Update for Nail Technicians
Methyl Methacrylate Monomer
Revised July, 2001
Periodically, the Nail Manufacturers Council (NMC) will publish educational
updates for nail technicians to keep them informed about current trends in the
professional nail industry. This particular update addresses the ethical and
legal use of nail enhancement products formulated with methyl methacrylate
In the infancy of the professional nail industry, methyl methacrylate (MMA) was
a commonly used ingredient in professional nail products. These products were
often referred to as "dental acrylics" or "porcelain nails."
By the end of the 1970s, the FDA had received so many complaints related to the
use of MMA that it was forced to take action against several manufacturers of
MMA-related complaints ranged from skin allergy to permanent loss of the nail
plate. It can also cause loss of sensation in the finger tips. As the problem
became more serious, the FDA warned manufacturers that further use of MMA in
nail enhancement products was inappropriate. Liquid monomer products formulated
with MMA were considered too dangerous for use in the beauty industry. In a
recent review, Allen R. Halper of the FDA's Office of Cosmetics and Colors
stated that the FDA considers MMA "to be a poisonous and deleterious
substance and may take regulatory action against any products containing methyl
methacrylate monomer and may take legal action against those involved.”
Nail Technicians who are aware of the dangers of MMA monomer are often confused
because many acrylic powders appear to contain this ingredient. But this is a
misconception: Only solid, polymerized MMA (PMMA) is used in powder. Unlike MMA
monomer, PMMA will not cause adverse skin reactions or other problems, because
the polymer is thousands of times larger than the original MMA molecule, and
therefore cannot penetrate the skin. PMMAis safely used in many common products
ranging from dental prosthetics to Plexiglass™ and Lucite™.
Most responsible manufactures formulate their liquid monomer with ethyl
methacrylate (EMA). The nail industry has had considerable experience with EMA,
which has been declared safe for use by trained nail technicians by the
prestigious Cosmetic Ingredient Review Board on two separate occasions.
THE NMC'S RECOMMENDATION
The Nail Manufacturers Council wants you to be informed about the potential
dangers related to the use of MMA. We agree with the FDA that the use of liquid
nail enhancement products containing MMA is unsafe and unwise. Anyone who
manufactures, sells or distributes these potentially dangerous substances is
breaking the law and endangering your health. Not only are they showing a
disrespect for you and your clients, they are endangering the entire nail
profession, because clients who are injured by MMA may be lost to the industry
forever. Many State Boards of Cosmetology which regulate and license nail
technicians have passed strict regulations forbidding the use of these products.
Serious adverse skin reactions and permanent nail deformities are only part of
the risks of using MMA. MMA creates enhancements that are too rigid for the
natural nail plate. MMA enhancements resist breaking if accidentally caught or
jammed. This often leads to painful breakage of the nail plate near the
eponychium which may result in severe infections. Nail technicians may be found
legally liable if they knowingly use products containing MMA. In many states
they may lose their professional licenses, be subject to criminal penalties and
fines, and/or be sued by injured clients.
HOW CAN I TELL?
Since MMA is prohibited, you are unlikely to find it on the ingredient label.
Still it is usually not difficult to tell if a product contains MMA. Here are
three simple things to watch for:
- Unusually strong or strange odor which doesn't smell like other acrylic
- Enhancements which are extremely hard and very difficult to file even with
- Enhancements that will not soak off in solvents designed to remove
Discount pricing can also be an indicator of MMA usage. MMA costs several
times less than EMA.
The last sign in the list above is the most important indicator. Nail
technicians who come across artificial nails made with MMA-containing
ingredients are usually surprised to hear how difficult it is to remove the
product. The only way to remove the products is by filing with a very coarse
abrasive or drills, which usually results in further damage to the client's nail
plates and nail beds.
The Nail Manufacturers Council fully supports the FDA's position and recommend
against nail technicians using liquid monomers which are formulated with MMA. We
believe that the significant danger to both nail technicians and clients makes
the use of MMA both unwise and unethical. In our opinion, the health risks and
public relations problems created by the illegal use of MMA seriously threaten
the entire professional nail industry.
If you think these products are being used, we recommend that you report your
suspicions to your local State Cosmetology Board or other regulatory agency. If
you know anyone engaged in selling or distributing liquid monomer products
formulated with MMA please report this information to the Nail Manufacturers
Council on 800.868.4265. You will be doing everyone in our industry a tremendous
The Nail Manufacturers Council, in affiliation with the American Beauty
Association, is dedicated to embracing the nail industry through continuing
education and increased awareness of current issues.
We thank you for your interest in this important topic. The members of NMC are
dedciated to elevating the nail industry to its highest professional standards.
Please contact us if we can be of further service.
Nail Manufacturers Council
of the American Beauty Association
401 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611