If you take a look at the @NailmArtUsa TikTok account, you'll find it all: Intriguing client stories, soothing ASMR videos of everyday manicures, and lots of nail art inspiration. If you pay closer attention, you'll discover something even more daring: Russian manicures. Even if you aren't an avid TikToker, you may run into video demonstrations of the technique on your Instagram page or YouTube feed.
I consider myself somewhat of a nail snob, and I thought I knew all there was to know about nails, but I was intrigued by Russian manicures, which I hadn't heard of before. It sent me into a rabbit hole to investigate: What are Russian Manicures? Where do they come from? What are the benefits? Ahead, read what experts say about the buzzy technique.
What Are Russian Manicures?
The name "Russian manicure" is believed to come about due to the clean, polished nature of manicures done by Russian nail technicians. The textbook term for the process is called an E-file manicure. According to Kamola Malikova, the co-founder of Minx Nails in L.A., unlike gel manicures or acrylic tips, a Russian manicure is a five to seven-step process that doesn't require any soaking in water.
Unlike traditional nail salons where your hands are soaked in a bowl of warm water to soften dead skin cells followed by push-back tools to clip cuticles, Russian manicures clean up your cuticle by using electric nail bits. "First, we clean the nail bed with one type of drill bit, then the cuticle is removed with a second type of drill bit," Malikova says. "[The] third step is polishing the nail bed and creating the desired shape."
In a detailed video on @NailmArtUsa's TikTok, the nail technician demonstrates the dry technique, which involves cleaning and trimming the client's cuticles carefully with an electric drill and cuticle scissors. "The cuticle work is very precise and the tools used go through a three-phase disinfection and sterilization process," she explains.
Once your cuticles are cleaned, polishing is the next step. But, before a nail expert applies your colored polish, a limited edition base coast (strictly used only for Russian manicures) is applied. The base coat applied to your tips entirely depends on the strength of your nails, says Malikova. Then comes the gel polish, which is applied with an artist brush and sealed with a topcoat.
Though the process of a Russian Manicure sounds similar to that of a gel manicure, there's a core difference—Russian Manicure's technique specifically caters to the individual client's needs, hence why your base coat is selected based on the length and strength of your nail. "We stock a large selection of limited edition nail products, and we customize individual products to match the unique needs of our customers," Maliknova says.
NailmArtUsa explains that quality gel polish is typically used to ensure the best results. "The gel used is quality and is applied in a particular way to help the manicure last over a month if necessary," she says. "The polish is applied close to the cuticle with a thin brush to eliminate that outgrown look. Keep in mind the process is very detailed, which is why it takes between two to three hours for the entire manicure."
Are Russian Manicures Safe?
If you have never had your nails cleaned by removing your cuticle using the Russian manicure method, there's a good reason. Drilling off the cuticle is prohibited in some states due to safety concerns. Additionally, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends avoiding cuticle removal. "Cuticles protect the nail root, so it's important to avoid cutting your cuticles or pushing them back," the AAD recommends. "When you trim or cut your cuticles, it's easier for bacteria and other germs to get inside your body and cause an infection."
Despite the rigid stipulations around cuticle cutting, Malikova says that Russian manicures can be safe in the hands of a properly trained professional. To be trained in a Russian Manicure, a technician must undergo years of practice and complete several courses.
According to Malikova, her shop strictly hires from Profi Nails, a nail school specializing in Russian Manicures. Still, graduating from Profi is not her only requirement, and her technicians must have a minimum of two to three years of experience and pass an in-house test. "Most of our nail technicians have over five years of experience; they graduated from several nail schools [and] have diplomas and licenses," she says. As always, it's best to do your research when looking for a qualified professional to perform any beauty service—including Russian manicures.
What Are The Benefits of Russian Manicures?
Unlike other manicure techniques where length, shape, and design are prioritized, Russian manicures focus strictly on the health of your nails. No acrylics or toxic gel polishes are allowed, Malikova explains. "Acrylic extensions are harmful to your nails and your health, [so] we only offer non-toxic hard gel extensions," she says. "They are durable, long-lasting, and look elegant." According to Malikova, a Russian manicure done right is so long-lasting—in fact—you won't need a touch-up until five weeks after your first appointment.
An added benefit is that your nails will be restored to health, no matter how brittle they are. Hangnails? Thin nail plate? There's nothing a few consistent sessions with her team can't fix, Malikova says. It's why she says clients seldom go back to traditional manicures after experiencing the Russian technique.
Still, the choice to dabble in any new technique is a personal choice and one that should be made with care and research for the sake and health of your nails.