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As a beauty editor, I’ve had many, many manicures. I’ve probably tried every type of manicure under the sun—hard gel, soft gel, builder gel, good old-fashioned regular nail polish, you name it. I’ve regularly been getting some form of gel on my nails for quite some time, and at this point, I know the difference between a really good manicure and a manicure that’s just okay.
Honestly, there are only a handful of manicures that have absolutely blown me away. I’ve gotten a few at the hands of celebrity nail artist Julie Kandalec, who always impresses me with her detailed designs, and a few truly special manicures from Manhattan nail ateliers such as Vanity Projects, JinSoon, Paintbox, Chillhouse, and more. Many of these manicures have been hyper-luxe versions of what I’d typically expect in a manicure: gel soak-off, pushed-back cuticles, soaking, and, of course, gel application.
When I first started seeing the Russian manicure pop up on my TikTok feed, I was immediately intrigued. Russian manicures are nothing new, but they’ve begun trending more and more. They’re also banned in some states, which only added to my intrigue.
I decided to book a nail appointment at Gilded Ritual in Tribeca, Manhattan, to try the Russian manicure for myself. Gilded Ritual is a full-service spa that specializes in Russian manicures, making it unique. Emma Eskander, the spa’s director, walked me through all of my most burning questions, and I got a Russian manicure artfully done by the spa’s top manicurist, Krystina. Keep reading for everything you need to know about Russian manicures, plus details on my personal experience getting one.
What exactly is a Russian manicure?
One of the first differences between a Russian manicure and a regular manicure is that a Russian manicure utilizes a dry process. “When you use water on your nails, typically it makes them softer, so you're more vulnerable to have breaks or have nails chipped,” says Eskander. Russian manicures also don’t use acetone, and previous gel polish is taken off using an electric file.
The most major difference between a Russian manicure and a gel manicure is how a Russian manicure deals with your cuticles. Nail technicians also use the electric file to clean the cuticles before cutting the cuticle. After using an electric file to sand the cuticle down, and then they’ll go in with a nipper. According to Eskander, this creates less pulling on the cuticle, which leads to more longevity.
Russian manicures also focus on building the apex of a nail, which is called polish alignment. “Not everybody's nails have a perfect arch, says Eskander. “Some people have a flat nail bed, some people have dips. When [the manicurists] apply the base, they basically create the illusion of a perfect arch on a nail. [There are] times that they'll flip your hand upside down, and that's to make all the products run to the center so you have that perfect arch.”
How long do Russian manicures last?
One major perk of a Russian manicure is that they last longer than traditional gel manicures. While a typical gel manicure lasts between two to three weeks, anyone who gets a Russian manicure can expect their manicure to remain intact for three to five. Eskander explains that this is due to the fact that cuticles are buffed off, so manicurists are able to get polish under the cuticle. You can also expect the service to take a bit longer—Russian manicures take two hours.
Why are Russian manicures controversial?
The American Academy of Dermatology advises against cutting your cuticles at all, noting that “when you trim or cut your cuticles, it’s easier for bacteria and other germs to get inside your body and cause an infection.” Some states don’t allow nail technicians to cut off the cuticle at all.
Though these warnings might sound scary, Eskander assures that when done by a highly trained manicurist, Russian manicures are safe. Nail technicians who are properly educated on Russian manicure techniques go through years of training and keep up with the latest tactics. “My staff [goes] through training outside of here at least once a month to keep up with new techniques that have come out,” says Eskander. “We always make sure that they're up to date.”
What is it like to get a Russian manicure?
I was a little apprehensive before my appointment, but I immediately knew I was in good hands with my manicurist, Krystina. I was amazed at how precisely she was able to take off my previous gel polish using an e-file (and how quickly!). I felt like the entire process was so detailed and careful. After getting it done, I was amazed at how good my nails looked—in fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten so many compliments on my nails in my life.
Shop my favorite red nail polishes for a DIY mani: