Acrylic Nails are a very popular service in nail & beauty salons around the world. We do a lot of them at Reflective Beauty and our clients are lucky, we take the time and spend the money to ensure we use the right products. There are however, salons that choose money over their clients safety & welfare – in the industry they are known as Non-Standard Salons (NSS). If you are on the hunt for safe & hygienic nail salon, then you better read this!
What are Acrylic Nails Made from?
Acrylic Nails are formed using an acrylic liquid and an acrylic powder that when mixed together, forms a hard plastic that is similar in feel and appearance to your existing nail. There are 2 types of acrylic liquid and powder used by nail salons around the world – Ethyl Methacrylate (EMA) and Methyl Methacrylate (MMA).
A little bit of History
Back in the early 1970’s the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began receiving complaints about injuries caused by nail products containing Methyl Methacrylate (MMA). They began investigating these complaints of fingernail damage and deformity as well as dermatitis. After lots of research and many discussions with medical experts, the FDA filed several lawsuits and injunctions against companies in the US. The FDA made it clear to the public that MMA was not to be used in nail products. Despite internet rumours, MMA is not completely banned in the US (read about nail products from the FDA site). It is however banned by over 30 states in the US that chose to take action themselves. It is also banned in Canada and New Zealand.
I could go on for a long time about MMA, but let’s cut to the chase, MMA is not “banned” here in the UK either. Why? Because it “can be used safely in other areas” (eg. dentistry).
Ok, so EMA is Good, MMA is Bad – remember that.
Why do some salons use it?
NSS or unsafe nail salons use MMA because it is much cheaper than the safer alternative EMA. It also sets much harder and stronger – which may appear to be a good thing, but it isn’t (see below). Their thinking is that it will last longer on your nails.
What MMA really does to you
Exposure to MMA can cause:
- Redness and Swelling
- Skin Sensitisation (tingling or numbness)
- Respiratory problems or eye, nose and throat irritation
- Fungal or bacterial infections
- Discolouration of the nails (yellowing)
- Nail damage or deformities
Because the bond between a MMA acrylic nail and your nail bed is very strong (sometimes stronger that the bond between your nail and your finger), there is a real risk that your actual nail could life away from your finger if you caught your nail on something! MMA is also very strong and requires an electric drill to remove it. It can also take much longer to soak off in acetone (up to 2 hours) and then has to be pried or ripped off (Ouch!).
What to be on the lookout for?
- Unusually low prices – MMA costs about a quarter of the price of EMA and is found in discount salons
- Nail Technicians wearing masks – certainly not an immediate indication of MMA use (one of our employees wears a mask), but all the clues will start to add up
- Vague description of brand and products – unlabelled containers and technicians who won’t (or can’t) tell you what they are using
- Much stronger odour – acrylic nails do tend to have a distinctive odour, but MMA has a much stronger and unpleasant fruity odour
- The acrylic nail turns yellow over time
- Electric files used on the natural nail – very dangerous and a big warning sign
- The acrylic nail is very hard and not flexible
Don’t be fooled by some of the flashy looking salons found in high-volume shopping centres – do your research! Ask questions and check their products or the results could be disastrous.