Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pretty toes and feet: A history of pedicures

Ancient Egyptian art work showing what many believe is an early pedicure-like treatment. (Image from Wikipedia)

As I commute on the subway, I notice all different shades of freshly painted toe-nails ,from the bright summery pinks, to the edgy dark jewel tones and trendy pastels. Of course, some classic pale pinks and traditional reds are thrown in. As I admired the shades I see, I started to wonder about the history of pedicures. According to Mary Bellis of About.com, sandals were one of the most common type of footwear in early civilizations (Bellis, n.d.). Since sandals have been around so long and so prominently display one’s feet, when were pedicures invented?

Ancient Egypt is believed to be the birthplace of the pedicure, according to MiMi Abney of eHow.  The picture above came from the wall of a pharaoh’s tomb and is believed to show the pharaoh receiving foot and leg massages from his servants (Abney, n.d.).

The word pedicure comes from the Latin words "pes," which means foot, and "cura," which means care (Abney, n.d.).

Surprisingly, nail polish has been around awhile, although not what we know today. The Chinese invented what is believed to be the earliest form of nail polish in around 300 BC, according to Carol Parris Krauss (2006). This “nail polish” was made of gum Arabic, egg whites, beeswax, and gelatin. It included more natural ingredients, too, such as roses and orchids.

The Ancient Egyptians create their own nail paint to go with their foot massages. Their “polish” was similar to lacquer paint (Krauss, 2006).

Modern nail polish was first released in the 1920s and inspired by car paints (MBM Nail Technician Training Academy, 2004).

Next time you apply polish to the toes your shoes reveal, remember you’re following an ancient tradition.


Abney, M. (n.d.). About pedicures. eHow. Retrieved August 10, 2010 from http://www.ehow.com/about_4672062_pedicures.html.

Bellis, M. (n.d.). The history of shoes. About.com. Retrieved August 10, 2010 from http://inventors.about.com/od/sstartinventions/a/Shoes.htm.

History of nail care. (2004). NAILS Magazine. Retrieved August 10, 2010 from http://www.nailtechnician.co.nz/html/history_of_nail_care.html.

Krauss, C.P. (2006). The history of nail polish. associated content. Retrieved August 10, 2010 from http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/55376/the_history_of_nail_polish.html

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