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Home / Beauty Blog / The Low Down on Nail Bars

The Low Down on Nail Bars

Clients often ask me why high street nail bars are so cheap and alternative treatments, by comparison, are more costly. I can answer your question but it involves a lot of chemicals and abbreviations, so bear with me….

Nail bars are able to keep their costs down by using a potentially harmful product called MMA (Methyl Methacrylate) which is a cheap alternative to EMA (Ethyl Mathacrylate).

MMA is far cheaper than EMA and has been banned for use in nail treatments across the USA and in many other countries worldwide. Unfortunately, it can still be used, legally in the UK using despite being the cause of some nail disfigurements and infections. MMA is a liquid which can be mixed with acrylic powder to form a false nail. However, it doesn’t bond well to the natural nail, so the technician will file the nail down first, often with a drill, to provide a rough surface to stick the acrylic nail onto, causing permanent damage to the nail plate. Symptoms of MMA use can include irritation, nail disfigurement and infection, which, if left, may rot the nail plate..

The resulting nail extensions are extremely hard, so rarely lift or break. Clients will often believe that because of this durability, they have been given a good set of nails, unaware of the damage that is being caused to their natural nail.

The main side effects of MMA

  • The monomer is an extremely high sensitiser and can lead to allergic reactions, if in contact with living tissue
  • When MMA cures, it is very hard, which can cause serious problems. If you were to catch or trap a nail, the chances are that you would take your own natural nail away from the nail be, as the MMA is too hard to break
  • When applying MMA, the natural nail needs to be etched, literally sanded down taking up to 50% of the natural nail away to get the MMA to adhere to the natural nail properly. MMA does not adhere well to Keratin , a major component of your natural nail). This etching can lead to situations where the nail bed is burnt or where the nail plate is over thinned, both of which are extremely painful. Sometimes filing through the natural nail plate or surrounding living tissue can occur
  • When the nail plate is so thin, thin MMA can over expose the nail bed to the monomer, leading to sensitivities and allergic reactions
  • MMA is so dense that it is even more difficult to soak of than gel. It can be soaked off but takes so long that the nail technician is likely to get bores and pick at the enhancements to remove it from the natural nail, leaving behind a damaged nail plate

Recognising MMA usage

  • MMA has an unusually strong odour. This is present during application and when filing the cured product, it has been described as ‘sweet’ smelling
  • Enhancements are extremely hard and very difficult to file, even with course abrasives
  • Low price of rebalances or ‘in-fills’ and full sets
  • Unlabelled containers — technicians will not shoe or tell the client what brand of product is being used
  • MMA is very difficult to soak off

It can often be confusing because many acrylic powders appear to contain this ingredient. This is a misconception. Only solid PMMA (polymerised MMA) is used in powder. Unlike MMA monomer, PMMA does 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.

Many thanks to Kate Taylor of www.cnd.com and to Vitality magazine for this information.

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