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WTF – Nail Stains: Bongseonhwa

July 28, 2011

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This week’s Wonderful Treasure Find surely has a lot of historical and cultural relevance, and our treatment of it will surely offend some historically attached people, but – come on!!! It stained my nail orange! It’s orange! SUPER ORANGE!!!! And it won’t wash off! And I take pride in my nails! They’re very strong and quite nice looking for man-hands. ARRGGHH! *Martina clubs Simon over the head and takes over*

Back when I was teaching, I would periodically see my female students with their nails and fingers stained orange from this stuff. Both our schools had strict policies on makeup: no permed hair, no eyeliner or eyeshadow, and no nailpolish. To circumvent these laws, girls would use this stuff to stain their nails and for some reason (due to its historical nature?) they were allowed to dye their nails ONLY with this. I was really reallllly excited to try it out because it seems so hippie like in its “gather-the-flowers-crush-the-dye-out-of-flower” nature.

If you live on Jeju Island (lucky for you, it’s gorrrrgeous) you can actually gather these Bongseonhwa (봉선화) flowers at the end of the summer and make the powder from scratch, but in good ol’ modern times, you can buy these little packages pre-ground and already mixed with alum (if you really want to do it from scratch Jejuites, ask for alum aka “myeongban” 명반 at your pharmacy).

My students suggested coating my fingernails using q-tips and then wrapping my fingers over night in little mini tinfoil/plastic wrap turbans, but I didn’t listen to them because I didn’t want my whole fingertips to be dyed. I mixed my little powder package with water to make a kind of thick paste and used an old paint brush to apply. After watching an 30 minute TV show with my hands awkwardly hovering like the White Queen (from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland) I rinsed off the gloop. Lo and behold! My nails were totally a (gorgeous?) bright orange! Coating them in clear nail polish will help it last longer, but frankly, I don’t think you need it, since mine lasted until my nails grew back out. I really looked like I was hammered on the fingers with a large object as they grew out since it faded to a sickly orange-brown.

Am I not selling this nail dye to you? Oh sorry. Anyways, the historical love story behind it is actually quite nice: you’d dye your nails in the summer and if they were still orange by the first snowfall, you’d find and marry your first love. If you want to see this historical love story in action, it comes up in the comedy/romance/changestomiserablecryyoureyesout movie that I loved, “A Millionaire’s First Love” with Hyun Bin (<–yes, from Secret Garden) and Lee Yeon Hee. Check it out! But I digress. I feel all warm hippie and historical and stuff reminiscing on that movie and my dyed nails…but I’m still glad I suckered Simon into doing it this time. Unless it’s the fall/Halloween time, I don’t think I’d do it again. Perhaps it’s because orange is the only colour I actually dislike, no offence bongseonhwa, you’re a beautiful plant. *Simon regains consciousness* Why do I have a magic marker moustache? *TEE HEE HEE…Martina runs away giggling…. AND WHY IS MY NAIL ORANGE!!!??? Also, congrats to Laura Carpenter for winning the WTF Care Package of the month for her answer. She suggested that the best addition to the Pedobear mug would be “Bear mug phrase about delicious staff you can drink with it; its in my stomach is really nice taste + enjoyment” That made us laugh. Rebecca Black almost won with “We so excited!” but she’s already got to much money from that ridiculous song. Hell! So congrats Laura! Send us an email and we’ll send you your package!

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