The History of Nail Art | From Ancient Egypt to Modern Times

Nail art, a dynamic and captivating form of self-expression, has a long and varied history that crosses centuries and civilizations. The history of nail art is an intriguing story of cultural changes, technological development, and shifting aesthetics, spanning the royal courts of Ancient Egypt to the cutting-edge salons of the modern period. This once-status- and wealth-related art form has become a universal phenomenon that transcends national boundaries and reflects personal flair. Today, it serves as a symbol of individual ingenuity and expression in addition to making a fashion statement. We will travel through time as we explore the beginnings of ancient civilizations, their development through the ages, and the development of nail art into the multi-billion dollar industry it is today. In addition to highlighting the artistic and cultural value of nail art, this investigation will also discuss how it affects societal norms and personal identity. Let’s start our adventure by following the development of nail art from its beginnings to the present while also attempting to predict its future.

Ancient Egypt:

Nail painting was more than simply a fashion statement in ancient Egypt; it also served as a representation of social standing and riches. One’s social standing was represented by the colors worn on their nails. Cleopatra, the fabled Egyptian queen, was well-known for having royal blue and gold-painted nails that symbolized her status as a queen. Natural, readily available materials were utilized to decorate nails. Beeswax was used for gloss, vegetable colors were utilized for variety, and henna was employed for its deep color. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, nail decoration also reflects social hierarchy and cultural value.

Ancient China:

Nail art was a common practice among the nobles in Ancient China, especially during the Zhou Dynasty. It was believed that one’s social standing could be inferred from the color and condition of their nails. The aristocracy applied a peculiar lacquer consisting of gum Arabic, gelatin, beeswax, and egg whites. After coating the nails with this concoction, they were stained by leaving them there for several hours or even overnight. Deeper, richer colors denoted better prestige, and the resulting color served as a status symbol. This custom illustrates how important aesthetics and social rank were in pre-modern Chinese culture.

The Renaissance: 

During the Renaissance, nail art took a backseat as the focus shifted to advancements in science and art. However, some women still painted their nails with sheep’s fat and mashed rose petals.

The 19th Century:

In the 19th century, with the industrial revolution, modern nail care started to take shape. The first patent for nail polish was granted in 1919 – it was a glossy lacquer kind of nail polish.

The 20th Century:

The 20th century saw major advancements in nail art. With the advent of cinema and the fashion industry, painted nails became a symbol of glamour. In the 1920s and 1930s, the French manicure became popular. In the 1980s and 1990s, nail art became more elaborate with the introduction of different types of brushes, decals, piercings, and other nail accessories.

Modern Times:

Modern nail art has evolved into a means of personal expression. With a wide variety of nail polish colors and patterns, it has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. The options are unlimited, ranging from basic and elegant designs to complicated and complex 3D nail art. Today’s nail art is more about making a statement than it is about color and style. It’s a means of expressing one’s uniqueness, inventiveness, and personality. Since the introduction of social media, nail art trends have become widely shared and adopted, playing a significant role in the fashion and beauty sectors. Modern nail art is a true reflection of personality and ingenuity.


Finally, the development of nail art from its modest beginnings in Ancient Egypt and China to its current status as a global phenomenon is proof of its enduring attractiveness as a means of self-expression. The way nail art has changed throughout history, reflecting societal mores, cultural transformations, and technological developments of each age, is interesting. Today, nail painting is an expression of one’s creativity and personality as well as a fashion statement. Nail art has become a global phenomenon that continues to be invented and inspired by the development of social media and the internet. It’s interesting to think about the new trends and methods that will manifest in this always-changing industry as we move to the future. Whatever the changes, nail art will continue to be a vivid and captivating form of self-expression and individuality in all of its varied forms. So, regardless of whether you favor a traditional French manicure or a complex 3D design, keep in mind that every color stroke contributes to the rich tapestry that is the history of nail art.

Nataly Tornel

Written by Nataly Tornel

It’s me Nataly! I really like nature, especially mountains and beaches. Taking photos of them is my favorite thing to do! I also think it’s important to take care of your nails. Let’s talk about nail care while we enjoy nature together!

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