The dangers of cheap MMA Acrylic nails

Is MMA bad for your nails?

If you have ever been to a non-standard salon (NSS) you may have the impression that acrylic nail extensions are harmful for your natural nails AND that acrylic nails are cheap to get

There are two types of monomer liquid that is used in acrylic nails application- MMA (methyl Methacrylate) and EMA (Ethyl Methacrylate).

Technically MMA was banned from use in the 70s by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is significantly cheaper than EMA, sets up fast and adheres like no other product. Therefore, some salons continue to use it.

MMA is widely used in dental and medical products – teeth filling, bone reconstruction. It is also referred to as ‘dental acrylic’ or ‘porcelain nails’.

mma acrylic bad for your nails

Why did the FDA ban MMA Acrylic?

There were a lot of reports of personal injuries – fingernail damage, deformity, contact dermatitis, allergies, permanent nail loss. After a thorough research, FDA concluded that MMA was a poisonous and deleterious substance that should not be used in nail enhancements.

The difference between MMA and EMA

  1. MMA adheres better to the natural nail
  2. MMA is stronger – too strong
  3. MMA can cause serious skin reactions and permanent nail damage – including nail loss
  4. MMA causes more painful breaks
  5. MMA is cheaper
  6. Molecule structure – EMA has one carbon and two extra hydrogen atoms
  7. EMA has larger molecule – can’t penetrate body tissue
  8. MMA is banned by the FDA, while EMA is safe to use
Image thanks to Kiea Taylor – Kreations By Kiki

How to recognize if a salon is using MMA?

  1. Price – if your set seems cheap, then maybe the salon is using cheap products
  2. Unlabeled products – red flag if the containers have no brand name and you cannot research what was used on you
  3. Overfilling of your natural nails – to make the acrylic adhere to your nail plate, the nail tech needs to remove the shine and make your nail slightly rough. However, this is done very lightly and gently. If you think the artist is overdoing it, then maybe it is because she is about to use MMA or is underqualified. 
  4. Odor– many people report that the smell of MMA is different than the smell of EMA and it is present not only when applying the acrylic, but also while filling
  5. MMA is extremely difficult to remove. Most of the time it can’t be soaked off in acetone
  6. Difficult to file – the nail tech uses very coarse files.
  7. Your new extensions feel very hard and difficult to break or cut– if you jam or slam your finger, the extension may not just break (which is the safe thing to happen) but instead your whole nail plate may fall of your finger – leading to serious nail damage
  8. When freshly done using a transparent powder – the nail extensions will be cloudy, not as see through as glass (EMA can be very clear and translucent)
  9. Overtime, the MMA acrylic will start yellowing

You may want super long nails and you may want them strong and indestructible, but keep in mind that one impact can result in you losing your whole nail, not just break the tip of your extensions. It is always safer to choose the correct product which is flexible (EMA). Yes, if you are rough with your nails they are going to break or lift, but at least this is easily fixable and the pain will not be much.

As a rule of thumb: 

  1. Don’t make the extended bit longer than the length of your natural nail
  2. Don’t use your nails are tools
  3. Get used to being more careful
  4. Don’t be rough with your hands
  5. Use cuticle oil at least twice a day
  6. Use hand cream after washing your hands
  7. Make sure you dry your hands after contact with water
  8. Wear gloves when doing housework/ gardening/ cleaning/ anytime you get in touch with chemicals
  9. Avoid leaving suncare products on your nails
  10. Visit your nail tech every 2 weeks

So should you risk it?

I would not risk my own health or my client’s well being. Losing a nail or damaging my/or someone else’s skin or natural nails severely does not justify any low price. Please, think this over the next time you decide to spend £15 to get acrylic extensions.