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What is MMA? Is it bad? How do I know if my nail technician uses MMA?

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I have heard a lot about MMA on nails, can you explain why it is not good for nails?
asked in Nails - Acrylics by beautytech.INFO  
The is a serious chemical MMA, ladies beware.
Excellent article. I live in Michigan where they do not ban MMA and I can tell you many times I went home and my fingers hurt, were extremely sore for no less than 3 days. I finally decided something is not right and I just do my own manicures and forget the extension. It's not worth it.

2 Answers

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Methyl methacrylate, or MMA, originated in the dental industry for making crowns and bridges. It is also used as bone cement by orthopedic surgeons during joint replacement procedures, in some flooring products, resins, and Plexiglas. This chemical was not designed to come in contact with skin or nails. Did you ever had to wait for a permanent crown to be made in a lab? The reason for this is that MMA, while in a liquid state, should be used in a controlled laboratory environment by properly trained technicians. Once MMA is not dangerous when it has hardened.

In the late 1960s and 70's, some nail technicians began using MMA for acrylic nail services because it was much less expensive than the safer alternative, ethyl methacrylate Due to numerous consumer complaints, the FDA determined that any manufacturer who used MMA in nail products was using a 'poisonous and deleterious substance,' and in 1974 took action against a manufacturer for doing so.

MMA is not recommended for use in acrylic nail products because it is much too hard, and can tear the nail off the finger easily. It is also solvent resistant, which makes it very difficult to remove. It takes a long time to remove MMA when soaking in acetone. Many technicians damage the nail plate when prepping for MMA, since that product needs grooves in the nail in order to stick well. A technician should always protect and preserve the natural nail under any enhancement product. And, finally, MMA should not be used in nail products because the FDA has determined that it is not safe for that purpose.


  •  Methyl methacrylate (MMA) has a distinctive strong fruity odor. There are other indicators that might help you determine if a salon is using MMA.
  • Strong odor that physically affects you. Beauty services involving chemicals often have offensive odors, like perms. However, while the smell may offend you, it should not physically affect you. If you experience any tightness in your throat or chest, tingling in your fingers, lightheadedness, dizziness, or an odd taste in your mouth, it is possible that MMA is being used.
  • No manufacturer’s labeled containers -- your technician should show you what products they are using on you. If the acrylic liquid is not kept in a manufacturer’s labeled container or if it is in a gallon jug, ask what it is. If you do not receive a satisfactory answer, leave the salon.
  • Price -- While this is not always the case, low prices can be an indicator that the salon uses MMA. MMA is considerably less expensive to purchase than the safer alternative EMA. If MMA is being used, a low price will usually follow, but that is not necessarily always the case.
  • In an acrylic nail service, the product that is required most is liquid. If the liquid costs around $200 per gallon, how can the salon keep their prices so low, especially if they are located in a high rent shopping center? The most costly expenses in owning a salon are rent, salaries, and products. If the prices are low, where are they cutting costs? Are they compromising safety by using unlicensed operators? Are they using less expensive products that are not safe just to keep costs down? ASK THEM.
  • Physical reaction -- If your fingers burn, itch or hurt after receiving nail services, this can indicate MMA exposure. Beauty services are not a no-pain-no-gain arena. We hear of consumers who, when asked if their fingers hurt after getting acrylic nails, say yes, but only for a couple of days. Ask yourself, if you went to a hair salon and got your hair colored or permed and your head hurt, but only for a couple of days, would you go back? No, you would not. It is not normal for your fingers to hurt after professional services.
answered by beautytech.INFO  
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Additional information about acrylic liquid monomer chemicals:

  • The 2 types of acrylic liquid monomer chemical used in our industry are:

    1. EMA - Ethyl Methacrylate

    2. MMA - Methyl Methacrylate.

  • The CIR (Cosmetic Review Board) has tested the more commonly used EMA liquid and found it "safe enough to be used by the consumer" but recommend it to be used by trained professionals. (7/99)

  • The NMC (Nail Manufacturers Council) and the ABA (American Beauty Council) have also "taken the position that MMA should not be used in nail products". (9/7/01)

  • The FDA, as far back as early 1970's, has stated, and still states, that MMA is a poisonous and deleterious substance and should not be used in liquid acrylic monomer for nail products. 3/2000

  • MMA is a very hard substance when cured (dry). Removal and maintenance of a MMA enhancement usually involves the use of a drill (electric file or e-file as we call it). E-files, when used by a technician who has been fully trained, are not dangerous or harmful to the natural nail plate. However, many who use this tool are untrained and have been known to cause pain and excessive damage to the nail plate - rings of fire - by drilling into the nail plate, sometimes THROUGH the nail plate into the nail bed (sometimes this causes permanent damage). 

  • When a nail enhancement of MMA is banged or knocked, it has little to no flexibility and will break severely, often taking the nail plate with it. EMA is formulated to be flexible, the enhancement will break or crack, sometimes the nail will break off, but will not usually damage the nail plate.

  • MMA does not soak off easily or in a reasonable length of time, causing undue exposure to acetone while soaking. Most Non-Standard salons (NSS*) will simply RIP the nails off or pry them off causing extreme damage to the natural nail plate. If a weakened nail plate or damaged nail plate is already present, (normal is when MMA is used) the exposure problems while soaking off MMA become a larger concern, not to mention the ill effects and pain of ripping off the enhancements. EMA should take about 20 minutes or less to soak off, while MMA will take two or more hours to remove by soaking in acetone.

  • To make MMA adhere well to the nail, overly rough preparation methods are used. The nail plate is "roughed up" with a coarse file or an electric file, creating in effect, a shag carpet look to the nail plate, giving the MMA something to adhere to. This process thins and weakens the nail plate allowing more chemicals to be absorbed through the weakened nail plate during application and curing time. All acrylic enhancements, while hard enough to file in 1-4 minutes, continue to cure for as long as 36-48 hours after application.

Warning signs of MMA use:

  • MMA has an unusually strong or strange odor which doesn't smell like other acrylic liquids. Odor is present during application and when filing cured product (for fill-ins or repairs).

  • Enhancements which are extremely hard and very difficult to file even with coarse abrasives. 

  • Enhancements that will not soak off in solvents designed to remove acrylics. 

  • Cloudy or milky color when cured.

Additional warning signs though less definitive:

  • Low price of fills and full sets (MMA cost 1/3 of EMA)

  • Dust or ventilation masks used (many technicians use dust masks today who do not use MMA)

  • Unlabeled containers - technician will not show or tell the client what brand of product is being used

MMA is present in almost every acrylic polymer (powder) on the market. This is entirely acceptable. Only MMA in it's liquid form is dangerous. Nail glues, wraps, and gels also have a small amount of solid PMMA, this is also acceptable in this chemical state.

* A Non-Standard Salon (NSS) is usually lacking in or follows poor sanitation practices, uses inferior and/or prohibited products, and under trained or non-licensed technicians.


MMA & Drill damage
MMA & Drill Damage
MMA & Drill DamageMMA & Drill Damage

answered by beautytech.INFO  
Why doesn't the FDA stop them from purchasing MMA?

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