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A History of Nails

by NLS Staff | September 29, 2012


Allure's September 2012 issue featured a timeline of nail styles throughout history, starting in ancient Egypt and ending with nail decals and 3-D nail art. 


  • 5000-3000 B.C. - Women in ancient Egypt dye their fingertips with henna to broadcast their social status and sex appeal. 
  • 600 B.C. - Noblemen and women of China's Chou dynasty sprinkle their nails with gold and silver dust. 
  • 1920s-30s - MGM employs Beatrice Kaye to manicure its stars, such as Bette Davis. Kaye paints just the center of the nails, calling it a "moon manicure."
  • 1930 - Princess de Faucigny-Lucinge, a Parisian socialite, sets a new trend: red nails with a stripe of silver painted on just the tips. 
  • 1937 - Inventor Earl Tupper, creator of Tupperware, experiments with glue-on nail appliques, including pictures of shamrocks. 
  • 1955 - Fred Slack, a dentist, and his brother Tom inadvertently invent acrylic extensions while trying to mend a broken fingernail with acrylic. 
  • 1965 - London mod followers decorate their nails with flowers using artists' oil paints. Fashion designer Mary Quant launches Nail Bullion - a silver-flecked nail polish. 
  • 1988 - Wearing long, blinged-out nails, Florence Griffith Joyner, sets two world records at the Seoul Olympics. 
  • Late 1990s - Hip-hop artists such as Missy Elliot embrace airbrushed and pierced nails. Lil' Kim wears dollar bills encased in acrylic. 
  • 1999 - CoverGirl introduces a line of polishes called Crackle Lacquers that create a broken-glass effect on nails. 
  • 2007 - Beyonce tops her nails with gold Minx foils at the American Music Awards. Models at the Louis Vuitton spring show have Swarovski-encrusted nails. 
  • March 2011 - Sally Hansen Salon Effects Real nail Polish Strips hit the market in a variety of prints, including leopard, zebra, lace, and paint splatter. 
  • September 2011 - The nail-art exhibition "Nailphilia" opens at the degreeart.com gallery in London. 
  • January 2012 - Models walk the Chanel couture runway with geometric, two-tone manicures. 


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