Dipped, diagonal or diamanté?

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Perfectly manicured nails denote style, pride in appearance and current trends, but when did decorating your nails become the done thing?

It all started with henna nails in India, back in c. 5000 BC, although the first nail polish originates in China, where people mixed flower petals, egg whites, beeswax and more to turn nails light red and pink. Around that time, the Ancient Egyptians were using nail colours to denote social class. Only royalty were allowed to wear red nails, which Nefertiti and Cleopatra both made a royal statement with.

The modern manicure was invented at the beginning of the twentieth century, but their coloured creams and powders topped with a glossy varnish only lasted a day before coming off! The emery board wasn’t invented until 1910, and before that nails were just shaped with small pairs of scissors.

In 1920, nail varnish proper was invented in a similar formula to car paint, so it had a shiny, glossy look. There was only one shade: red. People painted a stripe down the centre of the nail, leaving the moon and sides blank.

Charles Revlon and his brother Joseph, who was a chemist, adjusted the formula so that nail polish became opaque and non-streaky, with the colour derived from pigments rather than dyes. This meant you could have all manner of colours!

The 80’s saw the rise of bright, neon polishes to go with rainbow make-up trends, as well as black nail polish to go with the goth craze.

Today, of course, nail polish has taken off as a fashion statement. We have crackle-effect nail polish, velvet nail polish, rubber nail polish, magnetic nail polish, marble nail polish designs, decals, stickers, glitter….

The biggest news in recent times must be peel-off nail polish and gel nails. Even Topshop has launched peel off nails. These achieve a false nail effect without damaging the nails with glue, which weakens the nail. The Nails Inc leather polish caused a media frenzy back in November, when Alexa Chung tweeted about it.

Other new developments include: Ciaté’s colourfoil nails; Illamasqua’s Speckled Nail Varnish, inspired by the finish of birds eggs; OPI’s Liquid Sand nail lacquer, which uses new technology to achieve a full-glitter coating. And Dior’s latest innovation is a sheer pink Nail Glow, which produces all-in-one nail care, varnish and glow. Nails are given a pretty rosy hue whilst somehow managing to make the tips of your nails even whiter; voila, subtle French manicure.

DIY trends for spring 2013

Matte-Shine French Manicure – Angel Sanchez at New York Fashion Week created this look by layering a slightly darker matte pink shade over a glossy one.

Glitter Dipped Nails – Instantly glamorous, this one is easily achieved by applying a top coat and dipping into a pot of glitter. Finish off with another top coat to make it last. This look was seen in LFW, by Jenny Packham, queen of understated luxury.

The Half-Moon Mani – Roughly colour in the moon of your nail in another colour. This in black and white picks up on the monochrome trend this spring.

Glossy Black Stripe – Butter London painted a black, glossy colour block down the centre of the nail. Can also be achieved using a metallic as seen at Monika Chiang.

Ultra-Shiny Metallics – Shine shine shine, especially in metallic chrome, gold, copper and silver.

Pale Nails – Milk-white might sound dull, but it looks chic and is interview/work-appropriate. Seen at Rag & Bone and Marc Jacobs, and there were un-done French mani’s at Chanel.

Diagonal Tips – Use a bright colour to create a diagonal tipped colour block at the end of your nail.

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