Korean beauty: Garden Balsam nails (봉숭아 물들이기 – ‘Garden Balsam colouring’)

Let’s talk about a traditional Korean beauty tip: Staining your nails with garden balsam, a powder derived from a beautiful plant called Impatiens balsamina.

I finished those packets of garden balsam powder, so I guess that they are empties??

While I think that this is mostly for primary school age girls, I have also seen a few little boys sporting these nails. In the past perhaps, this was also used by teenagers, though I have never seen anyone over the age of 10 sport these Garden Balsam nails in real life.

Apparently, this is tied to an old folklore tale, according to which you are supposed to stain your nails in summer and if your nails are still coloured come winter (or the first snow), then you will marry your true love. I have heard different versions of this, so feel free correct me if I am wrong.

You can get these at Daiso for ₩1,000 (roughly US$ 1).

My friend from the States was visiting at the time and roped me into this. And I’m glad she did! It was super fun to bond with her over girly stuff.


  • Degrease your nails with nail polish remover so that the pigment can penetrate your nails more deeply. If your nails are too oily, the pigment may slip off or stain patchily.
  • Prepare a couple of cotton buds, a small pot of water, a few containers and one packet of garden balsam per person.
  • Use a few old newspapers or towels on whatever table or hard surface you are planning on mixing and applying the powder to protect against unwanted staining of floors or table tops.
  • Empty one packet into a small container or dish (it did not stain the plastic dishes that I was using, thankfully), add a few drops of water and stir the water and powder mixture until it forms a thick paste. Use water sparingly, or else your paste will be too thin and drip right off your nails.


Next, use your cotton buds to apply said paste to your nails. Try to stay within the confines of your nail. If your entire finger is orange rather than just your nail, you may end up looking a little silly or as though you have been making jam at home.

You can leave it on for 10 minutes to get nicotine stained nails, which is what I did. On the plus side, the stains faded faster.

Or you can do what my friend did and leave the paste on for 30 minutes, which will stain your fingers a bright orange and will not fade as easily. Hers lasted for a couple of months.

Rinse the paste of your fingers and dry your hands well. Remember to take photos for your Insta to impress everyone with your weirdly stained candy corn nails ;D.


If you are not a fan of your new look (~slowly raises hand~), just leave it as is and wash your hands often. That way, your nails will have faded back to their natural colour in two or three weeks.

If you like what you see, apply a clear coat of nail polish to seal in the colour and reapply every week or so. You could even use a transparent orange nail polish while your nails grow out for a more purposefully looking gradient/ombre nail.

Final Thoughts

This is a fun activity for you and a girlfriend, child, niece, or whoever else you have in your life. Plus, there’s no chipping like you would get from a regular nail polish, so there’s that.

I will not be repeating this as I am not a fan of how it looks on my nails, but if you like the look, by all means go for it! 🙂

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