This article is extremely long, but very important for every woman and man who patronizes salons for nail services to read. If you have read some of the news articles here about the damage done, in some cases permanent, to consumers, you owe it to your health to be more informed. Nail services is not simply a beautification process, it involves the use of chemicals which could cause you harm if not properly applied.

First and foremost it is utterly important for all consumers receiving nail services to understand that these services are supposed to be relaxing and pleasurable, NOT painful. 

  • If the technician hurts you - LEAVE

  • If the salon is dirty - LEAVE

  • If the technician is using DIRTY, USED implements, files etc on you - LEAVE

  • If the technician is using chemicals in unmarked containers - LEAVE

  • If the technician can not/will not answer your questions about the products used - LEAVE

  • If the technician can not/will not answer your questions about their sanitation procedures - LEAVE

  • If you are getting any type of enhancement service and the technician is slopping product all over, getting it on your skin - LEAVE

  • If the technician attempts to PRY or RIP off your current enhancements - LEAVE -- LEAVE RIGHT NOW --- LEAVE IMMEDIATELY

Nail services should NOT be painful. If the technician is causing you ANY pain, seek out another more qualified technician immediately, DO NOT allow the technician to continue the service. Seek out the state's complaint form and submit it promptly with photos if possible. Many states will only act upon receiving complaints from consumers.

Nail technicians across the country and around the world have been commenting that some salons are "duping" their clients by stating they are receiving a special service and charging more money when in reality they are getting a very common normal service with a fancy name at an inflated price.

You need to understand the basic types of fingernail enhancement services and their differences to know what you are paying for:

  • Acrylic is a liquid & powder mixed, applied with a brush that will harden (cure) with no lamps in 2 minutes or less.
  • Gel is, in basic terms, pre mixed acrylic in a gel like state, that almost always needs to be cured under a UV lamp, Acrylic usually has an odor while gels are odorless. Gels often will cost slightly more than acrylic.
  • Silk (interchangeable with fiberglass and sometimes linen) is applied with resin (glue) and sometimes glue & acrylic powder (Dip System).
  • Acrylic Dips is the use of resin applied tot he nail, then dipped or sprinkled with acrylic powder
  • Crystal nails is any type of enhancement done with CLEAR acrylic, gel or resin either with clear tips or sculpted.
  • All of the above systems can be applied:
  • Directly on your nail (overlay)
  • On tips that have been applied with resin (glue) or acrylic
  • Sculpted using a paper, plastic or metal form.
  • All of the above types of services can be finished with a UV gel top coat to protect the enhancement. The UV coating is applied either with a brush or similar to polish and is "cured" under a UV lamp for around 3 minutes. UV top coats are very protective to the enhancement and will need to be filed off at your next appointment. There might be a slight additional charge for this extra.
  • A "French Manicure" can be done using several different techniques - #2,3,4 are also referred to as "Pink & Whites or "Permanent French" - #3,4 will usually cost more:
    1. Using polish over any type of enhancement or natural nails
    2. Applying white tips with a clear or sheer pink acrylic or gel, or resin with fiberglass or acrylic powder.
    3. Applying natural colored tips with white acrylic or gel, resin with fiberglass or acrylic powder in the tip and clear or a sheer pink on the nail bed.
    4. Using a "form" and sculpting the white tip using acrylic, or gel and clear or a sheer pink on the nail bed.
    5. Airbrushed over any enhancement or natural nail


Examples of typical scams include:

  • SOLAR NAILS - Solar Nails is a BRAND of acrylic manufactured by Creative Nail Design. It is one of the original brands. It is a true acrylic and nothing more.

  • GEL NAILS - which are actually acrylics with a UV gel top coat

  • CRYSTAL NAILS - simply a clear tip with clear acrylic overlaid on the entire enhancement

  • PORCELAIN NAILS nothing more than acrylic or gels possibly with a UV gel top coat

  • DIAMOND NAILS - the reason these are "more expensive" is because they are hard like diamonds

  • BAIT & SWITCHsalons will have three jars on the table, possibly hand labeled, one says acrylic, one says gel and one says fiberglass. They are all acrylic, but the consumer will be told fiberglass and gel are better for their nails and cost more

NONE of the above services are anything special,
nor should they incur any additional cost.

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.

Drill and MMA damage pictures

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