Lee Walker Helland from Gothamist decided to try the most fashionable, but potentially dangerous manicure in New York and talked about her impressions. Next - in the first person.
I'll admit, I ignore most of the new beauty hacks, skincare tips, and It Girl products.
However, I recently tried a nail trend that has suddenly become ubiquitous in New York City. This is a Russian manicure.
Why I wanted to try Russian manicure
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine mentioned Russian manicure and, unsurprisingly, I had never heard of it. A quick Google search yielded some basic explanations, as well as dozens of salons offering the service in the city (with rave five-star reviews from their clients).
During a Russian manicure, the master uses an electric device (milling cutter) and specialized scissors or tweezers to remove the cuticle, and not just push it aside, as is done with a regular manicure.
A Russian manicure, also known as a “dry manicure” or “dry manicure,” takes longer than a regular manicure—two to three hours versus one to two—and will cost you $80 to $100 versus $50 to $60.
The technique is rumored to have originated in Russia, but none of the experts I contacted for this story could confirm this.
However, the manager of the salon I went to, Elaine Lopez of Yara in the West Village, told me that there was talk in the New York nail world that the method needed a rebranding: "Russian" is inaccurate, since such a manicure they do all over the world. But now that the term has spread to every corner of the internet, she says it's an uphill battle.
Turning to Instagram, I found endless photos of nails so perfect they might as well not be real—which, of course, is entirely plausible in the age of artificial intelligence.
On TikTok, I understood where the hype came from. Influencers claimed that a Russian manicure could “change your life—your existence—for the better.”
Close-up videos showed cuticles being carefully (and bloodlessly) trimmed, followed by nail technicians applying glitter gel polishes to clients' natural nails using small brushes for detailing.
Lopez confirms that the popularity of this type of manicure grew almost overnight about a year ago. Last month, the trend took a step further when a New York journalist who describes her brand as a "wellness" "finally found a home for 10/10 Russian manicure" in Los Angeles, California, to jubilant gratitude from her subscribers.
With mania comes polarization, and this cliché applies to Russian manicures. Proponents of the technique on social media love the flawless results, saying cuticles grow back "cleaner" and manicures last up to four weeks - about twice as long as a regular manicure, since the technician can apply the polish closer to the root of the nail where the cuticle was removed.
Detractors, including some nail technicians and many dermatologists, argue that Russian manicures are associated with certain risks.
“The cuticle does serve a biological function in that it protects the area of skin where the nail forms,” says Dr. Joshua Zeineher, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital.
“If an infection occurs as a result of cuticle removal,” explains Zeineher, “you risk causing irreversible damage to both the skin and the nail, which may appear with a cleft or may not even grow back.”
Why can a person like me, who neglects many of the latest advances in technology, think about Russian manicure?
Beautifully painted nails make me feel put together—even on days when I often don't have time for other beauty treatments.
Besides, as they say in Hot & Happy: High Maintenance can be low maintenance. That is, invest the time and money now and your hands will look great within the next month.
How it was
I started calling salons that I heard about from friends and authority figures. First at Aya in Chelsea, where the first available appointment was a week and a half in advance. I called a few more salons and settled on Yara, located on the corner of Christopher Street and Seventh Avenue, where they found an opening for me within six days, which I immediately took.
When I arrived, I was offered tea and invited to take a comfortable place with Sergei.
I braced myself for judgment when I showed him my hands, which, despite their attractive bone structure, beautiful shape, and all my efforts at preventative care, had suffered from UV rays, time, and an obscure, nervous childhood habit of picking at my cuticles.
Sergei showed no signs of disgust, was friendly and sociable, and in the end gave me the best manicure of my life. He was young (maybe around 20 years old) and, as I soon learned, a prodigy in the nail art business.
First he found my shortest nail - the middle one on my left hand was unsuccessfully broken two days ago. Using a protractor-like tool, he carefully measured and filed all my nails to exactly the same length.
This was followed by intensive work with the cuticle. Starting with a flattened wooden stick, he gently pushed my cuticles to the top edges, then selected the attachment for the machine and carefully removed the excess cuticle from my nails.
After that, Sergei took tweezers from the sealed plastic envelope and carefully removed the cuticle that had peeled off from the nail. It is not painful and without blood, and even relaxes and relieves, as if you had washed your hair.
To finish, Sergey applied nail primer and then gel polish, which was applied in a thick layer to the center of each nail and then spread evenly and in detail using a very small brush.
As I applied the polish, he turned my hand in different directions to find the right angles to work the edges and respect the “top” of the nail—the natural curve of the nail bed that, with a traditional gel manicure, is often hidden under several thick coats of polish.
Each finger was placed in the UV lamp, which dries the gel polish, only once, and the thumbs were placed twice. I was surprised when Sergei said that we were finished - just one layer?
While this experience did not change my life, it completely improved my day (and possibly my week) and reminded me of the value of putting myself in the hands of experts from time to time.
What you need to know before getting a manicure
The nail technician should not remove the cuticle completely
“They always leave it on a little bit to protect the skin,” Lopez explained. “In fact, the device is more gentle than tweezers, which can get too close to the skin of the fingers.” She says her salon has never had any complaints about cuts or infections.
The master should spend about an hour just pushing back and processing the cuticle. When it comes time to tweezer, the cuts should be small, effortless and superficial. Lopez advises everyone who gets a Russian manicure to speak up if something doesn’t like it or hurts.
The duration of a Russian manicure depends on the condition of the nails and the speed of their growth.
Most clients don't return for three to four weeks, Lopez said, but nail variations affect the likelihood of breakage.
I'll have to wait
When searching for an appointment for this service, I was put on the waiting list two out of three times. Lopez confirms that Yara always has a waiting list. Sign up in advance if you don't want to risk it.
Think about being brave
My only regret is not choosing a beautiful fall red color. The impeccability of Russian manicure would be even more attractive with a bright finish.