Thursday, July 22, 2010

A lesson on Acrylic Nails

I am not a fashionista. I am more like a science geek.

So when my thumb nail continued to break and chip to the point where my thumb was in pain everyday, I decided it was time to do something about it.

Last summer my nephew had acrylics put on over his nails so he could play the classical guitar. Two of my sisters have acrylic nails.

I asked questions.

Then I did my research.

And when I got done, I decided that gel nails were what I really wanted. Something I could paint over my defective thumb so it could finally grow out. I even considered just doing my thumb nail, and maybe even my big toe so it could withstand dancing better.

My sister came to town and swore she loved this nail shop. They said they offered gel nails. I made an appointment.

Here are some interesting facts about acrylic nails:

*there is more than one kind of acrylic. The good kind- EMA and the bad, MMA

MMA (Methyl Methacrylate) is a liquid monomer deemed poisonous and dangerous by the FDA and is now being used improperly in the beauty industry for artificial nail applications in some salons.

Indications that MMA has been used on you:

  • Operators Most Often Wear Masks (FDA has deemed this substance poisonous)
  • Drill Use should never be damaging or painful. Drills are always used with MMA.
  • Operators/Owners/Management are secretive about product brand names
  • Distinctly different odor from regular nail acrylic
  • Usually low service pricing (MMA Liquid costs $20 a gallon. Industry approved Acrylic Liquid cost $200 a gallon)
  • Artificial Surface will not release under extreme pressure (MMA nails rarely lift or break and will take the nail plate off the nail bed if enough pressure is applied to break it.
What are the health risks associated with MMA products?
MMA-related complaints range from skin allergies to permanent loss of the nail plate. Here are the most common complaints that prompted the FDA to take action:

Nail Infections
The surface bond of the MMA acrylic is so strong to the soft tissue that even a slight trauma to the nail can cause the nail to break and lift off the nail bed. This can result in serious nail breaks, infection and loss of the nail plate. Ironically, it is the strength of the acrylic that attracts some users of the product. While MMA used in the medical and dental industries provides superior adhesion to bone, it is not appropriate or safe for use on the softer nail tissue.

Respiratory problems and eye, nose and throat irritation.
MMA vapors are toxic even in small doses and can cause lung, liver and heart valve damage, especially with long term exposure. This has been documented in laboratory animals as well as in lab technicians from dental labs where crowns and dentures are made. Wearing a mask does nothing to prevent inhalation of MMA fumes. Masks only reduce the inhalation of acrylic dust.

Permanent Nail Deformities
The small molecular structure of MMA makes it possible for it to be absorbed through even unbroken skin. It can also actually do permanent damage to the matrix of the nail and further absorb into the body. While MMA will not store in the tissue, it is stored as methanol in the blood and urine.

Severe Allergic Reactions
Repeated exposure to products containing MMA can result in severe allergic reactions. Redness, swelling and itching are common symptoms which can lead to the development of tiny blisters around the cuticles and fingertips. These blisters can develop into open sores, and the fingertips may become numb or feel itchy under the nail.

The problem with MMA is that its atoms are so small that they easily penetrate the skin and nail plate. MMA is a Asensitizer@ that can cause irritation and allergic reactions once it is in contact with the skin. EMA is much safer, larger in atomic size, and doesn’t damage nail plates. It is also hundreds of times less likely to cause allergic reactions.

Salons using large or oversize brushes in order to save time, make beads of acrylic that are far too wet! The belly of a large brush can carry enough liquid for 4 medium wet beads (or three nails)! This means the product, which may appear to be hardened, does not set up in the correct amount of time and the harmful chemical MMA leeches through the nail plate, into the nail bed and then directly into the blood stream. In short, brushes that are too large don’t save time, they can lead to serious allergic reactions.

HAZARD SUMMARY from the Materials Data Safety Sheet

  • MMA has a strong, sharp, fruity odour and can affect you when breathed in.

  • It may damage the developing fetus.

  • Exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, and throat.

  • MMA can cause a skin allergy.

  • Exposure could damage the nervous system. Symptoms may include Apins and needles@, numbness, weakness, and changes in the ability to remember and concentrate.

  • Severe side effects may include abnormal liver or kidney function, nervous system damage and reproductive problems.

  • Nail services should NOT be painful. If the technician is causing you ANY pain, seek out another more qualified technician immediately, DO NOT allow the technician to continue the service. Seek out the state's complaint form and submit it promptly with photos if possible. Many states will only act upon receiving complaints from consumers.

I went to my scheduled appointment. Things went downhill fast from there. Here's a quick run-through.
* I clarified that I wanted gels.
* She answered the phone and spent 15 minutes talking to a magazine rep while she clipped my nails to stubs and super glued tips on and drills my nails!!!! AAAHHHH! You don't drill nails for gels.
*When she pulled out the unmarked bowl of liquid and separate powder, I interceded.
"There's no such thing as a powder gel."
Her eyes popped open. "No, this is a stronger gel. It powder. Stronger."
Yeap, Asian with a really strong accent.
*I'm screwed. I have super glued tips on and filed nail beds- all while she was on the phone. Now what?
*I sit back and freak. Should have walked out. But, you know, my sisters and other people I know have acrylics. How bad could it be, right?
*At the end- after "curing my gels" under a UV light for 20 minutes I asked how much my acrylic nails would cost. (gels only take 3 minutes to cure)
"No. This powder gel. It more flexible and clear. It gel, not acrylic."

Liar. And so I walked out of there with not only acrylic nails, but five bleeding fingers. Yeah, bleeding. And the non-flexible nails are too big on my fingers so they put pressure on the skin around my nails. She applied the acrylic so liberally that it was constantly in contact with my skin. Not a good sign.

And then I did even more research. If you live in Boise, watch out for Asian nail shops. They are notorious for using MMA. No one around here seems to know what it is. I hadn't heard of it.

As long as I don't bump my fingernail super hard, I will hopefully last long enough to get my nails fixed.

It's been two days now. My fingers are still sore. But that one thumb nail tip doesn't hurt anymore. I had no idea I would be trading a thumb for all ten fingers.

If you like doing nails, make sure the salon is only using EMA. Or go with gels, like I tried to. If I haven't permanently damaged my nails for life, I'm going to try gels to get them back to normal.

And, here's the rest of the story....

I went to another nail salon and had them show me their products. Then I got a signed statement saying that I in fact had acrylics and NOT gels. I took this statement, along with my MMA reports to the original nail shop. The lady wasn't there, so they were going to have me wait for her. While I was waiting, I talked to another worker there. He admitted that they used MMA.

Five minutes later, the lady calls the store. She tells me she will only give me my money back if she can clip my nails off.

I said she wouldn't be touching my nails and that $35 wasn't very much compared to losing her business. Bait and switch is against the law in Idaho.

Five seconds later, the man handed me my money back.


A. Grey said...

You haven't destroyed your nails for life, I promise, but you might not like them for a while...

I've had acrylics and gels both, although I didn't know how frighteningly different they were until reading your post. I've also had good jobs, where the nails looked like they were my own, and bad ones where I looked like a five year old who got into her mother's falsies... It all depends on where you have them done, and I've learned that you have to be very forward and opinionated and stubbornly know-it-all sometimes to make sure you're getting just what you want.

The last job I had done was rather questionable, as the woman doing them squared them with corners that could have gutted a cow. The only good thing that came of it was that before I got the corners rounded, we had an emergency at the farm where a mare gave birth with a prematurely detached placenta and I was able to tear it open with my fake talons, thusly saving the baby from brain death... who knew that bad fake nails might come in handy?

Synergy Girl said...

OH MY HECK!!!! AHHHHHHHHH!!! I could have told you that if they don't speak great run They ALWAYS drill, and they ALWAYS do what THEY want, not what you ask for....!! SO SORRY SIS!!! If my girl wasn't in Caldwell, I would recommend her...but I do know of a great one in Meridian. I will ask my friend what her name is again...I went to her once a few years ago, and loved her, just didn't love the drive for as much as I get them done (usually every 3-4 weeks). Anyways, I will ask my nail tech for sure to make sure she uses EMA, but she doesn't drill, so I am thinkin' not...

SORRY...there is NOTHING worse than a shotty nail job...and it DOES hurt!!!!! NO GOOD!!!!

Nate and Robin said...

Sad! I hope that you'll be able to get them fixed.

Laura said...

So, the "for real" nail tech told me to let my nails grow out and to fill them with gels. Unless, of course, I develop an allergic reaction to the toxins.

She wouldn't even be able to do gels over my nails if I took the acrylics off. Too much chemical damage has already been done.

Getting my money back just doesn't pay for that kind of unethical dealing. It's going to take months.

But hey, I learned a ton. One day older and wiser too.

Melissa said...

Oh Man! You did your research. I'm sorry. I used to have my nails done, but the filing is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me and I just can't take it!

does it all remind you of that Seinfeld episode? ugh.

Anonymous said...

Tell us the name of the shop! And post ones not run by Asians in Boise.

Laura said...

The one I went to is on Overland right in front of the Walmart.

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