Nail Trends

Nail Fashions Change

From points to ovals to squares to anything goes, manufacturers borrow from the dental, plastics, and prosthetics industries

1920- Screen stars are known for a total look that is almost childlike, with short hair and slender figures. Nails are still unpolished, but soon the development of automobile paint provides the basis for fingernail paint.

1921- The National Hairdressers Association (later to become the National Hairdressers and Cosmetologists Association, then the National Cosmetology Association) is formed.

1922- Beauty Culture magazine is published in New York, N.Y.

1924- The Association of Accredited Cosmetology Schools (AACS) is founded. It’s a non-profit organization created to bring together all facets of the cosmetology industry, and to further education in cosmetology arts and sciences.

1925- Nail polish enters the market in a sheer rosy red shade and is applied only to the center of the nail. The moon and the free edge are left colorless. The mid-twenties and thirties are the age of what Beatrice Kaye, manicurist at MGM, calls the “moon manicure.” The cuticles are cut, the free edges filed into points, and polish applied to the nail but not to the moon. Sometimes the tip is left uncovered as well. However, etiquette books of the time warn women against painting their nails with “garish color.” Max Factor produces Max Factor’s Supreme Nail Polish, a metal pot of beige-colored powder that’s sprinkled on the nails and buffed with a chamois buffer. It gives nails shine and some tint.

1927- Max Factor introduces Society Nail Tint, a small porcelain pot containing rose-colored cream. Applied to the nail and buffed, it gives a natural rose color. Society Nail White also hits the market. It’s a tube of chalky white liquid that’s applied under nail tips and left to dry. The end result resembles the modern French manicure. Max factor also offers cuticle cream and cuticle remover.









1800- Almond-shaped nails, short and slightly pointed, are the ideal. Nails are sometimes tinted with scented red oil and buffed with a chamois cloth.

1830- In Europe, a foot doctor named Sitts develops the orangewood stick, adapted from a dental tool, for nails. Before this invention, metal tools, acid, and scissors were used to manicure nails.

1879- The trade magazine American Hairdresser is published in the United States.

1892- Dr. Sitts’ niece brings nail care to women, and the Sitts method reaches the United States. Salons spread and cater to women of different incomes.

1900- Women clip their nails with metal scissors and file their nails with metal files. Tinted creams or powders are massaged into the nails to create shine. A glossy nail varnish is available and is applied with a camel-hair brush, but it wears off in a day.

1904- The Barber Supply Dealers Association of America, which becomes the Barber and Beauty Supply Institute in 1921, holds its first convention at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Mo., at which manufacturers and distributors meet and develop business relationships.

1907- Fromm Industries is founded as Illinois Razor Strop Company.

1910- Flowery Manicure Products is established around 1910 in New York City. The company manufacturers metal nail files and invents and introduces the emery board (garnet abrasive on a wood center).

1914- Anna Kindred of North Dakota files a patent for a fingernail shield, a covering for the nails designed to protect them from discolouring while the wearer works with chemicals or other discolouring agents.

Wilde, the parent company of Light Concept Nails, is formed as a dental supply company.

1917- “Don’t cut the cuticle!” warns a November 1917 Vogue ad. Instead, suggests Dr. W.G. Korony in Louisville, Ky., “Employ the Simplex Method of Home Manicuring –requires no tools.” The Simplex Sample Manicuring Outfit includes “Cuticle Remover, Nail Polish, Nail Enamel, Nail Whitener, Orange Stick, Emery Board, also Booklet of Home Manicuring Lessons.”

Women buff their nails with cake, paste, or powder. One formulation is Hyglo Nail Polish, claimed to be brilliant, lasting, and waterproof.

Cutex is busy in the nail department, offering Cuticle Remover, Nail White, Nail Polish (in cake, paste, powder, liquid, or stick form; the color is pink), and Cuticle Comfort. A complete manicure set can be ordered for 14c.

For the New York woman disinclined to do her own nails at home, Miss Frederick at 500 Fifth Avenue “Specializes in Manicuring,” according to a Vogue Shoppers’& Buyers’Guide.

1918- Morris-Flamingo, a supplier of beauty and barber products, opens for business as E. Morris Manufacturing Company in Detroit, manufacturing razor strops.

1929- Polish with perfume is introduced, but its popularity is short-lived.

1930- Ladies of the silver screen bring polish into vogue. The overall look is one of cool sophistication and elegant, immaculate grooming. The moon manicure thrives in various tints of red.

Gena Laboaratories premiers its polish remover, Warm-O-Lotion, cuticle oil, and cuticle remover.

1932- Charles Revson, with his brother and chemist Joseph Revson, and Charles Lachman, creates an opaque, non-streaking nail polish based on pigments rather than dyes, making a variety of colors available. Revlon is created; in the thirties, the company invents the fashion of matching lip and nail color.

1934- Anna Hamburg of California is granted a patent for an artificial nail colored and that can be applied and removed easily without damage to the natural nail.

Maxwell Lappe, a dentist in Chicago, creates Nu Nails, an artificial fingernail for nail biters.

Max Factor’s Liquid Nail Enamel is introduced and is similar to nail polishes of today. The company uses a limited number of pigments, which means its enamel is available only in red, dark red, vermillion, and crimson. The fashion is to cover the entire nail with polish.

1935- Eugene Rohrbach of New jersey patents a nail covering that can be applied to the nail without glue. It is slipped over and under the nail’s free edge.

1936- A finishing stencil, designed to be placed on top of the fingernail to ensure a consistent coat of polish, is patented by Stella O’Donnell of New York.

1937- A patent for a method using tips to repair and lengthen the nails is granted to Harriet Fligenbaum of Minnesota.

1938- Manicures cost from 25c to $3.50, depending on whether or not polish is applied. Base coat is created, which in turn leads to the entire nail being polished. Toenails receive attention, too—by 1938, they’re getting a coat of polish along with the fingernails.

1940- Rita Hayworth’s long, red nails bring a new shape to nail fashions. Hers are longer than previously worn, more oval than pointed, and fully covered with red polish. The look is glamorous, that of a worldly seductress.

During the first half of the twentieth century, men who frequent barbershops often receive a manicure as well as a haircut, shave, and shoeshine. For the women, there are bright colors such as Schoolhouse Red Nail Polish from Elizabeth Arden, 75c a bottle. (Rouge and lipstick are tinted to match.) Clear polish brushed over and under nail enamel extends the life of the manicure.

Frank Nolon of New York patents an appliqué for nail designs. Other patents issued in 1940 include manicure shields, cuticle guards, and protective nail coverings. Manicure shields allow the manicurist to paint a client’s nails while she sits under the hair dryer without the heat reaching the fingertips and running the manicure.

In the days before there were fibreglass or silk wraps, there were teabags, coffee filters, and Duco cement, says Beatrice Kaye. Donna Kohl of Boise, Idaho, a nail technician for 16 years, says cigarette and perm papers and airplane glue were used for wraps.

1942- The Charles G. Spilo Company offers hair products and a small selection of nail products.

1943- The Long Beach Hairdressers’ Guild holds its first show.

1945- M.A Kraft patents a stand-up easel with a hole cut in the bottom for the client’s hand. This allows the manicurist to work on the client’s hand, protected from the hair dryer’s heat.

Max Factor offers Satin Smooth Nail Polish to consumers. An improvement upon its earlier Liquid Nail Enamel, the polish is available in reds, pinks, and other colors.

1947- Menda Scientific Products introduces its Babytime Dispenser for baby oil. By 1982, the company enters the beauty market, and obtains a patent on its Purity Protector acrylic liquid dispenser in 1986.

1948- Noreen Reho of Missouri creates a manicure apparatus that contains and supports the instruments used in manicuring.

1950- Many more nail colors come on the scene and with them, a more delicate looking nail. Nails go from pointed and dark to oval and pale. Eyes are emphasized, with perhaps less attention paid to lips and nails.

There’s an explosion of nail polish colors, including Sunny Side Up, a cream red from Revlon. A box containing nail polish, lipstick, and lip liner costs $1.60 plus tax, according to a Vogue ad.

Norma Keown of Philadelphia, Pa., who has been in the beauty industry for 37 years, describes her nail care classes at a state school in the 1950: “They taught us basic manicuring and you had too polish leaving the moons and hairline tip free. We made the hairline tip by putting polish on the nail, then taking our thumbs and running them across the tip of the polished nail to remove a hairline of polish. A manicure consisted of a soak, pushing back the cuticles with a metal cuticle pusher, filing, and polish. Revlon had a student kit with a few basic materials. Most manicurists worked in barber shops, not beauty salons. Your hairdresser did your nails.”

In the fifties, the invention of aerosol hair spray is borrowed by the nail industry to create spray-on nail polish dryers.

Juliette Marglen markets a wrap material resembling a match-book with the wrap material in sheets, says Beatrice Kaye. Only the top third of the nail is covered. Having the nails wrapped in this way referred to as a “Juliette” manicure.

1956- Helen Gourley, a nail technician who attended beauty school in 1956, says school didn’t teach much about doing nails. A full course costs $80, but because Gourley is the first to sign up, her tuition is nearly halved to $42.50. (Today’s cost is $1,500.) Going from school to work in a barbershop, Gourley learns to do nails by practicing and by learning from travelling clients who frequent other salons. One client gives her an electric machine that shapes and files the nails and removes the cuticle. Another introduces her to the “glass” manicure to remove ridges from the nails. For a glass manicure, the nail technician lightly scrapes the nail with a chip of glass from a broken light bulb to remove ridges. Gourley says that in a few weeks, her clients have no ridges.

1957- Excelta Corp. Begins importing tweezers and wire cutters for the electronic assembly industry under the name Swiss American Precision Imports, later under the name Erem. The Danielle Division is formed in 1989 and introduces precision nippers, tweezers, and implements for the nail industry.

Thomas Slack is issued a patent for a “platform” that fits around the nail edge, designed to help manicurists apply extensions to the natural nail. Made of foil, it is used to apply the first acrylic for nails, called Pattinail, which is manufactured in the fifties by the Slack family. The product is named after patricia Still, who developed and demonstrated the technique in department stores.

1959- Max Factor’s Nail Enamel is introduced.

1960- The look for a nail is pale. Coral is the rage, but nearly every color under the sun is used by somebody. False nails make their entrance, and they’re longer than ever. Silk and linen wraps are found to be stronger than paper wraps. Manicures cost around $7 to $12.

In the sixties, Mona Nail, a Dallas company, manufactures one of the early acrylic systems available for nails.

Melvco is founded by a professional manicurist who develops the company’s Nail Magic, a nail strengthener and conditioner.

1962- WR Medical introduces its Therabath and wintergreen Theraffin.

1970- It’s the age of the artificial nail. Acrylic nails look and feel real, but are much stronger. The square nail evolves. The salon is the place to get your nails made to order. By 1978, nails are very long and are worn mainly by the rich. Artificial nails that cover the entire nail bed are available, including the Eye-Lure Nails brand. These nails are inserted under a lifted cuticle to make them look as if they grow out of the finger. Glue holds them on, but not for long---these can be worn just for special occasions, no longer, because any contact with water dissolves the glue. While some women in the United States ejoy artificial extensions, they are still unthought-of for many.

C.R Manufacturing Company goes into business.

International Beauty Distributors is founded and starts with a diverse group of beauty products, including eyelashes, nail guards, and wigs. The company changes its name to International Beauty Design in 1990.

1971- SuperNail is founded and provides No Lite Gel, Stick It Nail Glue, and Electra Nail.

1972- In the early seventies, acrylics, well-known on the West Coast, are brand new to the Midwest. Phyllis Monier, a Chicago pioneer, by this time has brought her Nike line of acrylic powder and liquid to Chicago, and attracts many students from the Midwest to her classes, according to former student Jo Livingston. Classes are limited to 10 students, and compared with today’s acrylic products, the dental acrylics have a bad smell and are difficult to work with.

Antoine de Paris opens for business, offering hair shears and cuticle nippers. GG’s Nail Systems is founded and starts with linen and fibreglass wraps.

1973- IBD develops the first adhesive especially for fingernails.

Wilde-Light Concept Nails develops an acrylester resin that is cured by UVA light. In 1985, the material is introduced to the European market as Light Concept Nails.

1974- Nail technician Jo Livingston remembers applying full sets of Nike nails for $25 a set at the Midwest Beauty Show. These “nail sculpturists” use paper forms, which are difficult to work with.

Brand Nails starts up business under the name Magic Sculptura, selling powder and liquid for sculptured nails; IBD creates nail tips for professional nail technicians; and Lee Pharmaceuticals begins testing its design for artificial fingernails.

In California, Helen Gourley uses Pattinails purchased from a dental supply: $40 for a year’s supply. At first, she does not admit her nails are false: when she does business booms and everybody wants them.

In 1974 and 1975, the FDA seizes and recalls products containing methyl methacrylate, a chemical considered to be hazardous, and forces manufacturers to reformulate acrylics for the nail that are gentler.

1975- The National Association of Nail Artists (NANA) is founded, and its first newsletter, NANA News, is published. Phyllis Monier, one of its founders, feels that the nail industry is about to boom and sees the need for an information resource for salon professionals. Monier wants to bring nails into the forefront and help salon clients realize that nails are just as important as hair. The last issue of NANA News is published in 1983.

Orly International is founded, offering Orly Nail Paint, Romeo liquid fiber wrap, and Ridge filler primer base coat. The name “French manicure” originates in 1978 when Orly introduces the first French manicure kit. Pacific Airbrush starts making a line of paints. Lee Pharmaceuticals introduces Lee Nails to the consumer market. Supercuts is founded, making inexpensive haircuts available to salon patrons. The company franchises in 1979.

1976- Square nails become fashionable around 1976-1977, probably due to nail competitions- judges can critique a C-curve more easily in a square nail than in an oval nail. Exceptionally long nails are accepted and popular. Nail tips are used more and more, a relief to nail technicians who have difficulty applying forms.

Arius-Eickert Company opens its doors, offering industrial shears and scissors. No Lift Nails evolves from a skin care company established in 1964.

1977- Brucci Ltd. is established with a line of Nail Hardener shades. Beatrice Kaye manufactures Soak 10 and a manicure bowl, the first items in her line of MGM Studio 10 natural nail care products.

1978- Creative Nail Design offers its first product, non-yellowing Solarnail, a liquid and powder resin. Hair Care Service Center is founded and by 1987, the company’s name charges to Hair Care Nail Supplies and markets products to the nail technician. Salon Interiors takes root when its founder begins to knock on salon doors selling furniture and equipment. Sogo is founded with a small nail repair kit known as “Patch 5” and a liquid dispenser called “The Pump.”

1979- Mehaz International brings manicure sets from Germany to the United States. Origi-Nails is founded, offering sculpturing systems and education. Simply Elegant’s roots lie in a beauty supply store that opens in 1979. Soft Touch opens for business, manufacturing the first cushioned foamboard file, the Cushioned Grinder. Sogo introduces fibreglass to the nail industry. Lee Pharmaceuticals offers Sculptured Nails in an acrylic powder and liquid form to the consumer market.

1980- The eighties sees the use of nail drills (adapted from dental, hobby, and jewelry drills) become common when working with acrylic nails. Fibreglass is the newest wrap system---light, strong, flexible. Nail charms and gold nails begin to decorate some clients’ hands, and nail art---worn by the Chinese as early as 5000 B.C., and much later by the Gypsies---finally makes its appearance in the United States.

Nail tips are popularized. According to Jo Livingston, technicians who have difficulty with the paper forms use tips and overlay them with acrylic. Tips are improved later so that the shapes are more natural and the balance keeps them more securely on the nail.

The trade newspaper Mainly Manicuring reaches salons in the eighties.

Alpha 9 offers acrylic powders, liquid, and primers. Beauty Supply San Francisco opens with six product lines. Dina Meri brings rollabouts and other salon furniture to the beauty industry. Set-N-Me-Free Aloe Vera Products starts business selling aloe-based products to beauty salons nationwide. Snails Italian Jewelry provides gold posted initial charms for the fingernail. Tweezerman begins business, offering the slant eyebrow tweezer. World International Nail and Beauty Association (WINBA) holds its first tradeshow for nails, as well as its world championship competitions.

1981- Essie Cosmetics is founded and offers nail technicians 12 different nail colors. OPI Products is established and develops 4 NP Powders and L-2000 Liquid especially for the nail industry. Star Nail Products is born on Venice Beach, Calif.---its first nail products are Star Original acrylic, polish, and cosmetics.

1982- Develop 10 begins business, offering nail color and treatments. Finger Mates offers Formula 10 Nail Hardener. Kimberly-Clark introduces Handsdown Nail Care Towels to the nail industry. Tammy Taylor, a manicurist and salon owner, offers her own line of nail products, beginning with liquid, powder, and primer.

1983- Helen Gourley is the first in her area to offer one of the new gel systems on the market. Her lamp, invented by James T. Giuliano, costs $500. Giuliano, an expert in plastic research, also created a process for making artificial eyes.

NAILS Magazine opens its first offices in Huntington Beach, Calif., and the first issue is distributed at the Long Beach Hairdressers’ Guild Show.

In June 1983, a handful of manufacturers and suppliers, among them NuArt Beauty Products, Fashion One Nail Design, No Lift Nails, Nails Naturally, Linnen Wrap, West Coast Nails Distributing, Fingertips, Origi-Nails, Alpha 9, Anything Goes, Stephan Charles, and Karen’s Nail Designs, meet at the WINBA show in Anaheim, Calif., to discuss forming an association that would plan, promote, and protect the nail industry. By August 1983, the group decides on a name during a meeting at the BBSI: the United Nail Organization. The idea eventually dies out, and other organizations spring up.

By 1983, odourless systems are available. Ladyfingers is one company offering it.

H&H Products opens, manufacturing emery boards. The first Nail and Skincare Array (NASA) Show is held. TruNails is purchased by Gabel Holding Company.

1984- Backscratchers is started in a school environment. Lasco Diamond Products offers drills to the nail industry. NaturalGlass is begun, with fibreglass, adhesive, and spray accelerator. Nail Systems International (NSI) is formed. Worldwide Cosmetics/Winning Nails opens shop with a variety of nail care supplies.

1985-A show of Hands begins offering striping tape, paints, and rhinestones for nail art. Digits International emphasizes reflexology. Nailco Salon Marketplace opens its doors, providing more than 1,000 manicuring items. Realys Inc. Begins making abrasive implements. Lee Pharmaceuticals introduces Lee Press-On Nails, which are applied with adhesive tabs. According to IBD’s Lorenzo Mejia, the concept that a woman can have beautiful nails as fast as she can press them on opened consumers’ eyes to other, long-lasting, natural-looking artificial extensions.

The International School of Skin and Nail Care opens its doors to students February 26, 1985. It is the first school for nails in Georgia and second in the United States to be approved by a state board of cosmetology.

1986- The National Hairdressers and Cosmetologists Association becomes the National Cosmetology Association (NCA). Nail Technicians America is founded.

American Manicure premieres its American Manicure Original Formula Kit. Isabel Cristina launches Let’s Go Spray. Nails, Etc. begins offering nail care products to nail technicians. Peau de Peche premiers its fungus-fighting nail oil containing tolnaftate.

1987- The National Nail Technicians Group is formed. Its original name is the New York State Nail Technicians’ Organization (NYSNTO).

The National Cosmetology Association organizes its first political action committee to allow members to support candidates for federal office who in turn support the beauty industry.

Beautiful Feet enters the professional nail industry, offering foot care products. Polished Perfection/Speight Laboratories offers Gel-Eze and Nail Mist, among other products. San Francisco Nails Art Company starts up with the invention of its Striper brush and an affordable airbrush system. Lee Pharmaceuticals offers Sculptured Nails in gel form to the consumer market.

1988-Burston Inc. Introduces Miss Webril 100% Cotton Bands. Design Classic introduces its Fiberglass system. East Coast Air Brush is founded, starting by selling nail art airbrush equipment and design materials. Galaxy Nail Products is founded. Pamax Organic Nails is formed to produce an organic nail powder. Rudolph International invents the “Sandfoam” file, a closed-cell foam with abrasives embedded in it. Designed to shine surfaces without scratching them, the abrasive is marketed to the aerospace industry.

1989- It’s  estimated that American women spend close to $2 billion in the salon on grooming their nails, according to the Census of Retail Trade industry statistics.

Holder Images, makers of DOT 10-in-one treatment, is founded. Ultronics is founded to offer ultrasonic cleaning and disinfection systems.

1990- In nail styles, anything goes! With the number of artificial extension systems available, women can choose the one that fits them best. It’s the era of the successful women who considers nails part of her overall professional look, and most important it’s the era of the educated client.

The Nail Manufacturers Council is formed with founding board members Lorenzo Mejia, George Schaeffer, and Jan Bragulla.

NAILS Magazine Shows holds its first show in Las Vegas, Nev. Diamonize For Nails, a nine-in-one nail treatment, is offered by Diamondline. Vibrato International first ships its UV lamp and gel system.

1991- Amoresse Laboratories is founded. Nail Stuff-N-More starts shipping products. Pro Finish USA Ltd. is formed and acquires professional rights from Ultra-Set, the manufacturer that developed the top coat and hand light for the consumer market. Professional Selections International (PSI) begins business. Salon Partners offers aromatherapy treatments for hands and feet as well as a body “spa” line.

1992- The Nails Industry Association (NIA) is founded by NAILS Magazine and Bobit Publishing to support, protect and represent professional nail technicians.

Retro fashions bring back the “Cuban” or “Gatsby” manicure, in which polish is applied to the nail bed but not the moon or free edge. Fashion hasn’t seen this style since the thirties.

Tom Holcomb Nail Products brings well-known veteran nail competitor Tom Holcomb out of the competition arena and into manufacturing.



1940s magazine ads provided

by American International Industries.

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