When was the manicure “invented”?

Since there have been hands, that’s when!

That’s right – since the beginning of civilized humanity, the look of our hands matters to us.

Figure it this way: next to our face, hands are one of most visible features. We use them to gesture, touch, create, cook, clap, slap, lift, push, shove, carry…in short, hands “hold” a lot of meaning!

Here are some fun historical facts about manicures:

Men were the first to get manicures. That’s right, Ancient Babylonian men shaded their nails with kohl  (a lead-grey mineral). Upper class men donned black-tipped nails while the lower glass wore green (early punk?).

Cleopatra was an early adopter of red nail color. No surprise there. Both Cleopatra and Queen Nefertiti colored their nails in the shade of red. The bolder the red, the more powerful and fierce the woman. And those women were fierce!

Early Chinese women tipped their fingers in gold and silver. Chinese women opted for metallic shades early on. Like coins on the tips of their fingers, representing wealth and opulences.

Members of the Ming dynasty were the first to adopt fake fingernails. This signified the wearer never had to do manual labor. (I think it still does.)

The natural look was “hot” at the beginning of the 19th century. No-frills women wore short, almond-shaped nails. Instead of color polish, these gals used oils to keep their hands and fingernails looking healthy. You go, hippie ladies!

The nail file changes everything! In 1830, an invention would transform nail care: the lowly nail file. Suddenly, women could shape and create the look that best suited their nails. And the hands of many men stopped looking so damn scruffy.

The first nail salon opened in 1878. Owned by Mary E. Cobb, who studied nail care in France. Thanks, Mary! 

Revlon rules the 20’s and 30’s. Revlon spearheaded a groundbreaking line of polishes that used pigments instead of dyes. Thanks, Revlon!

Flappers in the 20’s inspire the first half-moons. Of course they did. This new “dipped” look for the nails was whimsical and creative just like them.

Color movies mean colorful nails. When black and white films go color in the 30’s, movie watchers saw their favorite actresses donning (what else) but fire engine red nail polish. Cleopatra would be happy.

The 1970’s onward – you’ve come a long way baby! Diversification was the name of the game when it came to nail styles and colors in the 70’s (and beyond), though the French manicure was “invented” during this time and became very popular.

So the next time you sit down to do your nails, think back on the vast history of this beautification ritual. Your nails really do represent an aspect of you. That doesn’t mean they need to be pimped out – maybe a simple, clean cut is more your style. Whatever it is, embrace what your hands represent and how they symbolize you beautifully.

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