Part 3 The history of Nail care and coatings (so far)

In 1920 Screen stars are known for a total look that is innocent and childlike, with short hair, slender figures, and unpolished nails.

However soon the development of automobile paint inspires the basis for fingernail paint, and when French makeup artist Michelle Ménard partnered with the Charles Revson company, Revlon, as we know it today was born. They established a factory, began producing nail polish as their first product, which hit the market in 1925. They officially founded the Revlon Company in 1932. Other brands including Max Factor and Cutex also introduced polishes throughout the 1920s.

1921 The National Hairdressers Association – later to become the National Hairdressers and Cosmetologists Association, and then the National Cosmetology Association – is formed in America.
The mid-’20s and ’30s are when the “moon manicure” was in fashion. The cuticles are cut, the free edges filed into points, and polish applied to the nail but not to the moon (Lanula). Sometimes the tip is left uncovered as well. However, etiquette books of the time warn women against painting their nails with “garish colours.”

1927 Max Factor introduces Society Nail Tint. A small porcelain pot containing rose-coloured cream. Applied to the nail and buffed, it gives a natural rose colour. Society Nail White also hits the market. It’s a tube of chalky white liquid that’s applied under the nail tips and left to dry. The end result resembles the modern day French Manicure. Max Factor also offers cuticle cream and cuticle remover.
1929 Polish with perfume is introduced, but doesn’t take off and isn’t commercial.

1930 Base coat is invented which allows the nail professional to coat the whole nail with polish. Before this it was believed that the Lanula (the crescent-shaped pale area of the bed of a fingernail or toenail.) should not be coated with product. The first nail polish remover and cuticle oil is also available. Greta Garbo has nails extended with foil and painted red for the needs of film production. The technique takes a lot of time to produce the set of nails and they don’t last long.

1932 Revlon introduces nail enamel, having developed a unique manufacturing process. Using pigments instead of dyes, Revlon was able to create rich-looking, opaque nail polish in a wide variety of shades never before available. 

1934 Pigment for nails is being patented –it doesn’t damage the natural nails. Maxwell Lappe (dentist) creates fake nails for people who bite their nails.


1937 First patent for nail extension technique.


Some adorable 1930’s nail advertising.

1940 Rita Hayworth sports long and red painted nails – they are longer than before, more oval and wholly coated with red nail polish. Interestingly manicure for men is popular as shaving and cutting hair (what goes around comes around).


Cary Grant getting a manicure, inset: a 1940’s male grooming kit, note the nail file top left.

Part five coming soon!

5 thoughts on “Part 3 The history of Nail care and coatings (so far)”

      1. Love your blog, I adore travelling and seeing other people’s cultures. Sadly my health prevents me going too far but I’ll enjoy following your blog xx


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