2013

Pretty nails: Korean flower dye

It always seems incredible to me that so many of the ancient archeological discoveries are ornaments and body care products.  But then I look at my own stack of fashion magazines and think, why shouldn’t they be? A passion for beauty and self expression are probably just as much a natural part of the human experience as a love of food and a need for protection. Still, it never ceases to amaze me how creative human beings can be in finding ways to adorn from head to toe.

Take nails, for instance. In the olden days, long before the invention of nail polish compounds, Korean women found a way to dye their nails orange-red with a flower commonly known as garden balsam, or impatiens balsamina (봉숭아 “bong soong ah”).   250px-Balsam_I_IMG_9566I have fond childhood memories of visiting my aunt in the late summer when these flowers bloom to get my nails “done” this way. We would crush the flower petals and its leaves together, and leave the mixture on our nails overnight (wrapping them with the leaves so that we didn’t dye our bedding), and happily wake up with pretty nails, 100% natural.  Although I can’t remember the last time I had this done, the pure pleasure of getting your nails done with flowers still seems so vivid. I wonder who the beauty-crazed woman who first decided to crush the flower petals to make the nail dye was. Isn’t human creativity for adornment for herself truly amazing?

Done this way, the colour on your nails will stay until you cut them. The longevity of the colour also created a cute little legend that if the orange-red color remains by the first snowfall then you will marry your true love. The flower dye can also dye the skin around your nails but it would disappear in a couple of days at most. For the curious minds, see the YouTube video above for a demonstration.

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