1997 was a pivotal year in the nail industry’s fight against the use of MMA (methyl methacrylate) in acrylic monomer. The FDA had deemed MMA unsafe in the mid-1970s because of the health risk posed to nail techs and because it required techs to aggressively rough up the nail before application. Once adhered to the nail plate, the rigid enhancements were extremely difficult to remove, leading to serious damage if a nail was jammed or caught on something. Nonetheless MMA monomer continued to be used by many salons.

A tipping point came in 1997 when nail techs and industry groups began advocating vocally against its use, resulting in MMA being banned by many states. Nail techs banded together to educate the public on its dangers, some offering to remove MMA nail coatings free of charge.

If you’re wondering about how you can identify the presence of MMA, this and other nail-specific questions are answered in a series of books by Cosmetic Chemist, Doug Schoon.

With a Masters Degree in Chemistry from UC-Irvine, Schoon is an author and educator with over 30 years experience in the cosmetic beauty and personal care industry. He is known for his technical and regulatory work that has helped shape the beauty industry.

Three of his books can be purchased on Amazon, and we offer a sneak peek in his answer to the MMA question here:  

Is there a way to test nail monomer for MMA?

It is not possible to test an artificial nail monomer liquid to determine if it contains significant amounts of methyl methacrylate (MMA), unless the testing is conducted in a properly equipped analytical testing laboratory. Typically such laboratories will charge up to $200 for each sample that is tested and the testing process can take up to 10 days to get the final results. Only the monomer liquid can be tested and not a finished artificial nail, since artificial nail powders often contain a safe, polymerized version of this monomer called polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), which would be misidentified as MMA monomer. There is no quick test that can conclusively identify MMA monomer other than by smell. MMA-based nail products typically contain 80% or more MMA monomer and therefore usually have a strongly distinctive and highly characteristic MMA odor that is easily recognized by those trained to detect such odor. Laboratory testing is used as a confirmation or to determine the exact concentration of MMA.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.