MMA vs. EMA: What’s the Difference

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Liquid Monomers

To first distinguish Nail Mafia, people don’t even know what MMA and EMA acronyms stand for let alone what they are. So I will begin there, the term MMA is an acronym for methyl methacrylate, while EMA stands for ethyl methacrylate. Both of these are monomers which can be considered a small molecular subunit when combined with other similar subunits, can create a bigger molecule (I know, it’s like wtf, a lot of chemistry going on here). When these monomers are linked to a mix of polymers (the powder substance that it is mixed with, also known as initiator molecules) it creates a chain combined with heat to create the false nail.

MMA/EMA Nail Products

MMA: What’s The Point?

In the nail industry, MMA was frequently used because of the long term lasting effect it has on nails. MMA is very hard to break when it is solidified, which is why people use it so much. Clients want long lasting nails, and nails that don’t break. It’s pretty simple as to why people would use MMA vs. EMA. Another reason why people use it is because it’s cheap, the cost of MMA is literally one-third of the cost of EMA products.

MMA itself isn’t necessarily all bad, but it is very harmful in the sense of using it for nail enhancements. MMA can be used safely in other areas such as dentistry, adhesives, paint, and flooring. Which is why MMA is not completely banned, which is also why some salons still have access to it, however states in the US took action upon themselves to ban it as a precautionary measure. In the early 70’s the US Food & Drug Admin (FDA) began to get complaints about MMA nail products, the complaints were from deformities and fingernail damage.

It creates damage because in order for MMA to stay, it has to connect to ridges on the nail bed. Now the way this happens is when nail salons consistently drill or file your nails, which eventually does what? MAKES YOUR NAIL BED THIN AS FUCK. And now since the nail bed is very thin, with this hard ass chemical on the nail, when you hit it against something very hard, it can cause your whole damn nail to come completely off. That is where the deformities and fingernail damage came from when people began to complain about it in the 70’s.

What makes MMA even worse is, even when you try to remove it properly it is very hard to come off. Which then makes a nail tech use more drilling and filing to make it come off. And it creates an endless cycle of a terrible nail bed.

Important MMA Take-Away

  • Banned for nail enhancement use by FDA, but allowed in states for other usage
  • Can literally rip your fucking nail off
  • Very hard to break
  • Can cause deformities and finger nail damage
  • Cheap product
  • Loss of clientele due to nail damage

EMA: What’s The Point?

EMA in the nail industry on the other hand is the most common for nail enhancements, as it helps to control the strength of adhesion, the time to cure false nails, and other purposes. It’s very easy to see why this is the better option, it sticks on to healthy nails properly, and doesn’t thin out your nail bed.

Popular negative belief of using EMA is that it is more flexible than MMA, but that’s literally the point. Better to be safe than sorry, it may be prone to lifting but you’d rather receive that then not have a nail. Also, with good care to the false nails, it will last you the same amount of time of MMA. To drive the point of EMA is more flexible for easier removal, compared to MMA.

Another reason to use EMA is because it’s been verified safe for the usage of nail enhancements. Yes, yall EMA may be expensive but the damage of losing your nails can be expensive too, or even non-repairable. AND let’s not forget that you can literally lose clientele because of not using EMA nail products.

Important EMA Take-Away

  • Helps control adhesion to healthy nails, and cure time
  • Don’t have to create ridges to adhere the chemical onto nail bed
  • Flexible
  • Prone to lifting, BUT it’s due to easier removal of the false nail
  • Verified safe for nail enhancements
  • Expensive product
  • With good care and maintenance can last awhile
  • Usage of EMA can BOOST repetitive and long-lasting clientele

Signs Of MMA Nail Product Usage

With all this information, you probably like okay but how would I know if my nail tech, or if I’m using MMA vs. EMA products? YOU KNOW I’MA PUT YOU HIP! To know if you or your nail tech is using MMA nail products is by the prices.

CHECK THE NAIL PRICES! If a full set is $15, baby… BAY BAY (Megan thee Stallion voice), they are using cheap products. Like I said, MMA nail products are one-third of EMA products prices.

Another way is the smell as soon as you walk through the door, or when you buy it. The smell of MMA is very sharp and powerful, which is why you may see a nail tech with a mask on. Now don’t get me wrong, don’t leave the salon as soon as you see a mask, there are other factors.

Another one is the way a nail tech is removing a false nail. If you’re having a hard time removing nails, then its likely that you are using a MMA product. If they are using nail clippers to take them off, constantly drilling, or the soak-off method is taking hours to come off, it’s likely they are using MMA products too. And check for labeled monomer bottles, on the label should be EMA (the longer version of the acronym of course).

Another way to tell is by how your nails feel after your fresh set. Do they itch? Does it feel numb? Are your fingers feeling tight or even swollen? MMA PRODUCTS ARE BEING USED BOO. A fresh set using EMA products should not be harmful in anyway, receiving nail enhancements shouldn’t hurt whatsoever!

The Bottom Line

So with all this information I have given y’all Nail Mafia let’s sum all this shit up. You probably found out way more than expected, and now you know what to look out for. The bottom line is to stay safe, and aware of what you are putting/applying to the nail bed.

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– The Nail Brief

Brief Everyone Else On What's New!


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