Thanks to the endless loop of nail inspiration available to us on apps like Instagram and TikTok, it's easy to fall into the trap of rotating a few of your go-to nail techniques and designs season after season. The next trendy nail term to get familiar with? Russian manicures. The intricate manicures have been gaining popularity on the latter app over the last few months due to their stunning results.
So what makes this manicure different from all the rest? Extreme attention to detail, and intricate shaping during the service. Unlike other manicures, the Russian manicure focuses closely on the cuticles before tending to the rest of the nails.
“Russian manicures have been trending for much longer than the last few months,” says Elizabeth Morris, owner of The Nail Hub and a gel nail expert and educator. “Within the professional nail industry and in certain metropolitan areas, they have been extremely popular over the last three to five years, but are now just becoming more known by consumers as an option for their manicuring appointments."
According to Morris, many people are now opting for Russian manicures during their salon visits because the end result is "a cleaner overall look and is a lot easier and faster for the nail technician to achieve.”
To learn more about the Russian manicure, we enlisted the help of some pros to explain everything you need to know.
What Is a Russian manicure?
If you've ever gotten a traditional manicure, you're probably used to your technician soaking the nails in water before pushing back the cuticles and surrounding skin ahead of applying polish and other nail products. This technique, however, involves no water, and the cuticles are typically cleaned using a drill.
Celebrity nail artist Elle Gerstein says to think of a Russian manicure essentially as a gel manicure that is “joined with meticulous cuticle care with an e-file,” hence the reason why this type of treatment is also commonly referred to as a machine or e-file manicure.
"Over the last couple decades or so, our industry has begun to realize that water can actually damage nails more than it helps, and the best way to get products to adhere the best and last longest is to do what we call dry manicuring,” Morris says.
These “machine manicures” involve using specialized nail bits and an electric file to shave down the cuticle and surrounding skin. With this method, your paint job can typically last between three and four weeks, compared to the two to three weeks you'll get out of a traditional gel manicure.
What are the benefits of a Russian manicure?
Aside from their longevity, Russian manicures boast a laundry list of benefits, the most notable being the precise results they're able to give.
“Using an e-file allows nail techs to provide really precise clean manicure results without the need for water or cuticle removers," Morris explains. "It also prevents the nail from swelling with water which can cause products lifting, nail dehydration, curling, splitting, and more."
After your manicure, Morris says you can expect your nails to look a lot more polished, as the paint should sit right at the edge of your cuticle. “Depending on the artist, when the color is applied, it will look like the color is almost underneath the cuticle area skin,” Morris notes. “It just looks that way because the skin has been cleaned so well and so precisely, and the color is applied so cleanly and so close to the skin that it looks like there’s no space in between the product and the skin.”
Are Russian manicures safe?
Although Russian manicures are safe, it's important to get a skilled professional who can perform the service properly. If done incorrectly, the nails can be left damaged.
“The skin that surrounds our nail plate is very sensitive and actually is the one thing that creates a barrier which prevents infections and other types of issues around our nails,” Morris says. Without the necessary skills, nail artists can easily break the seal between the skin and nail plates, leading to potential scarring, infection, and permanent damage.
That said, since the technique requires advanced training, it’s worth doing your research before you commit to a technician. “It takes time to understand everything, and anyone providing this service should have profound knowledge of skin and nail health as well as e-filing and bits,” Morris says.
Gerstein agrees. "The education behind this manicure is like having a master's degree in artistry and technique," she says. "Make sure you choose your artist wisely, or you can definitely run into trouble asking for this manicure at your corner salon."