenails.
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