The Colorful History of Acrylic Nails

Acrylic nails have become a popular fashion trend, allowing individuals to enhance the appearance of their natural nails or even create completely new designs. But have you ever wondered who invented acrylic nails? In this article, we will delve into the fascinating history of acrylic nails and explore the individuals behind their invention.

The story of acrylic nails begins in the 1950s with a dentist named Frederick Slack. Slack, who had broken his own nail, embarked on a journey to find a solution to his problem. He experimented with various chemicals and materials, ultimately discovering that dental acrylics could be used to create an artificial-looking nail that could be applied over the old broken one. This was the birth of the first acrylic nails.

Interestingly, the concept of adorning nails with decorative elements is not a recent phenomenon. In ancient China, as far back as 3000 BC, the wealthy class would grow their nails long and embellish them with jewelry. This served as a status symbol, indicating that they did not engage in manual labor. Such practices continued for centuries, with various cultures finding different ways to adorn and enhance their nails.

In the 1960s, acrylic nails started gaining popularity among African-American women. Donyae Coles, an African-American model, graced the cover of Twen magazine in 1966, showcasing her beautifully manicured acrylic nails. This marked a significant milestone in the history of acrylic nails, as it brought them into the mainstream consciousness.

The modern-day acrylic nails that we are familiar with were actually invented in the United States in 1950. The material used for these nails, known as acrylic, was developed by several chemists, including William Chalmers, Otto Röhm, and Walter Bauer, in various laboratories. Acrylic acid, a key component of acrylic nails, was first created in 1843.

As acrylic nails gained popularity, they became synonymous with the vibrant and glamorous disco culture of the 1970s. Singers like Donna Summer and Diana Ross were often seen sporting long, red, square-shaped acrylic nails adorned with twinkling rhinestones. This further propelled the trend and cemented acrylic nails as a fashion statement.

Acrylic nails have a rich and intriguing history. From their humble beginnings as a solution to a broken nail by dentist Frederick Slack in the 1950s, to their association with wealth and status in ancient China, acrylic nails have evolved into a widely embraced fashion trend. The invention and development of acrylic nails involved the contributions of various chemists over the years. Today, acrylic nails continue to be a popular choice for individuals looking to enhance their natural nails or express their creativity through nail art.

Who Wore Acrylic Nails First?

The first known individual to wear acrylic nails was a dentist named Frederick Slack in the 1950s. Dr. Slack accidentally broke his nail and sought a solution to cover it up. He conducted experiments using various chemicals and materials, eventually discovering that dental acrylics could be used to create an artificial-looking nail to go over his damaged one. Dr. Slack’s innovative approach paved the way for the development of modern acrylic nails, which have since become popular in the beauty industry.

who invented acrylic nails

What Race Invented Acrylic Nails?

Acrylic nails were not invented by a specific race. The invention of acrylic nails is credited to a dentist named Frederick Slack in the 1950s. He accidentally discovered that a combination of dental acrylic powder and liquid could be used to create artificial nails. This invention revolutionized the nail industry, providing a durable and long-lasting alternative to traditional nail extensions.

However, it is worth noting that the popularity of acrylic nails in certain communities, particularly among Black women, has a significant cultural influence. In the 1970s and 80s, Black women in the United States began adopting acrylic nails as a fashion statement and a form of self-expression. This trend was fueled by the desire for longer and more adorned nails, reflecting a sense of style and confidence.

The use of acrylic nails allowed Black women to experiment with various nail designs, colors, and shapes, enhancing their overall appearance. It became a symbol of creativity, individuality, and empowerment within the Black community.

Today, acrylic nails are widely popular across different races and ethnicities. They have become a mainstream trend embraced by people from various backgrounds, reflecting the ever-evolving fashion and beauty industry.

Did Acrylic Nails Originated In Africa?

Acrylic nails did not originate in Africa. They were actually invented in the United States in 1950. African-American model Donyae Coles famously wore them on the cover of Twen magazine in 1966, showcasing their popularity and influence. Acrylic nails became particularly associated with the 1970s Disco period, with singers like Donna Summer and Diana Ross sporting long, red, square-shaped acrylics adorned with rhinestones. Their popularity subsequently spread worldwide, but their origins can be traced back to the U.S.

Who Started Acrylic?

Acrylic, a versatile material widely used in various industries, was developed in 1928 by multiple chemists working independently in different laboratories. Some of the notable contributors to the development of acrylic include William Chalmers, Otto Röhm, and Walter Bauer. Although acrylic as a material was created in 1928, the first acrylic acid, which is a key component in the production of acrylic, was actually synthesized much earlier, in 1843. It is important to note that the development of acrylic involved the collaboration and efforts of several chemists, each making their own contributions to the overall understanding and advancement of this material.


The invention of acrylic nails can be attributed to multiple individuals and events throughout history. While the concept of artificial nails dates back to ancient China, it was not until the 1950s that the modern-day acrylic nails we are familiar with were developed. Dentist Frederick Slack played a crucial role in experimenting with chemicals and materials to create an artificial nail to cover his own broken nail, using dental acrylics. However, it was not until the 1960s that African-American model Donyae Coles popularized acrylic nails by wearing them on the cover of Twen magazine. The use of acrylics then became synonymous with the vibrant disco era of the 1970s, with icons like Donna Summer and Diana Ross sporting long, adorned acrylic nails. The development of acrylics as a material can be traced back to the early 20th century, with various chemists contributing to its creation. Therefore, while no one individual can be credited with inventing acrylic nails, it was through the collective efforts and innovations of these individuals and events that acrylic nails became a staple in the world of fashion and beauty.

Photo of author

William Armstrong

William Armstrong is a senior editor with, where he writes on a wide variety of topics. He has also worked as a radio reporter and holds a degree from Moody College of Communication. William was born in Denton, TX and currently resides in Austin.