||What is MMA?
Methyl Methacrylate is an ingredient that was commonly used in early "nail
In the early 1970s, the Food and Drug Administration received numerous complaints of
personal injuries associated with the use of acrylic monomer formulated with MMA.
The reports included serious nail damage or loss, contact dermatitis, organ damage from
long term use, soreness and infection due to breaks caused by rigidly adhered acrylic.
By the end of the 1970s, the FDA had taken action against several manufacturers that
marketed MMA liquid monomers. Since the FDA does not review or approve cosmetics before
they go to market - only taking legal action if a product poses a safety problem - certain
disreputable manufacturers continue to formulate products with MMA.
Most main stream acrylic manufacturers use a product called EMA or Ethyl Methacrylate
which has been deemed much safer for use in the beauty industry. With the surge in
salon growth and many salons looking to cut costs of supplies MMA has shown it's ugly head
again. (MMA is 1/6th the price of EMA.)
Recently articles have appeared in
newspapers and industry gossip has said that if consumers want the
salon to use MMA on their nails because it will last longer.... what
is the big deal? Well the big deal is...we do not know how much
internal organ damage, respiratory, eye damage & allergic
responses etc... MMA does and at what speed it happens....but it
does happen...make no mistake about it. I was outraged when
I read an article from a consumer in a New Hampshire newspaper claim
it was her right to have MMA applied to her nails if she wished it.
How irresponsible of her!
Getting MMA out of the salons and off clients hands will take the combined effort of state
regulators, salons and consumers. In lieu of federal intervention, there are steps salons
can take to discourage the use of products formulated with MMA. While the industry waits
for the FDA to put more force behind the MMA issue, many manufacturers are addressing the
What are the health risks associated with MMA products?
MMA-related complaints range from skin allergies to permanent loss of the nail plate.
Here are the most common complaints that prompted the FDA to take action:
The surface bond of the MMA acrylic is so strong to the soft tissue that even a slight
trauma to the nail can cause the nail to break and lift off the nail bed. This can result
in serious nail breaks, infection and loss of the nail plate. Ironically, it is the
strength of the acrylic that attracts some users of the product. While MMA used in the
medical and dental industries provides superior adhesion to bone, it is not appropriate or
safe for use on the softer nail tissue.
Respiratory problems and eye, nose and throat irritation.
MMA vapors are toxic even in small doses and can cause lung, liver and heart valve damage,
especially with long term exposure. This has been documented in laboratory animals as well
as in lab technicians from dental labs where crowns and dentures are made. Wearing a mask
does nothing to prevent inhalation of MMA fumes. Masks only reduce the inhalation of
Permanent Nail Deformities
The small molecular structure of MMA makes it possible for it to be absorbed through even
unbroken skin. It can also actually do permanent damage to the matrix of the nail and
further absorb into the body. While MMA will not store in the tissue, it is stored as
methanol in the blood and urine.
Severe Allergic Reactions
Repeated exposure to products containing MMA can result in severe allergic reactions.
Redness, swelling and itching are common symptoms which can lead to the development of
tiny blisters around the cuticles and fingertips. These blisters can develop into open
sores, and the fingertips may become numb or feel itchy under the nail.
MMA sticks better the EMA products? FALSE
When EMA Acrylic products are applied properly they should adhere as well if not better
than MMA products. It is not true that MMA has better adhesion. It is just
that MMA users, use drills or very course files to prep the nail and this is what causes superior adhesion (and
severe nail plate damage). MMA in fact does not adhere well to
natural nails at all if it were to be applied in the same manner that we
apply traditional acrylics. NOTE: Drills must be used in salons that use MMA a regular file can
not quickly file the surface of an MMA nail.
However... Please note... that NOT all salons that use drills...
use MMA, many do not.
If my acrylic products dont contain MMA, what ingredients do they
Are they harmful?
All of the traditional acrylic liquids that are available through main stream sources
contain EMA Ethyl Methacrylate, which is free of the hazards associated with MMA. While it
is true that both EMA and MMA can also be found in the powder phase of acrylic products,
this is a form of co-polymers. The co-polymers, Polymethyl Methacrylate and Polyethyl
Methacrylate, are completely harmless in the powder because the molecules are already
polymerized and too large to evaporate or penetrate the skin. EMA was developed for use in
the nail industry for application of acrylic nails, and works much the same as MMA in
Whats the difference between EMA and MMA?
In chemistry, one small alteration such as adding an extra Carbon or Hydrogen atom can
mean the difference between making a potentially harmful poison or something that is not
harmless when used by the professional. Although close cousins, EMA has a slight, but
significantly different molecular structure than MMA. This gives EMA the desirable acrylic
qualities without the undesirable side effects so often seen with MMA.
Only three atoms distinguish the difference between EMA and MMA. However, this small
chemical difference makes EMA much safer. An example is the difference between poisonous
wood alcohol (methanol) and beverage alcohol (ethanol). Again the difference between the
two molecules is only three atoms. Yet wood alcohol is deadly if consumed. Beverage
alcohol is considered safe (if not used in excess!).
Why is it safe to use MMA in the dental and medical industries?
The dental industry makes dental composites sometimes using MMA as a monomer. However,
teeth are a much harder substance and less penetrable than the softer, keratin protein of
nails. Additionally, most dental prosthetics are made outside of the mouth. And, like nail
acrylic, once polymerized and cured, dental composites are safe when placed in contact
with human tissue. The exposure rate is also completely different. A client who wears
acrylic nails may have a fill every two weeks. The same client may only have a few dental
prosthetics throughout a lifetime.
How do I know if a salon is using products containing MMA?
MMA Acrylic nails are difficult or impossible to remove.
Once hardened through polymerization, acrylic nails made with MMA monomer are solvent
resistant. It can take two hours or more to dissolve when immersed in a solvent, whereas
nail products made with EMA take only 20 to 30 minutes to dissolve. To speed up the
removal process, the salon may choose to use an electric drill or extremely coarse file to
remove the MMA acrylic. Since it may be difficult to see where the nail has grown, the
chance of filing into the natural nail are great, often leaving behind a damaged, thin
nail plate leading to permanent nail deformities. I would recommend filing the product
thin and leave the remaining layer on until it grows out. Once the product is cured there
is no danger to the client and would create less damage to the nail in the long run.
An unusually powerful, noxious odor.
Volatility is what gives acrylic products their characteristic odors. Smaller methacrylate
molecules are more volatile, producing a much stronger odor. MMA is the smallest
methacrylate molecule used, hence the powerful odors associated with these illegal nail
products. The safe Ethyl Methacrylate (EMA) used in many of todays mainstream
acrylics are also has small molecules and a strong smell, though not as small as the MMA
Low priced full sets and fills
The cost of a gallon of MMA liquid monomer ranges from $9.00 to $22.00. The cost of EMA
liquid monomer ranges from $189 to $219 per gallon. For discount salons, cost outweighs
the safety factors. While MMA monomer may cost less to buy, the health risks are more
costly in the long run. The sad thing is many times the salon techs have no idea that the
MMA liquid is dangerous or that is, in fact, what they are using. The owner normally pours
the gallon into yorker bottles with no labels or they pour them in name brands like OPI or
Creative Nail that way the techs, inspectors and clients dont know what kind of
product they are using.
What happens when a salon tests positive for MMA containing products?
Salons that are identified as using MMA products are at risk for citation, fines and even
loss of licensing. However it is extremely difficult to cite salons unless inspectors can
find "dental monomer: containers. Many salons hide the containers in the back, or
refill brand containers.
The following is Reprinted with
permission from Nails
Magazine. It is a grass roots campaign aimed at consumers....It was started by salons that are concerned about
Are you concerned that you have been exposed to MMA?
MMA (Methyl Methacrylate) is a liquid monomer deemed poisonous and dangerous by the FDA
and is now being used improperly in the beauty industry for artificial nail applications
in some salons.
Indications that MMA has been used on you:
- Operators Most Often Wear Masks (FDA has deemed this substance poisonous)
- Drill Use should never be damaging or painful. Drills are always used with MMA.
- Operators/Owners/Management are secretive about product brand names
- Distinctly different odor from regular nail acrylic
- Usually low service pricing (MMA Liquid costs $20 a gallon. Industry approved
Acrylic Liquid cost $200 a gallon)
- Artificial Surface will not release under extreme pressure (MMA nails rarely lift
or break and will take the nail plate off the nail bed if enough pressure is applied to
Other Important Factors to Consider when choosing a Salon
- All operators must be licensed and the license should be visibly posted
- Proper Sanitation Methods should be used
- Inquires should be answered in a professional and educated manner
Salons using MMA will probably not inform you of the potential dangers. We the
professional salons in your area want you, the consumer to understand the importance of