Nail art

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Nail art is a creative way to decorate nails. It is a type of art which can be done on fingernails and toenails. It became commonly known in beauty salons and it is considered as fashion activity. Throughout time, nail art became a part of fashion and beauty while in history it was a part of aristocracy and determined social status.

Nail art techniques, cracked and matte effect
Nail art on feet nails.


From the historical perspective, nail art was used in ancient times. It firstly emerged in ancient Babylonia when males coloured their nails with kohl. The nail colour indicated status where males of higher class wore black while males of lower class wore green.[1] From 5000 B.C. to 3000 B.C.,[2] ancient Egyptian women used nail art to indicate social status. They decorated their nails using the juice of henna plant. For example, Queen Nefertiti used red colour to decorate their fingernails and toenails. Compared to Nefertiti, Queen Cleopatra used deep rusty shades with an undertone of gold. Ordinary women were not allowed to use the same colour as queen.[1] In ancient China, during Ming Dynasty nail lacquers and varnishes were created from the mixture of beeswax, egg whites, gelatin, vegetable dyes and gum arabic. As in Egypt, colour of the nails also represented class. In 600 BC, during the Zhou Dynasty, royalty used gold and silver colours and later they preferred black and red colours to indicate their status.[3] The well known French manicure emerged on Paris runways in 1976 by Jeff Pink, the founder of cosmetic company ORLY, who wanted to create nail style that would be practical and versatile.[4] In the film Pulp Fiction, it was said Uma Thurman started the dark nail polish craze during the 90's. Her character in the film wore dark red nail polish called Rouge Noir by Chanel.[5] In ancient times, nail art displayed social class while from the 19th century it became allowed for everyone and became considered as a part of fashion as well.

In Contemporary Culture[edit]

In 2012, the United States witnessed a surging popularity of nail art.[6][7] A documentary NAILgasm, was released to explore the growing trend of nail art from subculture to high fashion.[8][9] In January 2014, Nailpolis: Museum of Nail Art was founded for nail artists and hobbyists to share their designs.[10]

Techniques and Tools[edit]

Manicurist start with the same techniques as for the manicure or pedicure:

  • Acrylics is a chemical mixture of monomer liquid and polymer powder that can be directly applied on the nails or on artificial nails called also nails extensions or enhancements.
  • Nail gel is a chemical combination similar to acrylics. Manicurist applies several layers on the fingernails or/and toenails and lets it cure under a UV or LED light. When the gel is cured it hardens the nails.

The difference between acrylics and gel is that acrylics dries by itself but gel needs UV light to cure.

  • Nail varnish, is a lacquer applied to finger and toe nails to protect or as a base color. To protect and strengthen nails manicurists use a base coat.

Several options are available for decorating nails:[11]

To decorate the nails, manicurist use several tools such as:[12]

  • Nail dotters
  • Nail strippers
  • Nail art brushes
  • Nail file
  • Stationery tape/ stickers

Do-it-yourself (DIY), is a new concept of doing nail art without the aid of experts or professionals. Several brands developed products to enable high quality results at affordable prices.


Some brands try to innovate by creating new kinds of nail polish with surprising effects.

  • New textures: The "caviar"[13] consist of little microbeads or velvet powder which is applied just before the nail polish becomes dry. These textures give a "sand" effect due to the presence of particles in the nail polish.
  • Holographic effect: Since they contain holographic particles when these nail polishes are applied to nails and then exposed to light, an effect of "rainbow" appears.
    Hologram nail art
  • Cracked effect : The nail polish with this effect must be applied on a basic nail polish. In the application on this effect, the lacquer disperses and gives an effect of cracking.[13]
  • Thermo chromic nail effect: The effect changes color depending on the temperature. It can change while exposed to heat or cold, or even "degraded" at room temperature because the nail root is hotter than the nail edge.[13]
  • Matte effect: These nail polishes can transform a layer of nail polish in a shimmering matte finish.[13]
  • Inverse French manicure: It is also called a "half-moon" and it is considered as one of the fundamentals of nail art. The half-moon is created on the root of the nail in one color while the rest of the nail is colored in different color.[13]
  • Nail sticker effect: There is a large range of items to customize nails from multicolored confetti to tie and dye kaleidoscopic stickers. It is applied on the base of the nails and fixed with glue.[13]


There are many companies that sell cosmetic products in the industry of nail art. The most popular ones that developed during the past few decades are the following:

  • Essie cosmetics, Ltd. founded by Essie Weingarten and is owned by L'Oreal since 2010[14]
  • OPI Products, Inc. which is an American nail lacquer manufacturer
  • Ciaté, a company founded by UK-based nail artist Charlotte Knight[15]
  • Sally Hansen[16]
  • Kiss Products, Inc.[17] an American nail products manufacturer founded in 1989[18]
  • Konad Stamping Nail Art Cosmetic, a Korean company that started selling their product in more than 100 countries since 2002. Their policy is to source the globe for quality, innovative, fun and safe nail products for their customers.[19]
Swirly purple konad nail art
  • Nailkart, an Indian company which sells different Nail Art products available to its customers worldwide.[20]


  1. ^ a b "Nail Polish History Dates Back to 3200 B.C". NAILS Magazine. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "A History of Nails". NAILS Magazine. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  3. ^ Toedt, John; Koza, Darrell; Cleef-Toedt, Kathleen van (2005). Chemical Composition Of Everyday Products. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-313-32579-3. 
  4. ^ "The colorful history of nail polish". The Independent Florida Alligator. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  5. ^ "History of Nail Polish". Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  6. ^ "Why Nail Art Is So Popular Right Now". 
  7. ^ Grinberg, Emanuella. "On main street and the runway, nail art is the new lipstick". 
  8. ^ "NAILgasm: The Nail Art Documentary". 
  9. ^ "SEE RANK Nailgasm: The Nail Art Documentary (2012)". 
  10. ^ "Nailpolis: Museum of Nail Art | FAQ". 
  11. ^ "Nail art trend spurs accessories". Chain Drug Review. 24 September 2012. 
  12. ^ "Coty pushes envelope in beauty care". Chain Drug Review. 19 August 2013. p. 113. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Wikipédia (2013). "Nail art". Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  14. ^ "Essie Cosmetics Acquired by L'Oreal USA". 1 July 2010. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  15. ^ "Ciate". Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  16. ^ "Sally Hansen". Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  17. ^ "Kiss". Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  18. ^ "Company Overview of Kiss Products, Inc". Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  19. ^ "Konad Stamping Nail Art". Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  20. ^ "Nail Art, The Beauty of Nails". Retrieved 29 August 2014.