Applauding the Appendage

Leave it to the ingenious creativity of humans to take what is no more than an appendage of our skin and turn it into a beautifully decorated and celebrated part of our bodies.  Specifically, I am referring to our nails.  Yep, those 20 tips of potential pretty.

fingers and toesOur skin and its appendages are part of what make up our integumentary system.  Sounds so scientific doesn’t it?  It’s simply the name for the part of our bodies that protect our innards from the world and keeps what should stay in, in.  The nail’s function is protection.  We used to (well, maybe even still do if I am to believe some of the episodes of COPS I’ve seen) use our nails to scratch and claw at our predators.  Now, we most likely use them to pick up the dimes we have dropped, scratch a mosquito bite or to scrape off that small dollop of goo from the skillet you’re washing (tisk, tisk).  So when did we decide to take our protective digit tools and turn them into jewels?

What would you guess?  1900’s?  1800’s? 1500’s?  Nope.  Reach back, and I mean WAY back to over 5,000 years ago, when the women of India began using henna to stain their finger nails.  So began a love affair with glamorizing our simple skin appendages.

Hop forward to about 3,000 BC and let’s give credit to China for moving beyond henna and creating a base mixture of egg whites, gelatin, beeswax and gum Arabic mixed with a little rose, orchid and impatiens petals to add color.  petalsYou think waiting for your nails to dry at the salon is rough.  Try soaking your digits in this mixture for several hours to get your nails stained just right!

It was considered a treacherous act to wear colors outside of your station.  Some historians say that if the lower class were caught wearing the fashion colors of the rich,  punishment – including even death would happen.  Talk about dying for fashion!


Nefertiti and Cleopatra were responsible for bringing about the rich, powerful colors of red for the nail.  It is believed Nefertiti enjoyed ruby-red while Cleopatra preferred crimson.  Back then, the shade of your nail color represented your social standing. Only nobility wore red. The deeper the red, the more powerful you were.  cleopatra

Fast-forward to the 1930’s and we can give props to an employee of The Charles Revson Company – a French make-up artist named Michelle Manard – who thought to play with the formulas of automobile paint to create a shiny, bright colored nail lacquer.  Her employers loved the idea. So Charles and Joseph Revson who partnered with a man named Charles Lachman further developed the formula into basically the nail lacquer we enjoy today.  These three men changed the company name from The Charles Revson Company to Revlon,  (Revson + the “l” from Lachman) and the rest is well…. history!

In the 1920’s when Hollywood went from black and white to color in films, (thank you very much Technicolor) the stars played a major part in setting the fashion trends for make-up, fashion and of course, nail color.

And in the 1950’s red was all the rage – and you didn’t have to be royalty to wear it.  lucille ballSorry, Cleopatra. Now we all can adorn our appendages with red!jane russell




Until next time remember to take care of you!

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