Today artificial nails are used purely for cosmetic reasons. They are used to give a visually pleasing look and to make women feel more feminine and desirable. However you may not know that artificial nails and nail art have a very rich history. Women have been wearing nail extensions since the Egyptian times. Egyptian women used them as a sign of wealth and status. Nail extensions were made from bone, ivory, and gold. Women in the Far East even grew their nails as long as possible to symbolized status. The idea was that you had to be of high social status to be able to keep nails so long since one could not do much or any manual labor with them even in regards to taking care of yourself (they often had workers for those tasks).
When our modern artificial nails were originally created, they were created to protect the nail and to give a more visually appealing look to the hands. Dental professionals created artificial nails by mixing materials together to create something that could be placed over the teeth to rebuild them and make them stronger. By mixing Polymers and Monomers a material was created that would successfully make the teeth stronger. It was soon realized that this material could also be used to make nails stronger too. This was discovered by a dentist, who broke his fingernail at work, and used the mixed as realistic-looking temporary replacement.
The mixture was applied over the natural nail, it extended past the nail onto a support and then left to set before being sculptured into shape. The material dried extremely hard and dental drills were often needed to help to sculpt the artificial nail in to shape. This made it very time consuming and expensive. As time evolved artificial nails were created using different materials to make them easier to sculpt and cheaper to purchase. Artificial nails today are commonly in the form of plastic. This makes them inexpensive to purchase and easier to sculpt into different shapes and sizes. They are also easy to paint and more comfortable to wear.
Examples of nail art and coloring date back 3000 years Before Christ. Ancient Chinese civilizations used enamel on their fingers. They applied the substance and let it to sit for several hours. This resulted in a pink finish on their nails. The Indians throughout the Middle East also practiced nail art in a similar period using a dye derived from the Henna paint, which sometimes indicated social significance. In Egypt the color of ladies nails were used to identify what class in society you were in. The high class wore deep shades of red and lower classes wore paler shades. The ancient Inca civilization was known for painting images, such as eagles, on their fingertips.
Advances throughout the nineteenth century led to the development of colored oils, tinted powders and buffing for nails. But the real innovation in nail polish came in the 20’s and 30’s with the rise cars and movies in America. The glossy paint used for automobiles was modified for use on the fingernails.
Next the Revson brothers invented a new kind of nail enamel and their creation of their company Revlon. Their third partner in business was Charles Lachman who inspired the “L” in the middle of the company’s name. In their new formula they used of pigments instead of dyes. This allowed for new colors and designs to quickly be altered. The new formula instantly made Revlon an industry leader by 1940’s and an industry was born.