How Russian Manicures Make Your Nails Look Photoshopped

How Russian Manicures Make Your Nails Look Photoshopped

Getty | Thai Liang LimGetty | Thai Liang Lim

When Kendall Jenner’s manicurist Lisa Kon posted a picture of the model’s tortoiseshell nails on Instagram back in 2021, one thing stood out even more than her design of choice: the incredibly clean and neat look of her cuticle area. While a clean cuticle line is a prerequisite for any decent manicure, Jenner’s, in particular, stood out because it looked like she had almost no cuticle at all, and the effect made her nails look incredibly natural. The secret behind this look, it turns out, is a technique called a russian manicure, and the style has been gaining traction in the US since.

Not only has there been an increase in TikTok videos documenting people’s experiences with getting russian manicures, but searches for the nail trend have steadily increased over the last few years, and it has become the manicure of choice for people who want their nail extensions to look like they’re growing naturally. That said, people are questioning the manicure’s safety because of what it takes to get that “photoshop” nail look. For one, many dermatologists and manicurists will advise against cutting your cuticles completely (after all, they are there “to protect the new nail from bacterial and fungal infections as they grow out from the nail root,” dermatologist Corey L. Hartman, MD, previously told POPSUGAR).

Still, to better understand the popularity of this growing nail trend, we asked celebrity manicurist Elle Gerstein to explain the ins and outs of a russian manicure, as well as what you can expect should you decide to get one. Read ahead for her best tips.

What Is a Russian Manicure?

This manicure technique actually has very little to do with nail art and everything to do with the nail prep. “A russian manicure is a technique, not a design,” Gerstein says. “The technique involves very extreme and extensive cuticle care [and requires a manicurist] to have almost surgeon-like precision.”

The attention to detail and cuticle cleanup are what differentiate this manicure from others, along with the fact that there is “no hand filing whatsoever. [All cuticle cleanup] is done with an e-file.” While russian manicures use both normal and gel polishes, if using a gel, manicurists take extra time to make sure that they properly structure the gel polish on the nail so that it best strengthens the nail bed.

How Long Do Russian Manicures Last?

While typical manicures last up to one to two weeks, russian manicures are said to have “three to four weeks” of longevity, Gerstein says.

Many manicurists tout that a russian manicure can last up to five weeks, but Gerstein does not recommend keeping the nail polish on for that long. “The growth of your nail becomes so top heavy with the material that’s on your nail that if you bump it, you can knock your nail right off the matrix, which is the part that you never want to damage.”

What’s the Time Frame and Cost of a Russian Manicure?

Be prepared to sit for quite a while if you decide to get a russian manicure. “For just a basic russian manicure, you’re not sitting for less than two hours,” Gerstein says. If you add designs or additional nail art, you can expect that time to increase.

As for how much russian manicures cost, the price will vary depending on your location and the exact salon you go to, but Gerstein says that for her area in New York City, the manicures typically start at $80.

The Risks of a Russian Manicure

While this nail look is picking up in popularity, it’s also caused quite a bit of controversy in the nail community. That’s because the extremely neat look that has become its signature is achieved by cutting past the cuticle area, which can lead to bleeding, pain, or (in worst-case scenarios) serious infections if not done properly.

“The eponychium is what gets cut in a russian manicure,” Gerstein says. If you’re unaware, the eponychium is what seals the nail bed and protects it from bacterial infection. Cutting it incorrectly can expose the nail to bacteria and outside pathogens, which can lead to some serious adverse effects.

For this reason, Gerstein stresses the importance of going to a certified manicurist who only uses professional tools and follows strict protocols when it comes to cleanliness. “When someone is really trained and [has] the right tools that you can’t [just] buy off of Amazon, you can achieve this look the proper way,” Gerstein says.

Translation: don’t try this one at home. (And if you do, make sure you’re doing it safely — like in the case of this product review.)

Ariel Baker is the assistant editor for POPSUGAR Beauty. Her areas of expertise include celebrity news, beauty trends, and product reviews. She has additional bylines with Essence and Forbes Vetted.

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