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Lil Nail Shoppe of Smicksburg

Nail Tales

Gel Manicures: Do they or do they not cause cancer? 

A couple months ago, we jumped for joy when researchers determined that the UV lamps used to dry your polish in nail salons would not cause skin cancer.

However, The New York Post reports that the "lengthy" UV rays we're subjected to during gel manis can indeed up our risk of skin cancer. This is because when you get these manicures, your hand is in and out of the UV lamp. Officially confused, we spoke to some experts.

David Valia, Vice President of Research and Development for Creative Nail Design, says you have nothing to worry about: "The amount of energy from a UV lamp during a nail service would be roughly equivalent to the amount of UV exposure one would experience during a typical day of exposure in indoor fluorescent lighting."

Dermatologist Marina I. Peredo, M.D., and founder of Spatique Medical Spa, agrees that no immediate harm can be done from getting manicures, but she thinks you should still take precaution: "The threat may be minimal, but exposure is exposure. If you're going to be using one of these systems, use sunblock of at least 30 SPF on your hands."

In case you want the official stamp of approval: The Professional Beauty Association says, "Gels have been used safely for decades. The latest generation of gels is safer and better than ever. Independent studies have shown that UV lamps are safe and the equivalent of only a couple of minutes exposure to sunlight."

Boom. 

You see, UV nail lamps only produce about 60 watts of power. And receiving a manicure every two weeks is the same as being in the sun for two minutes. So now that you have confirmation that your gel mani will not cause cancer, slap some sunscreen on your hands and go pamper yourself, girl.

Want more from Dara? Follow her on Twitter @dadeeyo

Photo: Istockphoto

Read more: Gel Manicure Won't Cause Skin Cancer - UV Nail Lamps Not Dangerous - Cosmopolitan
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What is MMA and warning signs of MMA use?




Methyl Methacrylate is an ingredient that was commonly used in early "nail porcelains." In the early 1970's, the Food and Drug Administration received numerous complaints of personal injuries associated with the use of acrylic monomer formulated with MMA. The reports included serious nail damage or loss, contact dermatitis, soreness and infection due to breaks caused by the rigidly adhered acrylic.

  • MMA has an unusually strong or strange odor which doesn't smell like other acrylic liquids. Odor is present during application and when filing cured product (for fill-ins or repairs).
  • Enhancements which are extremely hard and very difficult to file even with coarse abrasives. 
  • Enhancements that will not soak off in solvents designed to remove acrylics. 
  • Cloudy or milky color when cured.


  • Unlabeled containers - technician will not show or tell the client what brand of product is being used


  • MMA does not soak off easily or in a reasonable length of time, causing undue exposure to acetone while soaking.


  • To make MMA adhere well to the nail, overly rough preparation methods are used. The nail plate is "roughed up" with a coarse file or an electric file, creating in effect, a shag carpet look to the nail plate, giving the MMA something to adhere to. This process thins and weakens the nail plate allowing more chemicals to be absorbed through the weakened nail plate during application and curing time. 

A Great Blog from A Great Nail Tech!


MMA Is Not For Nails
MMA is an abreviation for Methyl Methacrylate Monomer. It is a chemical compound. MMA makes

acrylic. But NOT the kind of acrylic you want on your nails!

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 develop 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 every time 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!)

EEEeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwww.

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!
 — with Maggie Franklin.













What is a NSS Salon?

A Non-Standard Salon (NSS) is usually lacking in or follows poor sanitation practices, uses inferior and/or prohibited products, and under trained or non-licensed technicians.









Caring For Your Nails:


Your nails are an investment and with a little care you can have great success!

Use cuticle oil It keeps the natural nail, acrylic and gel moisturized. It also keeps the natural nail from peeling away from the product.

Your nails are jewels not tools be careful when opening items like soda cans.

Wear rubber gloves when cleaning. Rule of thumb: If you wouldn't wash your face
with it wear gloves. Wear gloves when gardening and during cold weather months to protect your nails.

Do not pick the acrylic , gel or temporary nails off soak them off! Picking will take  a layer of the natural nail off and leave them weak.

If your nail breaks or lifts. Do not glue it down call and have it repaired. If you glue it down. it may trap bacteria between your nail and the product and cause a greenie. Another reason to wear gloves when cleaning or when your in lots of water.