Editor’s note: NAILS invited industry scientist, author, and educator Doug Schoon to weigh in on the controversy surrounding the so-called Russian manicure technique, which uses an electric file to aggressively groom the cuticle area. You can learn more about this and other important health issues at www.facebook.com/DougSchoonsBrain and www.facetofacewithdougschoon.com.

Doug Schoon

Doug Schoon

Some are teaching a risky technique that goes by several different names including the “Russian” manicure. This is a potential threat to the entire nail industry because it promotes the intentional cutting and/or abrasion of the living skin surrounding the nail plate. It’s claimed the “nails look prettier,” but that’s a poor reason to jeopardize a client’s health when safer ways to perform a manicure exist. Those who teach these techniques don’t use the term “abrasion,” using nicer marketing terms like “buffing” or “polishing” instead. Also, they claim to be removing pterygium, when they are actually removing skin from the proximal nail fold and sidewalls. Cutting/abrading will damage this skin and create the very problem manicures are supposed to solve! It results in more damaged skin that later must be cut or abraded away. Many report the skin around the nail plate grows back thicker, so they need to use the method regularly, just to keep up.

Some mistakenly think that using only sterile or disposable implements prevents infections. Not true! Whenever the living skin is cut or abraded, the damaged area is more susceptible to infection for many hours, even days, and the risks remain until the damage heals. Also, damaged skin is more susceptible to irritation and may lead to permanent allergic reactions to nail coating products. Many who use this technique place nail coating products directly onto or against the damaged skin, further increasing the client’s risk for adverse skin reactions. These bits may be less abrasive, but when any bit is spinning at thousands of RPM and placed against the skin, the surface will be abraded and this can reduce the skin’s effectiveness as a barrier, which makes it easier for infections and adverse skin reactions to occur. The skin around the nails is nothing like that on the palm of the hand or bottom of the foot. It is much thinner and easier to damage.

It is foolish for those teaching this method to believe it must be safe, just because they don’t have problems, and even more foolish to teach these method to the masses via the internet. Nor do I think so-called certification classes are the answer. Many students often disregard important precautions and will return to the salon and do it “their way.” Then they’ll teach other nail technicians “their way” and those nail technicians will also do it “their way.” Soon, the precautions will be forgotten. This could have unforeseen consequences that could harm clients, as well as the reputation of the nail industry as a whole.

Finally, using an e-file to smooth this skin is considered microdermabrasion, and in many regions is restricted to those with an esthetics or cosmetology license. Some state regulations specify that e-files can only be used on the nails. Nail salons are already under intense scrutiny and don’t need the media or salon-bashing activist groups using this as another reason to avoid salons. Many will be frightened by such techniques. This will lead to even more people being afraid of nail technicians and their services, rather than enjoying the many benefits that salons offer.

Never intentionally cut or abrade the skin around the nail plate — that’s trouble waiting to happen! Protect and pamper the skin around your clients’ nails. Explain to your clients and friends why they should avoid this as well. — Doug Schoon


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