See top vintage nail polish colors & retro brands

See the top vintage nail polish brands and colors from the 20th century

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Red, pink, gold & beyond! See the top vintage nail polish brands and colors from the 20th century, with shades & styles from decades ago — and see how manicures have changed over the years!


Nail polish fashion parade of the month (1930s)

For her fall wardrobe, Miss Elyse Law chooses 3 “Smoky Nail Shades”

San Francisco’s smart younger set boasts one of the loveliest debutantes ever presented to Society.

Elyse Law’s beauty is the kind that is only seen once or twice in a lifetime… Divinely tall, slim, with hair that shines like wheat in the sun, a faintly golden skin, blue eyes deep-set under a high brow.

She’s a very vital young person, too! Golfs, swims at Pebble Beach, Santa Barbara. Adores far places… has traveled a lot. Likes music, the theatre. And has a really extraordinary flair for color and design in clothes.

In composing her color harmonies, she uses the rich and subtle new “smoky” nail shades with unusual imaginativeness. “I never get tired of playing my Cutex nail shades against costume colors.” she says. “I wish every girl appreciated what exciting possibilities they offer as contrast.”

Smoky nail shades from the 30s

Take off the old — put on the new! (1930s)

Cutex presents a wonderful new liquid polish!

Here is an entirely new liquid polish. Based on a brand-new formula! It’s the first real improvement in liquid polish in 10 years, and we’re proud of it. It’s the polish women have been waiting for!

A stronger, more durable Lacquer… The new Cutex Liquid Polish takes a little longer to dry because it’s a stronger, finer lacquer. But you don’t mind that because it’s twice as lovely, more lustrous and wears longer than ever before.

Now even nails that go in the dishpan 3 times a day come out shining and smooth and unstreaked!

It goes on even more smoothly, Not a bit of difficulty — and never a sign of the blotching that sometimes used to ruin the whole effect. You’re going to love it.

DON’T MISS: 1930s shoes for women: 100 vintage styles

Vintage Cutex nail polish - 1930s

Try on your lucky nail color before you buy (1938)

Lady Esther’s new 7-day cream polish!

Created to cover your nails smoothly with only 1 coat instead of 2… makes nails gleam like sparkling gems.

At last, a cream nail polish of enduring loveliness… a polish that goes on in one smooth coat… and stays perfect for as long as 7 days! But how is this possible? Because Lady Esther scientists created this new polish to resist cracking, chipping, peeling… to keep its lustrous finish days longer… to win alluring beauty and distinction for your hands.

But Lady Esther presents more than an amazing new nail polish. She brings you an entirely new way to buy polish the way that makes sure you will find the one lucky flattering color for your nails.

How to find your lucky color

Before you buy — you can find the one enchanting color that will give your nails and hands streamlined elegance, flatter them beyond belief, and harmonize irresistibly with your clothes.

And how do you do this? You cut out the Lady Esther “Color Tips” at right, fit the colored part over your nail, and use the white tabs to hold it in place. Women themselves voted this the easiest and best way to find their one lucky shade. It is the winning way perfected by Lady Esther to end guesswork and disappointment… to save polish, time and money!

You’ll want to start right now–so try on these “Color Tips” at once and don’t stop until you’ve found the one glorious color that’s lucky for you! Then put the tab in your purse as a reminder to buy Lady Esther’s 7-Day Nail Polish the first time you’re shopping.

Vintage Lady Esther's 7 day creme nail polish colors 1938


Riot Red and Rumpus take the town! (1940)

The liveliest, most flattering nail polish pair in many a moon!

Riot Red, so clear and bright itself, is right in the spirit of the clear, vivid trend in fashion colors — greens, gold, reds, royal blue and turquoise… A bright accent with brown, black and coverts.

Rumpus — the gayest, loveliest blue-red to date — marvelous with the new amethysts, wines, evergreen greens, blue of every hue… with conga brown and somber neutrals, Get Riot Red or Rumpus today and take the town!

ALSO SEE: How is lipstick made? Look back to the lip makeup’s 1940s heyday

Vintage Cutex nail polish in reds from 1940

Dura-Gloss vintage nail polish by Lorr (1940)

The most beautiful fingernails in the world!

Ship ahoy, mates — aye, captains too! — did you ever see such bewitchingly beautiful fingernails anywhere — on land or sea or in the air? A striking new beauty that you’ve never known — your own fingernails can have it with Dura-Gloss, the nail polish chat has swept America because it’s different better.

For Dura-Gloss goes on more evenly, keeps its gem-hard, glass-smooth lustre longer, resists chipping longer! Your fingernails — the most beautiful fingernails in the world! Go to any cosmetic counter today — no, not a dollar, as you might expect, — but 10 cents — so buy — enjoy Dura-Gloss.

Lorr Dura-Gloss vintage nail polish 1940


Never before was nail polish so exciting (1950s)

Featuring the Gold and Silver Sparkle, Modern Classic, Perfumed, Iridescent, and Shell Pastel. All by Dura-Gloss — the greatest name in nail polish.

Vintage 50s Dura Gloss nail polish

It’s fresh! It’s fabulous! It’s for you… (1952)

“Red Hot ‘n Blue”! by Cutex.

For that beautiful American look… Cutex creates “Red Hot ‘n Blue” …a sizzling new red-mellowed with a sweet touch of blue! Light your lips and fingertips tonight with this new color magic that starts hearts beating… phones ringing… things humming beautifully for you!

Made with Enamelon, beautiful Cutex “sets” hard as a jewel! Gives lasting non-chip wear! Another Cutex first… miraculous spill-proof bottle protects clothes, rugs, furniture!

MORE: How to do ’50s eye makeup – brows, lashes, shadow & more – with tips from the pros

Vintage Red Hot and Blue nail enamel 1952

“Cute tomata”! by Cutex (1954)

Warning to bachelors! Here comes the gayest, brightest, cutest breath of spring that ever breezed into town! It’s you… flaunting this season’s fresh and flirty new red “Cute Tomata” by Cutex.

A stop, a look and whistle red… that’s just your dish for spring!

Red nail polish from 1954

Sheer miracle (1956)

10 fabulous lip colors, and matching Diamond Cutex nail polish!

Vintage nail polish - 1956

Cutex Rivals a Ruby vintage nail polish (1957)

For brilliance… for wear!

Now better than ever! You’ll love Cutex even more than before! Never such lasting wear in any nail polish — at any price!

Cutex nail polish beauty from 1957

Pearl polish by Cutex (1958)

Now — the Exotic look — in Pearl polish by Cutex.

Your nails become exotic jewels — it’s the most expensive look in history!

Rainbow nail polish shades from 1958

Four to glow with Cutex (1958)

Match your mood with your polish! When tonight’s the night and the world is a glittering promise, light up your nails with Gold Sequins — shown top left over Slightly Scarlet. The gold sparkles are equally spectacular on their own. Or be vibrantly feminine with Tahiti Orchid, top right.

Flaunt the new Flaming Pearl, lower left, and light up the night with molten excitement. Or smooth on mysterious Capri Blue Pearl, lower right, and wear an air of cool sophistication. Try a different Cutex Pearl Polish every night… and thrill to a new look every time!

Vintage 50s Cutex glow nail polish creative colors 1958

Slightly scarlet (1959)

Red… Racy… and Irresistible!

New! A dazzling, stormy-sweet shade of scarlet… as daring as it is adorable. This is the reddest, romanciest color that ever flirted at lips and fingertips. The kind of color that instantly separates the sirens from the sissies! Don’t wait till tomorrow — try that Slightly Scarlet touch today!

Vintage Slightly Scarlet nail polish beauty from 1959

SEE MORE: 109 colors of retro Revlon nail polish (1981)


Cutex polish strengthens as it beautifies nails! (1961)

Of course… Cutex polish has plasticizers to strengthen brittle nails!

Yes… Cutex polish strengthens as it beautifies nails! All 36 glorious fashion-fresh shades of Cutex polish contain plasticizers to help correct brittle nails.

That’s just one of the many extras you can count on with Cutex — always has been!

1961 Cutex fingernails - nail polish manicure

ALSO SEE: Lip colors & vintage lipsticks from the ’60s

Nail Satin by Max Factor (1961)

Now… the luxury of Nail Satin at your fingertips!

The gorgeous look of satin… captured in twenty fantastically rich colors, to tip your hands with a fiery satin shimmer! Nail Satin — actually blended with a touch of pure silk– the most luxurious gift ten fingers ever had!

Max Factor nail satin nail polish 1961

Revlon Fingertip Tans – ’60s-style nail polish from 1964

Revlon Fingertip Tans - nail polish from 1964

ALSO SEE: How to create the pretty retro pastel eye makeup look they loved back in the ’60s & ’70s

Cutex takes a cue from the vinyl look (1966)

These shades of lipstick — Cocoa, Melon, Natural, and Pink Glaze — are in the new Cutex Glaze Polish too!

1966 Vintage nail polish lipstick glaze

MORE: 50+ cute vintage mini dresses & miniskirts from the ’60s & ’70s

No stir! No shake! No fooling! (1966)

Clairol creates “Extra-Frosted” — The first full-frosted nail colors. Coat for coat they give you extra frosting — extra coverage without stirring or shaking!

Pink pearl nail polish from 1966

Silver ’67 Cutex (1967)

Four new silver shades from Cutex. Silver is in! Watch out! Cutex conjures tingling silver in the very latest fashion colors. Now make your nails shine, shine! With Cutex “Silver.” The most exciting news for this year!

Vintage Cutex Silver 67 nail polish


How to get a fabulous paint job… (1973)

…without paying decorator prices.

If you don’t plan on hiring a manicurist, Cutex is the surest way to redecorate your own nails and professional results.

Vintage Cutex nail polish pinks and reds - 1973

MORE: Lip Smackers from Bonne Bell: The super trendy vintage lip balm from the ’70s & ’80s

Ultralucent nail enamel: Our wardrobe matches your wardrobe (1973)

When you put something on, put it all the way on. Costume your fingers and toes in Max Factor’s creamy new Nail Confections designed to make you look deliciously different. Who knows? Maybe you’ll like ’em so much, you’ll start picking your clothes to go with your polish!

Ultralucent Nail Color cremes and frosts. Hard to chip. Hard to crack. And so easy to love.

Nail confections by Max Factor.

Max Factor Nail Confections - lots of colors from 1973

Cutex would like to remind you: Your toenails are showing. (1973)

Please paint them. Before you set your foot in those naked new shoes or sandals. And paint them with Cutex.

ALSO SEE: These vintage 1960s shoes for women were fashionable & far out

Cutex toenail polish creme from 1973 - Platform shoes

Cutex invites you to a sneak preview (1974)

These are our new, new colors, still wearing their working labels. By the time you see this page, they’ll be all dressed up and ready to shine.

But before Cutex presents a new nail polish we audition hundreds of shades. If a color’s too flashy, too blah, faddish or simply passé, it never gets by.

Our finalists all have a special star quality. Wild Rose, is a vivacious, almost flamboyant pink. Spark Pink is bright, warm and happy. (Because this is what pink should be this year.)

ALSO SEE: How to get beautiful nails: 9 tips for your next mani-pedi

Then there’s Redwood, a whole new way to see red. Primrose, a frosty, far-from-prim rose. Orange Crush, which looks like it sounds. And sumptuous Silver Fox.

All these newcomers must work with the famous Cutex formula. To glide on smoothly, evenly. Dry quickly to a jewel finish. And have staying power.

Cutex nail polish from 1974

Resillience challenges the frail nail. (1979)

New Resillience by Coty.

Give your nails a fighting chance. With new Resillience. The incredibly long-wearing, flexible nail enamel that stands up to chips, to cracks and splits. Coty fortifies Resillience with a unique new Polyester Resin that has never before been used in nail enamel.

Wear a new Resillience. And be a knock-out.

Coty Resillience flexible nail enamel 1979

Retro ’70s Avon nail enamel (1979)

Take your pick of 21 great shining, shimmering, nail colors when your Avon Representative comes by. And while she’s there ask her to show you lipcolor, eyecolor, facecolor and blush that’s just right for you. She has them all. Get ready. Color is coming!

Colors include: Berried Gold, Dazzling Coral, Smoked Cranberry, Hot Brandy, Vanilla Peach, Brandied Cinnamon, Oyster Pearl, Cinnamon Crepe, Cherry Chianti, Rosefrost, Earthrose, Plum Parfait, Desert Dawn, Sugared Brown, Cinnamon, Wood Rose, Budding Pink, Red Velvet, Cotton Candy, Rose Gold, and Clear

Retro 70s Avon nail enamel (1979)

Color that looks wet, even when it’s dry! (1979)

Take a shine to your nails — with Cover Girl ‘Nail Slicks’.

The color’s so shiny, it looks wet even when it’s dry. And that wet look lasts and lasts. ‘Nail Slicks’ actually strengthens nails, too — to help prevent splitting and breaking. And the shades are the slickest, shiniest yet.

So make a splash. With Cover Girl ‘Nail Slicks’!

Cover Girl nail slicks - polish from 1979

FOR THE NEXT DECADE: Nail polish ads from the ’80s: Popular colors & top brands (1980-1989)

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Comments on this story

3 Responses

  1. Looking for a nail polish I wore all the time in the 1980s called Rubis and I believe it was made by L’Oreal not certain but pretty sure. Was a beautiful bright red shiny polish that I have never been able to find another color like it was it many years and I just thought maybe I could find out if of why they don’t make it now or if they could have changed the name of that color.Thank You for trying to find out for me and maybe you could tell me one that looks like that color because I have never been able to find another color just like that one and I really loved it and I use to buy it on a Drug store. Thank You, Brenda

  2. I am looking for a Revlon nail varnish from the 70’s it was a mahogany/red colour but with a gold shimmer where it caught the light .Also Avon one in the 70′ a that was called mahogany. Thankyou

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