If you have ever felt that you work in a profession where manufacturers are unresponsive to your needs, try out a couple of the brand new bevy of odorless and low-odor liquid and powder systems. Designed expressly to alleviate unpleasant fumes that often accompany sculptured nail application, these systems could ultimately replace more conventional, high-odor systems almost completely, according to some manufacturers, contributing to a more pleasant salon work environment.

It’s true that some nail technicians find odorless difficult to work with, since the polymer behaves differently than the conventional compounds. Yet manufacturers report that students with no preconceived ideas about now a product should behave take to the odorless system quite well. Since it become illegal in California last year to use anything but odorless for State Board testing (due to complaints by State Board examiners), students, at least in California, have become quite adept at handling the new chemistry.

The major attribute that odor-free systems boast is, of course, a chemistry that is much less irritating to the olfactory center: In short, they don’t stink.

While product differs from manufacturer, most odorless systems share another attribute: odorless product is generally applied in 1:1 ratio rather than the 2:1 ratio of the conventional systems.

This consistency has its advantages – first, it is frequently self leveling, requiring minimal pulling, stroking, brushing, and patting. Secondly, the fillings are softer, heavier, and wetter, so the health risk of inhaling airborne dust is minimized. The surface residue sloughs off with light filing, and the residual filings are easily collected for disposal.


The history of sculptured nails as we know them is fairly short: the acrylic monomer methyl methacrylate, carried over from dentistry, was used until 1974, when its use in artificial nail products was banned by the Food and Drug Administration in 1974. This was due to complaints the FDA received of discoloration, deformity or loss of fingernails and irritation and inflammation of the nail bed or the nail fold at the base of the nail in women who had used nail-building kits containing methyl methacrylate.

Why so many problem? While the methyl product “cured,” it frequently irritated the skin of the nail client, which was not a problem in dentistry, since the product was cured in a lab, not on the client.

This problem of allergic sensitivity in the nail salon client was thought to be alleviated when manufacturers responded by using the “ugly sister,” as manufacturer Mark Moesta calls it, ethyl methacrylate. Isobutyl methacrylate and other chemical related monomers were also called upon to perform in methyl’s place.

While the new formulations with ethyl methacrylate turned down the heat for awhile and kept the FDA and the manicurist relatively happy, many people are still turned off by the odor of the newer high-odor products and some. Why? Ventilation that is not well thought out – resulting in air that simply recirculates in the salon – can contribute to odor and even overexposure. Allergic reactions can result from overexposure to any chemical, and this is a particular problem when nail artist fail to take precautionary measures such as wearing gloves when mixing and applying product.

Everybody knows this by now, and everybody is making lots of money and getting used to the odor, so why the fuss?

Co-workers, clients, and nearby business owners frequently are the main objectors. “Most people can smell [acrylic solutions] even when the level. The odor itself can worsen nausea in a pregnant woman,” according to David Donald, an occupational health specialist with the Department of Health Services Department of industrial Relations in Berkeley California.

“The hardened nail material is generally almost non-toxic,” says Donald. Yet inhaling large amounts of dust from any acrylic formulation could result in:

Irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, or skin;

Central nervous system depression (like drunkenness), which causes headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, etc;

In some cases, an allergic reaction of the skin, and possible asthma.

Donald advocates the following precautionary measures to minimize exposure with any nail chemistry:

The work area should be well-ventilated.

Gloves should be worn in order to prevent the development of an allergic sensitivity.

Meanwhile, manufacturers are putting together some exciting new “odorless” formulas and some educational seminars on how to use the new products.

If you have a nose for news, if you’re willing to forget what you know and take a venture into the future of nail technology, read on. Then select an odorless system or two and give them a try. Make sure you have good instruction, and take a hint from one of the greats.

But, for true need – you heaven, give me that patience, patience I need! [Shakespeare: king Lear II.iv]

NAILS Magazine went to manufacturers of odorless and low-odor acrylic systems to tap in on what is taking place in that arena. The results of our phone interviews and correspondence follow.

Q.) How did the need for odorless come about?

Cheri Abbott, Salon Essentials, IBD’s 2000: In our opinion, the problems of traditional acrylics didn’t become a problem for the nail technician. Others in the salon tend to be more offended by the odor and dust than the nail technician. Clients sometimes found odor and dust than the nail technician. Clients sometimes found odor and dust to be irritating. There was an obvious need to come up with something different. Dust was a big of an issue as odor.

Jan Bragulla, Creative Nail Design: Acrylic nails become more prevalent. The exposure to chemicals proved unpleasant and irritating. Since not many salons were properly ventilated with an extracting system to expel chemical vapors from the building. There was some overexposure. Now there is a lower chance of being overexposed to chemical vapors, it’s safer to go with a product that has lower vapor pressure. This does not conclude that these are dangerous; only that they should not be inhaled. The result is that everyone experiences greater comfort in the salon – and clients leave feeling a bit more refreshed; a bit more energetic.

Frank DeSantis, Aqua Nails: the need for odorless was fairly evident. The strong fumes associated with conventional acrylics was not a healthy environment for the nail technician. Many of the nail technicians would hear complaints from co-workers in the salon who found the strong smells to be offensive.

They need a product was low in odor yet had the strength of conventional acrylics.

Kymberly Lee, Galaxy Nail Products: As a nail technician and manufacturer I have seen a need for a “safer” product. But as far as the smell goes there have been no significant studies linking the smell to a health problem. As far as I can see, the only need for odorless would be for personal comfort.

Anita Metzler, Worldwide Cosmetics: if the salon was out in a mall where they have recycled air, you could be having lunch and breathing fumes at the same time.

At the state board, the examiners were getting physically ill.

At first, odorless was very poorly represented in that there was no education to go with the product. It was just a big gooey ball mass that you couldn’t pat our stroke out. It was receive poorly because people didn’t understand the difference. They were trying to work with it exactly the same as they had their odor product – this is like comparing apples to oranges, according to our chemist.

Mel Moore, Porce-U-Glaze: Examiners complained. Nails were being done in public places where there was a lack of ventilation and air movement. It was a matter of trying to invent a better mousetrap.

Lee Tomlinson, International Beauty Distribution, Inc. (IBD): Within the salon environment, hair stylist found the odor to be very disagreeable. In some cases, the smell associated with acrylic products kept salons from adding nail care to their salon services, especially in department stores and malls. Odor seemed to give them [salon workers] headaches, watery eyes, and sometimes even caused respiratory problems. For the most part, the dust produced by filing conventional acrylic was a worse culprit, relative to long-term health factors, but odor was the first thing everyone noticed.

  1. Q) How has the technology developed since the first odorless product was marketed?

Abbott: It has developed drastically toward a better product today than even a couple of years ago, mainly because of technicians. The first odor-free products we saw were so very different. The technicians stated loud and clear: “If you want to take out the odor and the dust, that’s fine. But it has to work like what I’m using now, because I’ve built a solid clientele. I am making money.” It’s come a long way since the first odorless was introduced.

Scott Adkisson, Four Nails of Minnesota: Product development has had a very fast technological growth within the last few years. The reason for this is that the manufacturers have listed to the professional. This generates a rapid growth in technology.

Bragulla: They took odor—intensive liquids, threw the smelly chemicals away, and shoved all the other chemicals back to market. That’s when we first heard “No stink, no stick.” The tension and resiliency were gone. There was yellowing and brittleness.

Lee: I believe the odorless products have not changed that much, but the knowledge of application has advance. This would lead to a higher success rate.

Gary Sperling, Alpha 9: Five years ago, when odorless was introduced, it didn’t set up.

Tomlinson: First, the newer formulas of odorless are less runny. Second, they have better color stability. Third, the nail professional enjoys a wider range of workability. Consequently, it is easier to reach the optimum consistency when mixing powder and liquid.

Along the same lines, the “wetting factor” has improved with odor-free acrylic. A ball pf product is much easier to form that it was before. And the residual tacky layer characteristic of finished odor-free acrylic has been considerably diminished.

Mel Moore, Porce-U-Glaze: There hasn’t been much change. You have such thing as low-odor. There is no such thing as odor-less. It smells too.

  1. Q) What is different about your product?

Abbott: With our product, the liquid-to-powder ratio is 1:1 rather than 2:1. No primer is required, so it’s less damaging, and saves the technician time. There is no chemical roughing the primer creates. This saves a good five to seven minutes.

There is no thick rubbery layer that has to be removed, like we see with some of the odorless. The filings are different than they are with regular acrylic – it doesn’t become airborne dust. It is designed to get the same results – even though the nail technician may not take the same way of getting there, the results are the same, a gorgeous, beautiful, flexible nail, with UV protection.

Adkinsson: The difference in our odorless system is [we’ve found] the proper balance of revolutionary material to create an artificial nail that reduces the drying time, reduces the cracking and chipping, gives the artificial nail more flexibility, ensures ease of application (almost completely eliminating tackiness), and reduces finishing time.

Bragulla: We hired a full-time chemist who worked eight hours every day for two years to make a product that was odorless without sacrificing the ingredient that worked. He took that ingredient and built a very complex molecular structure around that chemical.

First, it suppresses and holds that chemical in, suppressing the vapor pressure. It is still there, but the odor has been suppressed. It was important to us to create nails that worked. We had to spend big bucks on a lot of equipment and man hours. We have a patent pending on it.

The technician needs to learn the nuances of the new technology. Though we a much more complex formulation, it makes for simpler application.

The schools are doing very well with Turbo. The double dip technique is to use a very long tapered brush, dip it in halfway to wet the tip, flatten the brush, then go in and draw three lines on the powder.

We used Solar Oil or warm water to set it hard. It then files like Solar nail. The finished nail is color-stable. This took us six months to ensure.

Tony Cuccio, Star Nail Products: We have never introduce and odorless acrylic because no odorless product on the market has met our strict quality standards and specification. We offer an acrylic odor neutralizer Liquid Acrylic Odor Out (LAO 2). Three drops of LAO 2 neutralizes odor, prevents evaporation, and its UV inhibitor stops acrylics from yellowing.

Paul DiMeglio, The Peau Corporation: Unlike other manufacturers, The Peau Corporation is not jumping on the “odorless” bandwagon. We have developed a revolutionary odor-controlled formula with Tetrahedral Bonding. The system requires less filing, and offers an easy transition from conventional product.

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