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MMA and the nail industry

MMA and the nail industry

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MMA stands for methyl methacrylate. The first thing to understand is that there is a very big difference between MMA “monomer” and MMA “polymer”. When MMA is polymerized into long chains, it is no longer a monomer, it becomes a polymer. Monômeros are individual molecules, while polímeros, are very long chains of monomers.  MMA can typically form polymer chains that are more than 100,000 monomers long. This explains why polymers have completely different properties, and are not the same as monomers. They just have similar-sounding names; such as polyMMA or polymethyl methacrylate. The “poly” indicates that the substance polymer is NOT the same as the MMA monomer. 

MMA was first turned into a polymer in 1877, but didn’t become widely used until 1933 when it was sold under the brand name “Plexiglas”. During World War 2, it was used to make submarine periscopes and aircraft windshields because it was much more durable than standard glass.  Now, it is used to make everything from automobile tail-lights, kitchen appliances and mixing utensils for cooking, lenses for eyeglasses, home windows, skylights, signs and displays, bathtubs, LCD screens, furniture, and many other everyday products.

MMA is also polymerized along with other monomers to make customized artificial nail powders used in líquido e pó systems. It is considered safe and appropriate to use for this purpose. However, I can’t say the same for MMA “monomer”.  The use of MMA liquid monomer in artificial nail products has been an ongoing issue for more than 25 years. Many have worked to stop the improper use of methyl methacrylate monomer as an artificial nail revestimento. However, MMA is still widely used. Why? The main reason is the cost. Nail products containing MMA monomer sell for up to 75% less than the professional products which don’t contain MMA monomer. Many salons use this low-cost monomer to undercut the service prices of other salons in their area. This helps explain why the use of MMA monomer has become more of an emotional issue than one that is fact-based.  As a result of this unfair competition, many of the reasons given to avoid MMA are NOT based on factual information.  Instead, many act on anger and frustration. Some profissionais de unhas lashed out and began to spreading misinformation about MMA monomer, largely because they themselves lacked the correct information. Some erroneously claimed MMA monomer causes cancer, birth defects, or was highly tóxico; all of which are untrue.  

MMA monomer is used by doctors around the world and is considered the best and most widely used bone cement in the world. Which means it is implanted into the body to mend badly broken bones. It can’t be all that bad when it is regularly implanted into the body and for more than 40 years. But even though MMA is very safe and useful bone cement, it’s a lousy monomer ingredient for artificial nail coating products.  

These are the real reasons MMA monomer should NOT be used as an ingredient in artificial nail liquids: 

Poor adhesion

MMA monomer products do not adhere well to the unha natural unless the placa ungueal is aggressively filed, which many call “roughing up” the nail plate. The only way to make this monomer adhere well is by shredding the surface of the natural nail.  Anything will adhere better to the nail plate when it’s shredded, but the practice is harmful to the client’s nails. This thins and weakens the natural nail plate, setting clients up for future problems.

For example, this can lead to separation of the plate from the leito ungueal (onicólise), increased nail plate cracking/breaking, and increased potential for future elevação issues. As the saying goes, “You can’t build a strong house on a weak foundation.”  Aggressively filing and overly thinning the nail plate creates a weak foundation.

Difficult to remove

That is because MMA is highly impervious to acetona and other nail coating removal solventes..  MMA revestimentos de unhas often become frágil, and discolor quickly. They must be removed every three or four months.  This increases the risk of nail damage, especially when it is considered that MMA nails are often removed by prying the aprimoramento from nail plates. Prying or forcing any nail coating from the nail plate causes pitting and other surface damage. Creating deep pits in the surface further weakens the natural nail plate.


MMA artificial nails are extremely rigid and very difficult to break. When they are accidentally jammed or caught, the overly thinned natural nail plate often breaks before the MMA enhancement. This can lead to serious nail plate cracks which expose the nail bed, and can lead to infections. I’ve designed some of the most successful nail enhancement products ever sold.  One of the keys to their success is that IF they are caught or jammed the enhancement would break BEFORE the nail plate broke. 

These are the real reasons why MMA monomer should not be used in artificial nail coating products. MMA-containing nail coating products are harmful to the natural nail no matter how they are applied. Regulations alone have been very ineffective in controlling this problem. Regulations are only effective if someone actually shuts down the importers and suppliers. That has never been done, to my knowledge.  Instead, all the attention and blame was placed on salons and technicians using these products. In the meantime, the MMA sellers rack up huge profits, selling MMA through the gray markets or underground channels.  Some openly sell on the Internet and little is done to stop them. Unless stiff fines and serious consequences are enforced on importers and suppliers, MMA sales will continue. But in my view, TOO much focus is placed on creating unenforceable regulations and trying to force profissionais de unhas into not using MMA.  Instead, we should be educating nail professionals about ‘why’ MMA monomer shouldn’t be used. Please do not create irrational fear by claiming MMA nails causes cancer or birth defects. They don’t, and there is no fact-based evidence to support these claims. It is fear-based nonsense designed to frighten… not to inform. There is a much bigger problem here that many aren’t considering.

Nail professionals who use MMA monomer products are often uneducated about how to properly prepare the nail plate without damaging it. These nail technicians often poorly control their product application which can cause reações alérgicas skin reactions. They also often use damaging removal techniques. Even if these nail technicians changed to non-MMA products, they still would use incorrect and damaging techniques. These technicians need proper information and better education, not a slap on the hand, or a small fine. They are under-educated about how to properly perform these services.  

Consumers don’t know the difference between MMA, EMA, BMA, or RMA, and they DON’T really care. In the consumer’s mind, they’re all artificial nails. Clients often associate MMA misinformation with all artificial nail products.  The untrue myths just needlessly frighten clients, and harm the entire professional nail industry in the process.  No type of artificial nail product causes cancer or birth defects! There is no credible fact-based evidence that they do. The ingredients used to create these products are among the most widely studied ingredients on the planet because they are used for so many different purposes.  Please teach clients about the disadvantages of wearing MMA enhancements, and don’t repeat scary stories and myths. The client needs to understand why they should avoid patronizing salons that use MMA products, and how to tell the difference.  Remember, an educated client is the best inspector and the best defense against salons that use MMA monomer. Teach your clients well so they know why MMA should be avoided. Explain that artificial nail coatings, when properly applied should NOT cause the problems I just described. Explain these potential problems are easily avoided by using high-quality professional products, as well as proper application and removal techniques.  Clients should never feel pain, have skin redness or irritation, or suffer nail damage as a result of any nail service. This can happen when any type of artificial nail coating is used improperly, but these problems are easy to avoid when the products are used correctly.

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