Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fun Korean Stuff: Dyeing Your Fingernails With Garden Balsam 봉숭아

1.      In Korea, girls and women dye their fingernails and toenails orange using Garden Balsam
         (Impatiens Balsamina 봉숭아).
2.      The flowers can be found everywhere during the summer months.
3.      If you can’t find the flowers, you can buy the powder instead (봉숭아 묻들이기).

For the first week the orange color will be a bit too strong and look like nicotine stains, also your fingers will be stained for about two weeks.

This is two weeks later.  You'll notice that there are no longer any stains on my fingers and that the color on my nails has faded nicely.  The only problem is that the color is not even.  My pointer fingernail is much lighter than my pinky.

1.   In the olden days it was used to ward off evil spirits.
2.   In China it was used as a nail polish, I'm guessing it was the same in Korea as well.
3.   A cute love tradition – if the orange color remains by the first snowfall then you will marry your true love.
4.   It’s pretty.
5    These days it’s done as a way of preserving tradition.  Koreans are big on that and it’s cool.

1.      In Korea, the flowers and leaves can be used after the heavy summer rains, mid to late
2.      The flowers and leaves can be frozen and used year round.

1.      Pick the flowers and leaves off the plant.  You will need one handful for one hand.
2.      Crush them.  I used the bottom of a rolling pin and a bowl for mixing face masks.
3.      Apply the mixture to your fingernails or toenails, wrap in plastic, and tie with string or tape.
         (I didn’t use string and the plastic kept on falling off while I was sleeping cause I move around  a lot).  The mixture will go onto your fingers as well.  No worries, it'll wash off in about two weeks.
4.      Sleep, as in go to bed. kkkkk
5.      When you wake up, remove plastic and wash the mixture off.
6.      Apply a clear coat of nail polish to make it look brighter.

Other Uses for Garden Balsam:
1.      You can use the mixture to make dyes for clothes.
2.      In the olden days, Koreans would plant them around their homes to ward off bad spirits ie.
         Cholera,  and other diseases.
Korean Movies and Songs that Refer to Garden Balsam:
1.      Daddy Long Legs – 키다리 아저씨
2.      A Millionaire’s First Love

Naver How To Links:
      2.    How To Do It Again - This Time With Salt Added? – is that salt added to the mixture?
3.    You Can Buy The Mixture: 봉숭아 물들이기 – you can buy the flower mixture rather than making it on your own.


  1. I used to do this every summer but stopped for whatever I'm inspired to do it again, thanks Fauna :D

  2. ^ Hey do you know what the extra ingredient is that they use? It looks like salt. I saw it on the 2nd Naver link. Glad to inspire you.

  3. Wow tats interesting! We have a similar thing done in India with the henna plant leaves. Its called Mehendi. Its main healing effect is cooling the body, but now a days its more of a temporary body art in India;a very popular one.
    Donno if u know abt it already!

  4. ^ I didn't know that San. I did get henna painting on my hands when I was in India but as body art only, no idea about the cooling part. Thanks for the info^^

  5. Thanks for the awesome information you provided on this Fauna!

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  7. Psycred, Thank you so much for answering my questions. I have a lot of questions about a lot of things in Korea but no one to ask. Most of my Korean friends work full-time or don't speak Korean well. My Korean is limited though I am working on it.^^
    I'm glad you enjoyed reading this post. I suggest trying around bed time when your daughter is really sleepy.
    The color on my nails is half-way finished.
    BTW - do only children dye their fingernails? Is it mainly a children's thing?

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  9. ^ Thanks once again Psycred. I will keep you in mind next time I have a Korean mom question^^

  10. This blog is great. Fauna, may I reference this blog for an article about this practice of "orange fingertips"? May I use a picture or two? It's for Gwangju News magazine, a free English magazine in Korea. Please let me know. Thanks, -Stephen

  11. Hi Stephen, I am not sure how to reply back to you other than here on the blog. Yes, feel free to use the pictures as long as you reference everything properly. If there is an online version of the magazine, send me a link with your article in it. I'd like to see what you have to say about "orange fingertips". :)

  12. Fauna, thanks, I will. I don't have much more to say about it, just want to explain to people about this tradition. I'll post the online link here later. I will reference your blog, thanks!

  13. Hi Fauna, the article was published in the June edition of Gwangju News magazine, and here is a link to the online version:

    I am actually looking for more "myths" and superstitious Korean stuff for this series. I've covered almost 20 of them so far (including fan death, dream interpretations, test superstitions, etc.). Always looking for more ideas. Thanks for the assist on this one.

  14. I am very happy to be here because this is a very good site that provides lots of information about the topics covered in depth. I am glad to see that people are actually writing about this issue in such a smart way, showing us all different sides to it. Thanks for sharing, please keep it up.Certified Translation in Abu Dhabi

  15. Thanks for this blog post. It was written awhile ago, but it still has some relevant information for people wanting to do fun things in Korea.