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It used to be enough to hurriedly apply a coat of colour to your nails before you rushed out the door, waving your hands in the air as you went to dry them! But things can be a little more complicated now, especially if you want to achieve gorgeous, on-trend nails with personality and detail.
A few years back, nail art meant sprinkling some glitter over your wet polish, or adding a few shiny baubles. Now, fingernails are becoming mini works of art.
As with most forms of body adornment, nail art isn't new. Egyptian mummies have been found with their fingernails decorated with henna. And the Ming dynasty - famous for their extraordinarily long fingernails - wore gold and jewel-encrusted nail guards.
Today there are online galleries filled with nail art designs. There's even an online Museum of Nail Art, where practitioners can display their work. And thanks to the catwalk and the media, this intricate form of body decoration is now available to everyone, not just the rich and famous.
Nail art can take many forms and anything goes. You can use colour, texture, rhinestones, lace, foils, and even magnets. One of the biggest trends today is for hand-painted pictures - something that first appeared in England in the 1930s.
The English at the start of the twentieth century were a very trendy bunch indeed. Not only did they come up with the idea of using black nail polish, but they also commissioned miniature painted landscapes on their fingernails. Interestingly, the idea of stick-on nail designs was also considered at this time but just didn't catch on.
Brushes are a great way of applying nail art and come in various shapes and sizes to create lines, dots and shading. This is a very delicate and intricate artform that requires both skill and patience.
Other methods include sponging (to create a graduated or faded effect) taping, (to create a more defined or checkerboard look), and the use of stickers, one of the easiest ways to achieve artful nails.
Stamping is great for applying designs on top of your nail colour. While stenciling is similar to stamping, it allows more creativity with patterns. You can even design your own. An airbrush is often used to get a perfect finish.
One of the most exciting breakthroughs in nail art is digital. Many professional nail salons now have digital nail art machines and can quickly achieve the look your desire. Amazingly, these machines can even use scanned photographs, or pictures from your digital camera, to print onto your nails.
There are many reasons why you might consider nail art. For starters, it can be very unique and individual. It's a real statement about who you are. And, because you know they look amazing, it can also be a huge confidence booster.
You can use nail art to match or accentuate an outfit or even take the focus away from what you're wearing.
Nail art can even give you a sense of wellbeing. It takes time to create, so you have no choice but to switch off and relax and de-stress in a soothing salon environment.
For nail art to look its best, you need to start with healthy, well-prepared nails. Nails that have been regularly manicured and maintained are the best canvas. Your design can go straight onto your own nails, or onto artificial nails, like acrylic or gel.
Many people choose to decorate acrylic nails, rather than their own, as it offers longer lasting effects and less chance of damage. The best plan is to talk to your manicurist and see what they advise.
You'll find some fabulous nail artists right here on Bookwell.