Monthly Archives: March 2019

In Korea, all young girls learn to color their nails with the balsam flower (called 봉숭아 or 봉선화 in Korean), when they bloom in bright shades of pink and red in the summer. 

You’d pluck the flower petals and mash them with potassium aluminum sulfate (백반) – this used to be easy to come by but not anymore, I think – then lay on the mixture on each of your fingernails. Your mother or some other older and more experienced lady would wrap each of your nails with plastic wrap and tie each “finger bundle” with string. After eagerly waiting, the bundles would be freed, your fingers would be pruny, but after removing the flower mash and washing your hands, your nails would bright and colorful. If the older lady was not very talented, you’d face the misfortune of orange skin around your nails.