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Why the French Manicure Isn’t Really French

As more women pamper themselves with professional manicures, many are choosing variations on the traditional manicure treatments to get a different look or feel. One of the most popular is the French manicure, known for its simple, classic appearance.

While there is evidence of manicures being performed on royalty and the upper classes of society, as a symbol of their wealth and status, over 5,000 years ago, the French manicure has a much more recent history.

For all of its history, a manicure was finished with the application of nail polish whose colour was chosen from an ever-expanding palette of colours.

In 1927, Max Faxtor, the famous Hollywood cosmetician, created two new nail polish colours that would forever become associated with the French manicure. One colour, a light, creamy rose, closely matched the natural colour of untreated fingernails. The second colour, an opaque white, provided distinct contrast to any colour when applied to the tips of fingernails.

But it wasn’t until the 1970s that the combination was popularized and given its name. Hollywood cosmetics supplier, Jeff Pink, was asked by a film director for a colour that worked with a number of different costumes. Using colours similar to those developed by Factor, Pink created what he called “the natural look”.

When news of the new combination reached the fashion runways of Paris, Pink was invited to manicure models’ nails so that they would match each design worn. And that’s how the colour combo became known as a “French manicure”.

Today, while the French manicure has maintained its simple, classic and chic appeal, many spas and cosmeticians offer variations. One such is the “Reverse French” manicure where a line similar in appearance to the tip of the fingernail is painted at the base of the nail instead. Another popular variation is the “Moonicure” where the white or lighter contrasting colour is painted over the cuticle, the resulting shape being similar to a setting moon.

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