Nail art is a creative way to paint, decorate, enhance, and embellish the nails. It is a type of artwork that can be done on fingernails and toenails, usually after manicures or pedicures. Manicures and pedicures are beauty treatments that trim, shape, and polish the nails. Often, these procedures remove the cuticles and soften the skin around the nails. Types of manicures can vary from polish on natural nails to dipping powder and acrylic nails.
The exact origin of nail treatments is unclear, since it appears to have originated in different parts of the world around the same time. In ancient Egypt, from 5000 to 3000 BC, women would dye their nails with henna to indicate social status and seductiveness. Women of the lower class wore pastel and neutral shades, while the upper classes wore deep, bright shades. In Babylonia, 3200 BC, men, not women, painted their nails with black and green kohl, an ancient cosmetic. To prepare for war, warriors of Babylon spent hours having their nails prepared, hair curled, and other similar beauty treatments. As in ancient Egypt, nail color indicated one's status, black for noblemen and green for the common man. Around the same time, 3000 BC, the first nail polish originated in ancient China.
It was made from beeswax, egg whites, gelatin, vegetable dyes, and gum arabic. Chinese dipped their nails in this mixture for several hours or left it on to dry. Colors ranged from pink to red, depending on the mixture of the ingredients. During the Zhou Dynasty, 600 BC, royalty used this simple nail polish with gold and silver dust on their nails to show their social status.
Nail art is also a way to create its own identity through fashion, using colours and shapes as a disruption of childhood and entering to the female teen/adult world, also leaving the
influence of their parents to create their own selves.
Manicurists start with the same techniques as for the manicure or pedicure:
Acrylics: a chemical mixture of monomer liquid and polymer powder that can be directly applied on the nails or on artificial nails also called nails extensions or enhancements.
Nail gel: a chemical combination similar to acrylics, also known as shellac nails. 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. Gel is also common in a polish form known as gel polish, and, like other forms of gel, also requires a UV or LED light to cure. The difference between acrylic and gel is that acrylic dries naturally but gel needs UV light to cure. Similarly, where regular nail polish will dry naturally, gel polish will remain tacky until cured by a UV light.
Nail polish/nail varnish: a lacquer applied to finger and toe nails to protect or as a base color. Nail manicurists also use a base coat to protect and strengthen nails, as well as preventing the natural nail from yellowing or staining.