MMA vs EMA Acrylic. Confused? Here’s What You Need to Know!


Women are creatures of beauty, and this reason alone is more than enough to stimulate any woman to enhance her beauty in every way possible. One part of a woman’s anatomy – apart from her face and skin – that takes a lot of her attention is the fingernails.

In most cases, some women visit nail salons so that professionals can take care of their fingernails. By entrusting their fingernails to these nail stylists, they expect a topnotch job done to enhance their beauty and panache.

Indeed, the nail technician does a first-class job at enhancing the nails by fitting them out with acrylic overlay.

Acrylic nails – or artificial nails – are usually attached to the top of natural fingernails to beautify the hands. They are formed when an acrylic powder and an acrylic liquid are mixed together to generate the hard substance that looks a lot like fingernails. They usually last longer compared to other types of nails.

But then, something else happens, often without their knowledge as they won’t give their consent if they knew. It comes at a hideous cost to you if the nail technician makes use of a hazardous chemical known as MMA or Methyl Methacrylate.

By the time you read this article to the end, you will learn about the dangers of using MMA on your fingernails, why you need to stop using the services of those discount salons that endanger your life with the use of the toxic chemical and the best alternative to go for.

MMA Acrylic

MMA(Methyl methacrylate) liquid monomer – is a chemical compound that is mainly used in the dental industry for the production of bridges and crowns.

It is a flammable liquid that serves as bone cement – after it solidifies – during joint replacement surgical operations by orthopedic surgeons. MMA also found extensive usage in the production of resins, Plexiglas, and some flooring products.

When used on nails, MMA monomers – composed of tiny molecules – penetrate both the nail plate and skin pores, consequently hardening underneath and sandwiching the natural nails.

MMA monomers are extremely hard when they solidify and are significantly more rigid than your natural nail.

When you accidentally jam a fingernail made with Methyl methacrylate, its resistance to breaking is so enormous that your natural nails can rip off completely.

This brings about excruciating pain, especially if the breakage occurs near the eponychium. Permanent loss and damage of natural nail, numbness of the fingers, and severe infections are the outcomes of such an occurrence.

Moreover, MMA is also resistant to solvents, thus making it difficult for users to remove.

Here’s a video showing the difference between how both acrylics behave when removing from nails:


It takes an unbearably long time for users to remove MMA acrylic after soaking their fingers in acetone. If you don’t have the luxury of time, the nail technicians will suggest to drill it off.

Some nail techs may even decide to forcefully remove the MMA acrylic by forcing the tip of a nail between the enhancement and the natural nail. This can be an agonizing experience you shouldn’t have to undergo.

What is more, some nail techs don’t care about preserving the natural nail underneath the enhancement product.

MMA cannot stick well without grooves, so nail techs proceed to create them, thus damaging the nail plate in the process while prepping for the enhancement.

MMA was not designed to be handled by novices or used outside the confines of a laboratory, but by well-trained professionals within a heavily controlled lab environment.

Even though MMA is only dangerous in its liquid state and less dangerous when hardened, it is still not considered safe to use by non-professionals.

The use of MMA for acrylic nail services can be traced back to the 20th century, i.e., around the late ’60s and ’70s. At the time, nail technicians used this toxic chemical on their numerous clients because it was not as expensive as its much-safe alternative, Ethyl methacrylate or EMA.

The numerous complaints of customers about the damage done to their fingernails when MMA was used during beautification sessions drew the attention of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

They subsequently banned the use of MMA in nail products as it was classified as a “poisonous and deleterious substance.”



Signs that Your Technician Is Using MMA on Your Nails

It is, therefore, highly crucial for you to be able to tell if your nail technician is using MMA on your nails. This is how to know if your nail technician is using MMA on your fingernails:

  • Low prices – Although this is not always the case, when salon prices are significantly discounted, making you believe that you can save a lot of money by using their services, it is a pointer that the salon uses MMA. This is because MMA is less expensive to buy compared to EMA which is the safer option.
  • Methyl methacrylate has a characteristic fruity odor – This pungent odor starts to affect you physically. It is customary for Beauty services that make use of chemicals to have unpleasant odors such as perms, etc. Nevertheless, even as the smell offends you, it is not expected to affect you physically. Another pointer to this fact is that the nail technician will – in most cases – wear a mask to prevent excessive inhalation. You will never be offered such protection.
  • If your fingers itch, hurt or burn after receiving a nail makeover, you may already have been exposed to the hazardous chemical. It is not normal for your fingers to hurt after professional nail services.
  • There will be an unwarranted use of drills, and this is because MMA acrylic is rigid and hard.
  • MMA is a product with poor sticking power or adhesion to the natural nail plate. The nail plate must, therefore, be filled excessively usually with the use of a drill to improve the adherence.
  • Nail technicians working in such disreputable salons will be secretive about the products they use. There will be vague descriptions of products and brands as well as the use of chemicals in unlabelled containers.

If you notice that the containers holding the acrylic liquid are excessively smeared or even old – which could be an indication that they fill it up with a forbidden product – then it is a strong indication that they are using MMA.

For your information, even though MMA has been banned in the nail industry for more than twenty years, it is still in circulation today within the industry because it is a cheap alternative.

The warning signs highlighted in this article should alert you if something untoward is happening in the salon that you go to.

Therefore, you should always ask to speak with the manager of the salon before having a nail service done.

Ask to see the products they intend to use and proffer explanations for any chemical that is unfamiliar to you.

If the management refuses to these demands, be courageous enough to walk out of the establishment without having your nails done for you. Ignore this friendly warning at your peril.


Health Risks

Exposure to MMA can come up with serious health issues:

  • Sensitization of the skin, i.e., numbness or tingling
  • Irritation
  • Swelling and redness
  • Drowsiness
  • Severe nail deformities or damage
  • Bacterial and fungal infections
  • Dizzy spells
  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation
  • Respiratory problems
  • Light-headedness
  • Discoloration of the fingernails, i.e., yellowing

Nail enhancements should not hurt in any way, either during or after the service. Proper nail prep involves filing the nail lightly to eliminate the surface shine for the enhancement.

Your natural nails should remain unharmed and well-preserved beneath the enhancement.

Do not be taken in or fooled by the flashy-looking nail salons that pepper high-volume shopping areas; due diligence is a must any time you want your nails to be treated or the consequences could be tragic.

I invite you to check out this video for quite a hot discussion on the subject:

EMA Acrylic

EMA (Ethyl methacrylate) monomer is a type of acrylic liquid that became the standard in nail products.

It is the principal ingredient in most nail acrylic monomers – in the range of 70% to 90%.

Blending other elements or components into Ethyl methacrylate helps manufacturers to control adhesion, curing time(and we have a great article on how to properly cure your nails), clarity, odor, flexibility, yellowing, and color.

The use of EMA monomer in the nail products was approved as safe in 1999 after a Cosmetic Ingredient Review.


Why EMA is Way Better than MMA

MMA acrylic is unsafe for both the nail and the skin around the nails.

  • When used during a nail service, it can turn your natural nails yellow and also result in air blockage, irritation, and numbness around the nail and the surrounding skin. EMA acrylic does not induce such reactions in any way, which is why it is considered the safer option.
  • MMA acrylic induces different responses in different individuals. For instance, one individual whose nails have been enhanced using MMA acrylic may experience nail tightness and mild swelling. For some, it could be irritation, dizziness or light-headedness. Whichever is the case, no nail enhancement procedure should hurt before, during, and after the service. Users of EMA acrylic have had no reason to give such complaints because the monomer doesn’t stimulate such reactions.
  • MMA acrylic is a powerful monomer that can cause natural nails to break off unceremoniously, resulting in rapid infections. The molecules of MMA monomers are much smaller than EMA monomers and can even penetrate unbroken skin without any hindrance whatsoever. The particles then transform themselves and are stored in the human body – precisely in the urine and blood – as methanol. This brings about the permanent destruction of the nail matrix. EMA acrylic can be used safely without any health hazard which is why most reputable salons today prefer it instead of its dangerous counterpart.
  • According to the FDA, MMA acrylic is so hazardous that it can initiate miscarriages. The dust from the MMA acrylic powder is a huge problem that is yet to be surmounted in the medical world. The hardness of MMA acrylic makes it difficult to file and mold as this produces lots of dust, especially when the nail technician attacks it with a drill. It doesn’t adhere perfectly well to the nail plate, and this could cause thinning and dents or lead to the total loss of natural nails.
  • When soaking MMA off natural nails, it looks like sticky, melted glue, and the stench is terrible. This disgusting odor lingers even after exposure and is the reason why most salons give off unpleasant smells when you walk past them.
  • Cosmetic Ingredient Review approved in ’99 the use of Ethyl methacrylate (EMA) in the nail industry and marked it as the best alternative to MMA products.

The differences between EMA and MMA products are influenced by a series of aspects, such as:

  • How they soak off nail beds
  • The way they smell – MMA is pungent
  • The extent of damage to natural nails which is attributed mostly to MMA products.

All first-class professional manufacturers mostly formulate their liquid monomers with Ethyl Methacrylate (EMA) since it is safe for use.

EMA has large atoms which makes it a safe option as it does not damage the nail plate in any way. This means that it is not likely to stimulate allergic reactions.

EMA is designed to adhere perfectly well to healthy nail surfaces, thanks to its physical structures and chemical compositions which matches the surface of healthy nails.

This is why reputable salons and even the FDA have approved the use of EMA in the nail industry as an excellent acrylic liquid alternative to MMA products.



The plethora of evidence against MMA acrylic has revealed how unsuitable that product is when used in the nail industry.

The damage and physical harm caused by this monomer are more than enough to get MMA banned outright in the United States.

For some strange reason, the FDA has not shown much interest other than prohibiting its use in a few states in the country.

Nevertheless, if you have suspected that you may have been exposed to MMA acrylic during your last visit to your local beauty salon, there is no need to fret.

The first thing you should do, however, is to remove the nails immediately. If you can’t do it without hurting your natural nails, pay a visit to a reputable salon to get it done for you.

Since proper nail maintenance requires getting a fresh set of nails every month, switch over to EMA-based acrylic nails as soon as possible, and your worries will be over.

Previous articleInfrared Thermometer: What It Is and How It Works
Next articleRGB vs CMYK. Color Systems for Web and Print
Passionate about everything that shines, settled down on UV(ultraviolet) lights. I'm motivated and with a mission to help people live a better life!

No posts to display


  1. It’s interesting to know that monomer products such as ethyl methacrylate are now commonly used in many nail products. I plan to create a nail polish line in the future, so I might end up using this. Maybe I should find a supplier who can make this for me so I can experiment with them first.

  2. Thankyou so much for your helpful article! I have realized i have been using mma products and im sitting her now recovering from a horrible reaction!
    Is the mma in the powder or the liquid that i was using?
    If i buy ema products am i likely to react again?

  3. I have found a supplier that is supplying products with MMA in them. What should I do? I want to report them but to whom do I report it to? I looked at the FDA website and there is only phone numbers and forms to fill out if you have been damaged by MMA. I believe that “us” as the consumer should be able to report the selling of these products not just the injuries that they cause.
    I would appreciate some advice on where to go or who to talk to about my complaint.
    Thank you for taking the time to care about the consumer and the nail techs that don’t know what they are being forced to work with.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here