Methyl Methacrylate: What to Know and How to Know if Your Local Nail Salon is Using this Harmful Chemical

Woman at a nail salon getting her nails filed
January 19, 2023

Methyl methacrylate, otherwise known as MMA, is a bonding agent used in some artificial nail products making it set much faster and adhere stronger to the nail than other products.  

MMA exposure has been linked to adverse health effects including dermal toxicity and respiratory tract effects. 


History of MMA

Methyl methacrylate is used as cement in dentistry, orthopedic surgery and ophthalmology.

After receiving complaints of injury associated with the use of artificial nails containing MMA in the 1970s, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) removed products containing 100% MMA from the market.

MMA is cheaper in comparison to other agents which is why it is still used. However, Ethyl Methacrylate or EMA, is the alternative monomer used in most acrylic nail liquids. 

Arizona Administrative Code R4-10-112(M) prohibits the use of products containing hazardous substances banned by the FDA from being used in a salon or school.

What to Look Out For

Nail liquid containing MMA has been known to cause allergic reactions, permanent loss of the nail plate and in some cases, permanent loss of sensation in the fingertips. It has a strong irritating chemical odor that does not smell like other acrylic liquids.

How do you know if a product contains MMA?

  • MMA is listed as an active ingredient on the product label.
  • It has a strong irritating chemical odor that does not smell like other acrylic liquids.
  • The product sets much harder, feels less flexible and is very difficult to file using a nail file.
  • Acrylic nails that contain MMA are extremely hard or virtually impossible to remove using normal solvents.
  • It is a much cheaper product (approximately one third of the price) in comparison to other acrylic nail products.

Consumers have the right to ask, and be informed of, whether a product contains MMA.


Substitutes for MMA

There are a number of alternatives to MMA including ethyl methacrylate (EMA), light cure gels, wraps and natural nail manicures.

If you believe a salon is using MMA, please file a complaint with the Arizona Barbering & Cosmetology Board.