Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Half-moon manicure - History and how-to

Half-moon manicure was popular in one form or another from 1920's to 1940's. In 1920's and until late 30's the tip of the nail was also left bare (or colored with lighter color). 

Cosmopolitan Magazine, December 1936. (Picture from here)
In the late 30's it became fashionable to leave only the "half-moon" bare. The trend continued into 1940's and is the look people now normally associate with half-moon manicure. According to some sources the bare sliver on the tip of the nail made also a comback in the 40's. (This page offers a cute summary of makeup styles from 20's to 40's if you're interested...)

I used think that in the olden days the nail polish came only in shades of red and pink was the wildest thing. However the nail polish colors were diverse even back in the days. Colors like silver, gold, green, blue, violet, black and mustard yellow might not have been the most common choice, but they were an option. 

Ladies Home Journal, June 1945. (Picture from here).
Mavala nail polish is my favourite because of the durability and breathability. My favourite shades include:
Smoky Blue
Touch of Provence
Cyclades Blue
Bronze Green
Smoky Blue
Madrid (red)
Paris (red)

The non-reds are my special favourites for a half-moon manicure. Just now I have my eyes on their Blue Curacao, Jazz Club, Music Hall and Acid Yellow.

I love half-moon manicure. It's very durable (Usually my nailpolish starts to peel off from the lower part of the nail that is now left bare and thus: no peeling!) and easy and adds that certain something to your vintage look. This time I used Bronze Green. (If my hand looks strange in the picture it's just because I scanned it... with a copy machine. No cameras around, you see. ;)
Fun with copy machine.
Some people like to use guides when they apply the nail polish, but I think they're bit messy if you're in a hurry and don't have time to wait for the polish to dry completely. I've tried using guides, but free-hand method works best for me.

First (after applying and drying the base coat) I decide the height of the half-moon and then go for the first stroke of brush from the highest point towards the tip of the nail. After that I make the second and third stroke with a tilted brush so that a half-moonish shape is left bare. It doesn't need to be perfect right away because I'll add another coat later and perfect the shape.

The method.
If I get nail polish on the half-moon area, or if the shape doesn't appear good enough I scrape the excess off with a toothpick while the polish is still soft (but not that wet). Finally I top everything with Mavala Minute-Quick-Finish that not only adds a top coat, but also dries the polish very fast to a point where it doesn't smudge everything and does not get scuffed that easily.

My nails are quite light in color, so I usually don't color the haf-moons. Sometimes I've used beige or white nail polish though. For a more festive look I've used layer or two of gold or silver nail polish under the main color. This gives the half-moons nice finish. 

Summary in finnish: Puolikuumanikyyri oli suuressa huudossa 1920-luvulta 1940-luvulle ja on nyt vaihteeksi taas melko muodikas... ja antaa toki mehevän lisän vintage-tyyliin. Itse tykkään ko. manikyyristä sen kestävyyden vuoksi. Jostain syystä koko kynnen lakkaukset alkavat yleensä kuoriutua muutaman päivän kuluttua, mutta puolikuumanikyyri pysyy minulla siistinä vähintään viikon. Useimmissa ohjeissa käytetään tarroja ohjaamaan lakan levitystä, mutta itse pidän eniten "vapaan käden taktiikasta". Lakan levitys aloitetaan puolikuun korkeimmasta kohdasta kohti kynnen kärkeä. Ensimmäistä siveltimenvetoa seuraavat kaksi tehdään pitämällä sivellintä vinossa siten että kynnen alaosaan muotoutuu puolikuuta muistuttava kaari. Ensimmäisellä kerroksella ei tarvitse pyrkiä täydellisyyteen, sillä muotoa pystyy muokkaamaan vielä toisella kerroksella. Puolikuun siistimiseen tarvittaessa käytän yleensä hammastikkua kunhan lakka on ehtinyt vähän kuivahtaa. Puolikuumanikyyriin käytän punaista lakkaa vain harvoin. Vaikka punainen saattoi olla yleisin väri, on muitakin, villejä värejä ollut tuotannossa jo vähintäänkin 30-luvulta.


  1. I wanted to ask your permission to use your information about Half-Moon manicures for a contest that I am entering in...I am going to give it a different twist. It may not work, but if it does, I think it will be fabulous. :D
    I will be posting my trials to my blog, so if you'd like to follow, I can post my link here (also with your permission only).
    Thank you! I love this step back in history. :D
    Sandra B.

  2. Hi Sandra! Thank you for asking, you may use the information. Nice to know that our stuff is useful. ;) Please post your link so we may see what you're doing. And good luck for the contest!

  3. Hey Cherry,
    I just wanted to thank you for being the only person out there in Internet Land who had any information on how to do this, freehand. With your help, I've pretty much mastered the technique.

    Because there's so little info out there on how to do this without stickers, I created a tutorial to clarify some of the method. I also gave you a shoutout on the dA page, as I am so grateful to you!
    Check it out, if you're bored: http://blightedangel.deviantart.com/art/Half-Moon-Manicure-Tutorial-395269318

    Also, I love the non-red polish choice you made, here. That bronze green is very pretty!