Back to all articles

The History of Nail Polish

Nail polish seems like a modern phenomenon, but it was actually invented in China as early as 3000 BC! In Ancient Egypt, nail color was so ubiquitous that it was used as a way to denote class: the lower classes wore nude or light colors while upper class citizens wore red. But just because nail polish existed in ancient times doesn’t mean that it was anything like the modern version. Early nail polish was made from ingredients like beeswax, egg whites, gelatin, and vegetable dyes. Modern nail polish didn’t come into being until 1916, and it was inspired by automobile paint! The 1916 version was colorless, but Revlon released a cream color in 1932. By 1934, Cutex was selling bottles of red nail polish for 35 cents. But it was actress Rita Hayworth who really popularized red nail polish after the introduction of Technicolor. Acrylic nails were introduced in 1978 and, strangely enough, they were actually invented by a dentist! Today, there are thousands of nail polish shades available from hundreds of brands. The most expensive nail polish you can buy costs $250,000 – really. It’s made from 267 carats worth of black diamonds and is called Black Diamond King.

Share this article

card showing the history of rocking chairs

Your go-to guide for weird history facts

Subscribe to the FREE daily email that makes learning about history fun.