The designation “nail art” indicates the various techniques used for the decoration of the nails of hands and feet. The birth of nail art is in Asia during the Bronze Age: in this context, in fact, the decoration of the nails by means of henna dye, obtained by the reduction in powder of some dried leaves, originated. Also in Mesopotamia the fashion of painting nails with paints made from sulfur and minerals such as galena and malachite was affirmed; this custom, however, was exclusively masculine and served to distinguish the social class of belonging: In Babylon rich men used to color their nails with black Kajal, while low-class men used green Kajal. In China also women began to decorate their nails in the same period, using bright dyes obtained from pigments of flowers. In ancient Egypt the care of the body was held in great consideration and the nails were decorated: here too the color distinguished the social classes and generally women of low extraction used pastel colors, while the important women painted their nails of a red color that the intensity of it increased according to the social position of the woman.
For many centuries nail art had great importance, until in the Middle Ages the practice of painting nails went increasingly into disuse, until it was even prohibited in some cases. Fashion reappeared in the Renaissance, when the first specific products for hand care appeared. In the same period the Incas had also developed this interest and often and willingly created real artistic works on the nails, as well as images of eagles. In the Victorian era the technique of decorating the nails with nail polish and a piece of chamois was particularly successful. In the 1920s, thanks to beautician Michelle Menard, manicure was established as we know it today. In the following decade, thanks to the newborn cosmetics brand Revlon there was the spread of opaque enamels available in a wide range of colors. In 1934 the dentist Maxwell Lappo designed the first fake nails, initially intended for patients suffering from onychophagy. In 1955 another dentist, Fred Slack, created an acrylic substance that served to reattach broken nails: from this base were born the paste used to create artificial nails.
Starting from the third millennium, nail art trends differ in an increasingly way: now women can choose from a wide range of styles and possibilities such as reconstruction (born in the fifties, in America, from the idea of an American dentist): the gels, the gel polish, and the piercings on the fingernails.
Isn’t it strange that gel nail design was invented in the past? Personally, I would never have guessed that and I am glad I did my research and learned about its origins. Every era and/or people have added to, modified and perfected what was created in the past, but the most interesting thing is to discover how different the importance of this art was for those people. In the meantime, how it was used by men and how one colour rather than another indicated the different social class. Nowadays, even though many things have changed and nail decoration has an essentially aesthetic importance, it is still possible to distinguish between social classes according to the magnificence of the decorations.