"The products that nail technicians use come from the earth. They begin as crude oil pumped from the ground. This crude oil is then refined into different 'yields'. The second yield gives us products such as butane and ethanol, and it is from this yield of crude oil that our products are derived. Many will use the term 'natural', which means to the majority of persons that these 'things' come from the earth, and yes, they do. Acrylics come from the earth as well as all the herbs that one uses in a holistic atmosphere."
"Acrylic" (liquid & powder) Nails are the most common form of nail enhancements in the salon due to their ease of use, strength and durability.
Liquid & Powder enhancements are safe and non-damaging to the natural nail plate when applied, maintained and removed by a licensed Nail Professional using proper techniques and professional products.
You may hear people say, "Having Acrylic nails really damaged my natural nails... My natural nails were so sensitive and weak when they were removed..."
The fact is that the damage done to natural nails in the salon is done by an unprofessional Nail "Technician", and NOT by the artificial product being applied or maintained.
** When a nail tech uses a file or drill that is too coarse for the natural nail, this removes nail plate layers, resulting in a sensitive and thin natural nail
Educated Nail Professionals properly prepare the natural nail with a 240 grit (fine) file or abrasive- to remove only the surface shine and protect the health & integrity of the natural nail.
** When a nail tech misuses 'primer' - a bonding agent used with acrylics, this can cause sensitivity if exposed to the surrounding skin (burning sensations) and possibly allergic reactions
Educated Nail Professionals do not misuse traditional "Primer" - a corrosive chemical which may burn the skin. (In fact, most Nail Professionals use a technologically advanced product- "Acid Free Primer" - which is safe and effective.
** When a salon uses (prohibited) MMA liquid monomer instead of approved EMA liquid monomer when doing acrylics, this can cause several possible complications (see EMA/MMA information below)
Educated Nail Professionals use professional products with labels, and do not use MMA liquid.
** When a nail tech removes the artificial product by mechanically forcing it from the natural nail using a pair of acrylic nippers, this unnecessarily removes nail plate layers, leaving the natural nail sensitive and thin
Educated Nail Professionals remove enhancements safely - commonly by soaking the product off in a safe, professionally approved remover
WHAT IS MMA?
Methyl Methacrylate (MMA) is an ingredient that was commonly used in early “acrylic” nail services. In the early 1970's, the FDA received numerous complaints of personal injuries associated with the use of acrylic monomer formulated with MMA. The reports included serious nail damage or loss, contact dermatitis, soreness and infection due to breaks caused by the rigidly adhered MMA acrylic.
By the end of the 1970's, the FDA had taken action against several manufacturers that marketed MMA liquid monomers. Most professional nail manufacturers use a product called EMA or Ethyl Methacrylate- which has been declared safe & approved for use in the beauty industry. What are the health risks associated with MMA products?
MMA-related complaints range from skin allergies to permanent loss of the nail plate. Here are the most common complaints that prompted the FDA to take action:
Nail Infections- The surface bond of MMA acrylic is so strong that even a slight trauma causes the nail to break and lift off the nail bed; which may result in infection and/or loss of the nail plate. Ironically, it is the strength of the “acrylic” that attracts some users. While MMA used in the medical and dental industries provides superior adhesion to bone, it is not appropriate or safe for use on the softer nail tissue.
Respiratory problems: eye, nose & throat irritations- Without proper extraction ventilation, MMA vapors may cause sinus problems, as well as pins & needles in the extremities.
Permanent Nail Deformities- The extreme damage that may occur as a result of trauma can affect the matrix (where the nail plate comes from), and cause full or partial permanent loss of the nail plate.
Severe Allergic Reactions- Repeated exposure to MMA can result in severe allergic reactions. Redness, swelling, numbness and itching are common symptoms which may lead to blisters/open sores, resulting in a permanent allergic reaction.
“If my acrylic products don’t contain MMA, what ingredients do they contain? Are they harmful?”
All of the professional liquids that are available through professional sources contain EMA- Ethyl Methacrylate, which is FREE of the hazards associated with MMA.
Massachusetts Board of Cosmetology Product Warning
Please be advised that the Massachusetts Board of Cosmetology, as of 6/22/99, considers the use of Methyl Methacrylate Monomers (MMA) in the manicuring industry to be unsafe and therefore PROHIBITED. These products are commonly referred to as "dental acrylics" or "porcelain nails". The FDA has classified MMA as a "poisonous and deleterious substance". MMA complaints have included skin allergies, permanent loss of the nail plate, permanent loss of sensation in the fingertips, and, after prolonged usage, permanent damage to the respiratory system.
Is EMA really safe?
You will be happy to know that ethyl methacrylate is one of the most studied monomers on Earth. There is a huge amount of scientific literature that backs up the safety of this important substance. It is used in everything from household plastics to medical devices that are implanted in the body. Recently, the prestigious Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel (CIR) reviewed all of this literature and determined that this ingredient is so safe that it can be used in retail nail products.
EMA acrylic liquid monomer has an 'odor'. Is this harmful in any way?
Vapors are created when liquids evaporate. Now, to answer your question- EMA is one of the most studied monomers in world. It is used in thousands of applications and by hundreds of different industries, including the nail industry. Over the last twenty years there have been many dozens of scientific studies performed on this monomer. Every one of these studies were evaluated by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Board (CIR), a group of world leading medical experts in cosmetic ingredient safety. EMA has been exhaustively reviewed TWICE by this prestigious board, during the last seven years.
In the first review, the CIR expert panel determined that EMA was safe as used by professional nail technicians. During the second review, (completed this last Dec.) the CIR determined that EMA was even safer than originally thought. They now believe EMA is SO SAFE, it can be used in retail nail products, as well. John Bailey (the Director of the FDA's Color and Cosmetic Division) sits on the CIR expert panel. Eric Schwartz from OPI and I spoke with him personally and asked him what he thought of the CIR ruling. He absolutely agrees the scientific information shows that EMA is safe for use on fingernails. To reach this conclusion, the CIR considered the effect of long term inhalation and skin contact. They looked at both scientific studies, as well as, medical reports and studies done on workers in factories that make and use EMA.
I completely agree with the FDA and CIR. In my opinion, there is no doubt that EMA is safe for use by nail techs. BTW: the CIR also determined there is no evidence that EMA can affect or harm unborn babies. The strange odor of the substance concerns people and makes them fearful. But odor has nothing to do with safety. Some very dangerous chemicals have no odor or even smell sweet and wonderful. For example, the vast majority of cosmetic related allergic reactions are caused by fragrances in products. This is why it is foolish to assume that odorless or odor free= safe. It does NOT! (For example- BENZINE smells wonderful, yet it is LETHAL!)
Of course, you should still take care and work safely. Working safely is important no matter what your profession. Nail techs should make sure they use proper ventilation to control both dusts and vapors. Nothing in the world is 100% safe. Millions have died from over exposure to water. Even so, we know that water can be used safely. The same is true for nail enhancement products.
Credit for answers to these questions go to Doug Schoon. He has an MS in Chemistry and is currently the Director of Research and Development for Creative Nail Design Systems, Inc., a California nail art company. He is also the Executive Director of Chemical Awareness Training Service.
Nail Manufacturers Council
The Nail Manufacturers Council (NMC), a sub-group of the American Beauty Association, is dedicated to educating nail technicians and promoting issues specific to the nailcare and nail enhancement segment of the professional beauty industry. The mission of the American Beauty Association and all of its sub-groups is to "expand, serve and protect the interests of the professional beauty industry."
The NMC was formed in 1989 in response to the growth of the nailcare industry and has since made significant strides toward a unified and improved nail industry. The NMC membership is composed of more than 50 leading nail products manufacturers committed to leading the nailcare industry into a prosperous 21st century.
Update for Nail Technicians - Methyl Methacrylate Monomer
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).
Methyl Methacrylate Liquid Monomers
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.”
Methyl Methacrylate Polymer Powders
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. PMMA is safely used in many common products ranging from dental prosthetics to Plexiglass™ and Lucite™.
Ethyl Methacrylate Liquid Monomers
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 NMC's Recommendation
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.
How Can I Tell?
Since MMA is prohibited, you are unlikely to find it on the ingredient label. Still it is usually not difficult to tell if aproduct 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.