MMA is dental acrylic. It's what they make fake teeth and crowns out of. And even dentists are starting to use other chemicals now because MMA is just so gosh-awful bad for you!
It's also used in industrial applications-- they use it to hold concrete together and to glue tiles to cement floors. This stuff is STRONG.
Back in the early days of acrylic nails it was the only stuff available. We got it from the dental industry. But it didn't take very long at all before it started causing problems and by the early 70's (that's right, acrylic nails have been around THAT long!) so many women had suffered allergic reactions to it and/or had major trauma to their own nails because of it that the FDA got involved.
The FDA reviewed the complaints it was receiving, did some research and declared MMA to be a "poisonous and deleterious substance" under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (which was initially put in effect in 1906.)
So the FDA said, "This cannot be used for nails" (well, I paraphrased that actually) in 1974 and it was supposed to be taken off the shelves!
By that time a lot of companies had already figured out that acrylic nails were going to be BIG and they didn't want to lose all the money that was sure to be had in the industry-- and they didn't want to see the industry fail either-- so they found alternatives.
Now we use EMA (ethyl methacrylate monomer: one letter makes a BIG difference in the molecule!)
EMA creates a more flexible acrylic that is more likely to break under stress. The molecule is WAY huge compared to the MMA molecule-- which means it can't penetrate the nail plate and is far less likely to cause allergic reactions.
Unfortunately, MMA is still available because it gets used for so many other things than nails. And it's cheap. CHEEEEEEAAAAP. A gallon of MMA can be found for about $15 where a gallon of cosmetic-grade EMA goes for over $200. That's a big difference!
So if you've ever looked around and seen those banners for full sets at $15 and wondered why they were so cheap when the nice salon up the street is charging $65 for a full set? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out.
So what's so bad about MMA?
Well, I really didn't know much about MMA until I got fired from a job back in 1995 for refusing to use it. I ended up down at the library for hours researching and making photocopies. And let me tell you-- this stuff is illegal for GOOD reasons!
First off, if you work with it long enough you will inhale a lot of the vapors that evaporate off the liquid. This gets into your body and slowly poisons you. Possibly to death, since it can cause pulmonary edema-- build up of liquid in your lungs. Now that IS a worst case scenario and to my knowledge no one has ever died from MMA poisoning in a salon environment.
But what it DOES do is cause a bunch of problems with your brain and central nervous system that is classified as "brain dysfunction."
It can cause loss of memory and dementia. It can cause nerve damage that will make your fingers and toes go all numb and tingly. It causes birth defects-- specifically causes spinal cord issues in fetuses.
Most clients will never have to worry about these things because they just aren't exposed to MMA often enough or long enough to inhale that much of it. But if you ever wondered why all those people are wearing masks?
Sadly, wearing a paper dusk mask will NOT prevent you from being poisoned. The vapors penetrate those masks and go right into your lungs. The masks just keep the dust out. (and, btw, a lot of techs wear dust masks because of the dust, so don't jump to conclusions! But if EVERYONE in the salon is wearing one AND their acrylic nails are dirt cheap? Get suspicious!)
What YOU (the client) have to worry about is the chance of developing an allergic reaction. The molecules in the monomer (remember! Monomer is the liquid-- and it's the only place where MMA is a problem) are so tiny that they can get into your skin and soak through the nail plate. This means your body is more likely to notice the foreign substance and revolt! Which is essentially what an allergic reaction is.
I see a LOT of people who develope allergies to acrylic. And what kills me is that so many people working in my industry don't have a CLUE about chemistry. So almost everytime they assume the problem is caused by the primer and will try to switch products.
This doesn't work. Sometimes it helps for a fill or two, but eventually I end up with a new client who can't wear acrylic and thinks I'm a goddess because I have stuff that is hypoallergenic.
Allergic reactions show up as itching, swelling, redness, and little blisters all around the nail.
Take a look at that photo.
That's a nail with MMA. OUCH! Notice how the nail itself is still in excellent shape? But the natural nail has been torn off the nail bed? That's the big problem with MMA. It's so strong it doesn't always break, that's why the FDA got so many complaints!
Women were getting their nails torn off their nailbeds! Then they were getting infections, some of those infections were going all the way down to the bone in the finger and then they had to have part of their finger amputated!
This is all the more a problem in salons that don't bother disinfecting properly. They just keep using the same drill bit and the same files and the same buffers over and over and over until they wear out! They don't even bother WASHING them between clients! Let alone DISINFECTING them according to the LAW!
(did you know that California does not recognize disinfectable buffers and files? They make us throw them out after each client! No. It is NOT legal in California to keep files and buffers to reuse on the same client! It's like a Q-tip-- once it's been used it has to be thrown out! You can't wash it, and you can't even use it on the same person again!)
You can show this blog entry to as many people as you can! The more people understand about getting their nails done safely, the better!
Written by Maggie Franklin, posted at www.artofnailz.com
Written by Maggie Franklin, posted at www.artofnailz.com