MMA is not for Nails


Judge Gigi-Honorary Geek
From the Art of Nailz -- Shocking isn't it?

MMA Is Not For Nails
MMA is an abreviation for Methyl Methacrylate Monomer. It is a chemical compound. MMA makes

acrylic. But NOT the kind of acrylic you want on your nails!

MMA is dental acrylic. It's what they make fake teeth and crowns out of. And even dentists are starting to use other chemicals now because MMA is just so gosh-awful bad for you!
It's also used in industrial applications-- they use it to hold concrete together and to glue tiles to cement floors. This stuff is STRONG.

Back in the early days of acrylic nails it was the only stuff available. We got it from the dental industry. But it didn't take very long at all before it started causing problems and by the early 70's (that's right, acrylic nails have been around THAT long!) so many women had suffered allergic reactions to it and/or had major trauma to their own nails because of it that the FDA got involved.

The FDA reviewed the complaints it was receiving, did some research and declared MMA to be a "poisonous and deleterious substance" under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (which was initially put in effect in 1906.)

So the FDA said, "This cannot be used for nails" (well, I paraphrased that actually) in 1974 and it was supposed to be taken off the shelves!

By that time a lot of companies had already figured out that acrylic nails were going to be BIG and they didn't want to lose all the money that was sure to be had in the industry-- and they didn't want to see the industry fail either-- so they found alternatives.

Now we use EMA (ethyl methacrylate monomer: one letter makes a BIG difference in the molecule!)

EMA creates a more flexible acrylic that is more likely to break under stress. The molecule is WAY huge compared to the MMA molecule-- which means it can't penetrate the nail plate and is far less likely to cause allergic reactions.

Unfortunately, MMA is still available because it gets used for so many other things than nails. And it's cheap. CHEEEEEEAAAAP. A gallon of MMA can be found for about $15 where a gallon of cosmetic-grade EMA goes for over $200. That's a big difference!

So if you've ever looked around and seen those banners for full sets at $15 and wondered why they were so cheap when the nice salon up the street is charging $65 for a full set? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out.

So what's so bad about MMA?

Well, I really didn't know much about MMA until I got fired from a job back in 1995 for refusing to use it. I ended up down at the library for hours researching and making photocopies. And let me tell you-- this stuff is illegal for GOOD reasons!

First off, if you work with it long enough you will inhale a lot of the vapors that evaporate off the liquid. This gets into your body and slowly poisons you. Possibly to death, since it can cause pulmonary edema-- build up of liquid in your lungs. Now that IS a worst case scenario and to my knowledge no one has ever died from MMA poisoning in a salon environment.

But what it DOES do is cause a bunch of problems with your brain and central nervous system that is classified as "brain dysfunction."

It can cause loss of memory and dementia. It can cause nerve damage that will make your fingers and toes go all numb and tingly. It causes birth defects-- specifically causes spinal cord issues in fetuses.

Most clients will never have to worry about these things because they just aren't exposed to MMA often enough or long enough to inhale that much of it. But if you ever wondered why all those people are wearing masks?

Sadly, wearing a paper dusk mask will NOT prevent you from being poisoned. The vapors penetrate those masks and go right into your lungs. The masks just keep the dust out. (and, btw, a lot of techs wear dust masks because of the dust, so don't jump to conclusions! But if EVERYONE in the salon is wearing one AND their acrylic nails are dirt cheap? Get suspicious!)
What YOU (the client) have to worry about is the chance of developing an allergic reaction. The molecules in the monomer (remember! Monomer is the liquid-- and it's the only place where MMA is a problem) are so tiny that they can get into your skin and soak through the nail plate. This means your body is more likely to notice the foreign substance and revolt! Which is essentially what an allergic reaction is.

I see a LOT of people who develope allergies to acrylic. And what kills me is that so many people working in my industry don't have a CLUE about chemistry. So almost everytime they assume the problem is caused by the primer and will try to switch products.

This doesn't work. Sometimes it helps for a fill or two, but eventually I end up with a new client who can't wear acrylic and thinks I'm a goddess because I have stuff that is hypoallergenic.
Allergic reactions show up as itching, swelling, redness, and little blisters all around the nail.

Take a look at that photo.

That's a nail with MMA. OUCH! Notice how the nail itself is still in excellent shape? But the natural nail has been torn off the nail bed? That's the big problem with MMA. It's so strong it doesn't always break, that's why the FDA got so many complaints!

Women were getting their nails torn off their nailbeds! Then they were getting infections, some of those infections were going all the way down to the bone in the finger and then they had to have part of their finger amputated!

This is all the more a problem in salons that don't bother disinfecting properly. They just keep using the same drill bit and the same files and the same buffers over and over and over until they wear out! They don't even bother WASHING them between clients! Let alone DISINFECTING them according to the LAW!


Active Member
Very informative . Thank you x

Klassy Klaws

Well-Known Member
A Fantastic read for everyone in the industry:)
Thank you for posting Geeg xx


Active Member
Thank you so much for posting that Gigi! I've been trying to put together information about MMA so this will help loads :)
Rhiannon x


Well-Known Member
A great article in very client friendly language, thank you for sharing it.

I fell and hurt my nail, its sore.
I would hate to see what it would have looked like had I been wearing MMA- probably like the image attached to the article.


Well-Known Member
A very interesting and informative article Gigi, thank you!

I feel a bit weak looking at that picture :Scared:


Well-Known Member
Thanks Gigi!
Another article to share with consumers and peers!
It seems there are many out there that STILL just don't get it.


Well-Known Member
Excellent... I'm starting a get tough with the public who are potential clients campaign and this is just the thing I need to shock them all teeheehee


Well-Known Member
Disturbing. Thank you, Gigi.


I only do bio gel and occasionally shellac but have been giving my clients the 'big molecule/small molecule' lecture for ages now! especially new clients who have been to the cheap and not very cheerful nail bars. It's good to give people the knowledge to make informed choices.

Thanks Geeg for the extras I can now add to the speel :)


I remember seeing this way back when nails started to really explode onto the high street. The nail belonged to a young girl, can't remember how old exactly but i can say she was younger than 10. She came in with her nan to see what we could do with it. told her staight up a&e, no way was our salon going to touch it. Silly how some parents think its ok to put nails on such a youngster.


CND Grand Master tech
I want to post this on my my wall by my nail desk.:)


Thanks for posting this.. Really usefull!!


Well-Known Member
WOW! What an amazing read, just what I have been after.
Are we allowed to use this information & maybe the photo too please?

Apart from cheap prices & face masks, what are the other signs that clients can look out for which would tell them that Mma is being used?

As we all know there are lots of nail shops around that have many staff, doing nails, with no appointment needed, are all these types of places using Mma? Or the bulk of them? Do they even know that the products they are buying contains this?

Am I correct in thinking acrylic nails should not look thick & should just be thin & natural looking? (I only do natural nails, just see a lot of very thickly applied acrylic nails)


Am I correct in thinking acrylic nails should not look thick & should just be thin & natural looking? (I only do natural nails, just see a lot of very thickly applied acrylic nails)
A few girls I work with go to the local NSS and they aren't bulky looking. Apart from the cloned dodgy airbrushed tips (not a fan of these sorry, just my opinion) the thickness isn't bad at all, they actually look overly thin. It's only when one begged me to soak them off that I knew what they were xx


I was educating my client yesterday on the dangers of MMA and she said to me that she thinks a salon she went to used it as she tripped one day and hit the wall fingers first... the acrylic ripped back and tore her natural nail off right back and only left her with about 2mm of nail. :Scared:This was a few years ago so her nail has growm back now but that made her remove her acrylics for a few years.


New Member
Ive just read an article on this problem at - maybe of interest to others - there are some other interesting articles there too.

tracey louise

Well-Known Member
great read geeg,thanks for sharing. i think its important for us nail techs to be able to not just say that mma is bad but be able to back that message up with facts to educate our clients for there safety aswell and not just to think that we are bad mouthing other salons or other peoples work.
can we copy and print some of this off please?


Judge Gigi-Honorary Geek
Anyone can use the article.


New Member
Great article. Many years ago before training to be a tech i used to get my nails done "the wrong way with the wrong sort of acrylic"!. It totally put me as I thought acrylic was bad! Now I know better!