The Science of Nails

Salon Owners Take Aim Against MMA Use

Fed up with nails damaged by the use of MMA, 40 salon owners launch a grassroots campaign to educate consumers.

After an upsurge in clients with damaged nails and questions about “high” prices and “acrylic” that won’t soak off after more than an hour in acetone, 40 Michigan salons took action. Led by salon owner Reneé Skrocki of VIP Nails & Tans Inc. in Riverview, and Sharon Matle, owner of Elegant Nails in Southgate, the group banned together to fight the use of methyl methacrylate (MMA) in nail salons.

The salons placed an ad in a local newspaper to warn consumers about the danger of MMA and offered special prices to remove the substance from nails. The salon owners felt a drastic move was called for, despite the negative attention it could draw to all nail salons, be­cause of what they had been seeing and hearing through their own doors.

“I noticed after the local high schools’ homecoming dances came and went that we were not seeing nearly the amount of younger clients we normally did,” says Skrocki. Teenage clients are particularly price sensitive, she deduced, and were visiting one of the many discount salons in the area. Skrocki was aware that many of these salons use MMA products because they are cheaper, which allows them to charge clients less for a service.

It was very important to Skrocki that her clients be educated as to the dangers of MMA, not because she wanted to bash discount salons, but because she wanted consumers to know what they were paying for and why many of them were having problems. She started the education process by handing out a NAILS article, (“The MMA Controversy,” page 102, Sept. 1997).

Other local full-service salons heard of Skrocki’s efforts and contacted her to ask for copies of the article to distribute to their own clients. “I started to call other salons in my area and spent hours on the phone sharing similar stories about MMA with them,” says Skrocki.

When she spoke with Matle, a plan was formed. “She told me that she had been writing to the state board and telling her own clients about the same issues, but she felt like it was a losing battle because she was only one salon,” Skrocki says. Made then suggested cooperating on an information campaign, starting with running an ad. They contacted the editor of The News-Herald, who decided to run a public service article along with it.

In less than two weeks, Skrocki and Matle contacted 50 other salons in their area and asked them to contribute $157 per salon toward the ad. While all 50 salons pledged support for the ad, only 40 could financially participate in the project. To offset the cost of the ad, Skrocki, Matle, and the other salons sought support from local beauty’ supply stores and professional product manufacturers, many of whom donated products to the salons.

The published ad gives information about the dangers of MMA, explains why professional nail salons do not use the product, and offers consumers an opportunity to visit one of the 40 salons to have their MMA nails removed. The removal service time (one to two hours) was included for each of the salons, as well as each salon’s business hours. “We wanted to run an ad that would not offend any­one. We don’t want all discount salons to go out of business — not all of them use MMA — but we want all of them who do use it to stop and start using professional products, proper sanitation methods, and proper drill methods,” explains Skrocki. “We don’t want consumers to think that every salon does nails the same way. We are professionals. We went to school, we are knowledgeable, and we don’t want those who are not to hurt our industry.”

Along with being professionals comes higher costs, explains Skrocki. “We have higher prices because we pay for branded products, for sanitation, for a support staff to come in and clean our salons, and we pay for ongoing education.”

The salons’ ad ran twice, once the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, along with an article, and again on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The ad was delivered to 90,000 homes. Within five days, Skrocki received 15 new clients and Matle had 16 come in to have MMA nails removed, and both have had numerous phone calls from consumers requesting more information. Both, however, stress that getting clients was not the point of the ad. “The most important thing about this experience is that clients now know that a nail service shouldn’t be painful or unsanitary, and that professional products should be used,” says Matle. “Thanks to our joint efforts, consumers now know what to expect. Many of them thought the services they received in the past were unacceptable, but because there were other clients in the very same room receiving the same treatment, they thought pain and problems were a normal part of nail services.”

Even with all the interest it has generated for the industry, Skrocki points out another exciting aspect of the project. “This has been a great team-building effort for our industry. Professional salons should not be competiting with each other, but should work together. There are plenty of clients to go around for all. Search out local salons in your area and work together. We have made results happen here.” Matle says that Skrocki and the other salons in their team plan to run the ad again and are expecting a follow- up article. They also are hoping for support from their state board and from professional nail product manufacturers.

Editor’s note: In the article “The MMA Controversy” (September 1997), it was stated that MMA costs $15 a gallon, versus $215 for a gallon of name-brand EMA. According to chemists, the actual price difference between raw EMA and MMA monomer is minimal The cost of EMA to the salon ends up being greater because MMA is a “black market” product and does not have the costs associated with a product that goes through traditional distribution channels, which include quality control, production, and advertising. MMA’s cost is usually less to the final buyer because it has been marked up fewer times.

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