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 (MMA).


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 these products.

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 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.


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:

  1. Unusually strong or strange odor which doesn't smell like other acrylic liquids.
  2. Enhancements which are extremely hard and very difficult to file even with coarse abrasives.
  3. Enhancements that will not soak off in solvents designed to remove acrylics.

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 favor.

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
Fax: 312.245.1080

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