Russian Manicure, Zazie Beetz

March 24, 2021: As someone who avidly investigates celebrity beauty and wellness routines, I keep an eye out for industry trends that I can report before they explode into the mainstream. The latest? Russian manicures. Having spent more time than ever scrolling through social media due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve noticed more and more stars have ditched their classic polish change or acrylic fill for this thorough alternative. Kendall Jenner and Hailey Bieber are among those who’ve fallen in love with the technique. But what is it, and what makes it different from a traditional manicure?

For a breakdown of the process, GRAZIA spoke with Kamola Malikova, founder of Los Angeles-based nail salon Minx Nails, which opened in January 2020. In the short time since the salon’s been accepting clients, it’s already attracted the likes of supermodels and big-name influencers. “I don’t think I’m ever going back to having a normal manicure ever again,” Jasmine Tookes told followers on an Instagram Story following her first appointment. Malikova tells me that some out-of-state clients love the results so much that they fly in to get a monthly manicure or fill.

Ahead, Malikova answers all of our questions about the Russian manicure.

what is a Russian manicure?

A Russian manicure (sometimes called a “dry” manicure or an “e-file” manicure) incorporates an electronic file (like those used for acrylics) to remove excess skin surrounding the nail bed instead of traditional water-soaking techniques, cuticle nippers, and cuticle pushers. While you might typically reserve 45 minutes at the salon for a traditional manicure, the Russian manicure requires a minimum of an hour and a half to ensure that each step is performed safely and meticulously. Even though there are hundreds of Russian manicure tutorials on YouTube, it is not safe to DIY, as you could accidentally damage your nail bed and thus put you at risk of infection.

To better understand the process, Malikova walked me through the steps over the phone, which I’ve summed up as follows: Step one is removing gel polish with one type of electric drill head. After that, a sharper drill bit is used to remove extra skin around your nail bed, followed by your cuticles, depending on how overgrown they are. “If it’s not overgrown, we don’t touch it,” she tells me over the phone. Then, the cuticle is cleaned, and the nail is buffed with a third drill head until it looks shiny and healthy. The final steps include perfecting the nail shape, painting the nail with gel polish with a precise artist brush, and sealing it off with UV light. “Each step takes 15 to 20 minutes,” she explains.

Russian manicure
Jasmine Tookes with a signature Russian manicure and hard gel extensions by Minx Nails.

are Russian manicures dangerous?

The short answer, according to Malikova, is: yes and no. “It’s only dangerous in unprofessional hands,” she tells me over the phone. “This is a very specialized manicure and pedicure, and only professionals can do it because it requires meticulous application by a nail technician who’s received a vigorous education.” Interestingly, though, there aren’t many education options in the United States just yet. “The best schools are in Russia,” the founder says. “There are options in Los Angeles, however, they’re taught in Russian.”

When seeking out a salon specializing in the Russian manicure, our advice is to inquire about how their staff has been trained. Minx Nails requires at least two years of experience, a certificate from a manicurist program, and training from a Russian manicure-focused school. When speaking about Los Angeles-based schools, Malikova directed me to Profi Nails, a salon where all of her staff received their training in the Russian manicure technique, which is entirely separate from a manicurist license. Training in the art of the Russian manicure is understandably taken very seriously. “The way they train is on grapes and balloons,” she explains, implying that these delicate materials symbolize the nail matrix. “If you pop the balloon, you fail.”

“We understand the risk of working with an electric drill, just like a surgeon understands the risk of working with a scalpel. In the right hands, a scalpel can do miracles, and in the wrong hands, a scalpel can do horrible things.”

Minx Nail Spa

what are the benefits of a Russian manicure?

First off, Russian manicures are undeniably picture-perfect. People love them for this reason and the fact that they’re super long-lasting. Malikova tells me that she only has to see her clients once every four weeks. Indeed, that makes a heftier price tag more justifiable, right?

Russian Manicure