Worldbuilding Wednesday 1/8/20: Nail Polish Colors

Cutex introduced the first commercial nail polish in 1916.  Amazingly, the formula was derived from nitrocellulose, a chemical used in automotive paint, another new innovation of the time. Before this, people made do with henna, or concoctions of wax, egg whites, and gelatine. No longer! A new kind of beauty salon was born, and a new way of highlighting a mundane part of the human body. The trend was given a strong push by the Hollywood film industry and its attending glamour, and the manicure (as well as the pedicure) became a must for the fashion-conscious woman.

Early colors were fairly factual and only a little exotic in their description, such as Cutex’s Orange Crush and Chen-Yu’s Dragon Plum. When French company Revlon entered the business, however, names became more fanciful, like the classic Cherries in the Snow and Love That Red. The latter marks the point at which the name began to serve more to intrigue than to describe. What is the shade of the red in Love That Red? Is it a brick red, a fire engine red, what? We only know that we love it, and that everyone else does too. That was enough.

Today’s colors named by giants Essie and OPI take a further shift away from mere description, their punny names describing far-off places and situations, often sexual. A few from my collection are Don’t Be Koi, Play Date, and I’m Not Really A Waitress. You’d never know the colors were a dark orange, a purplish lilac, and a pinkish-red, respectively.

Interested in the history of nail polish?

Stumped for a nail polish (or lipstick) name? Here’s some randomgenned ones.


Nail Polish Colors

Scarlet Ever After

Shrimp for One

Venetian Ruby

Let There Be Cherries

Roll Out the Licorice

Violet Rose

Temple of Garnets

Sugarplum Confetti

Gaucho Plum

Auburn Brandy

Rum Butter Berry

Sunrise Metal

Papaya Bodega

Caribbean Copper

Orchids Forever

Skies of Violet

Free and Fired

Arabian Cardamom

Saffron Buick

Tropic Nude

Papaya Silk

Huckleberry Nectar

Crush n’ Blush

Mocha Twilight

Sugarplum Lily

Triple Nude

Parisian Tea

Hibiscus Rain

Oktoberfest Fire

Mocha Persimmon

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