Understanding Acrylates and Methacrylates in the Nail Industry: More Than Just a Name

In the nail industry, the terms acrylates and methacrylates often pop up, sometimes creating confusion due to their similar sounding names for example (Isobornyl Acrylate (IBOA) and Isobornyl Methacrylate (IBOMA)). However, these chemicals are distinct not only in their structure but also in their application and impact on nail health and performance. This article will delve into the differences between acrylates and methacrylates, shedding light on why these distinctions are crucial for nail technicians and consumers alike.

What are Acrylates and Methacrylates?

Both acrylates and methacrylates are chemical compounds used widely in the production of polymers, particularly in the nail formulations. At their core, these compounds serve as monomers that form the building blocks of the acrylic and methacrylic polymers found in various nail products, from Builder Gel to gel polishes.

  • Acrylates are derivatives of acrylic acid and typically have the chemical structure CH₂=CHCOOR, where R represents an alkyl group. These compounds are known for their fast-reacting nature due to the less hindered structure, which allows for quicker bonding and setting times.
  • Methacrylates, on the other hand, derive from methacrylic acid and have an additional methyl group attached to the carbon next to the carbonyl group in their ester structure, CH₂=C(CH₃)COOR. This slight modification makes methacrylates less reactive than acrylates, leading to slower curing times but still providing substantial strength and durability.

Want more info on ingredient such as HEMA, Bis-Hema & Di-Hema?  - This will help you understand the differences

Key Differences in Properties

The primary difference between acrylates and methacrylates lies in their chemical behaviour during the polymerisation process. Acrylates cure faster and are more reactive, which is beneficial for applications where quick setting is necessary. However, this increased reactivity can also lead to higher chances of skin sensitisation and allergic reactions, making them more of a concern for both nail technicians and clients prone to allergies.

Methacrylates are usually preferred in nail formulations because their slower reaction rate allows for more control during application, resulting in strong, durable nail products. Their structures also contribute to higher thermal stability and resistance to wear and tear, ideal for long-lasting nail applications.

Applications in Nail Products

The nail industry and HONA utilises both types of compounds strategically:

  • Acrylates are commonly found in quick-dry gel polishes and some types of adhesives for extension nails due to their rapid bonding capabilities.
  • Methacrylates are extensively used in building gels and acrylic nails where strength and durability are paramount. Their ability to form a hard yet flexible protective layer makes them suitable for long-wearing applications.

Health and Safety Considerations

Given their different reactivities, acrylates pose a slighlty higher risk of causing allergic reactions. Nail professionals are advised to handle acrylate-containing products with care, using proper ventilation and protective equipment. Methacrylates, while generally 'safer' in terms of allergic potential, still require cautious handling due to their strong bonding properties and potential chemical hazards during improper curing. This article explaining the risks on nail products and why HONA ultimately only offer Hypoallergenic products is wort a quick read

Only use approved lamps that have been proven to fully cure the gel system you are using. Use an extractor fan and wear a face mask to prevent nail dust from entering your body.

What a nail tech should take away from this

While acrylates and methacrylates may sound similar, their implications in nail services are significantly different. Understanding these differences is essential for nail technicians who need to choose the right products based on the desired nail treatment outcomes and their clients' health (check out our article on prescriptive manicures). As the nail industry continues to evolve, staying informed about such components ensures that professionals can provide safe, effective, and innovative nail care solutions.