Target 8 - Check Your Artificial Finger Nails
"The product itself was ripping off my whole fingernail," complained Wendy Kauffman of Columbia.
MMA is cheaper than a legal compound, so some salons use it, although MMA is too strong.
"I would start losing parts of my fingernails," Kauffman recalled. "My fingernails were turning black, like all of them were turning black, and my fingers were really swollen."
Target 8 talked with several women, including Kauffman, who believe a local nail salon used MMA on their nails. Kauffman stopped going to that salon, but didn't file a complaint and she's not certain it was MMA.
"When I left there, I had three fingernails missing and four that were down halfway," she added.
The owner of another salon, Mary Piper, said, "It's very frustrating to have to see that kind of damage, that people have lived with that kind of pain, because it's totally unnecessary."
Piper's salon, Nails Only, uses the legal, but more expensive, ethyl methacrylate. She believes, but has no proof, MMA is damaging women's hands. The state Board of Cosmetology regulates salons in Missouri.
Officials would not answer questions on camera, but did respond in a telephone interview.
"They [salons] will have regular products around, and most of the salons do use them because they know they're going to be in big trouble if we find MMA. What they do, if they're going to use it, is generally keep it at home and then bring in enough for the day."
"The cosmetology board has records of all complaints, but the state considers them closed to the public and news media. That makes it hard for consumers to protect themselves. So, what can you do?
"We kind of avoid the whole artificial nail issues in its entirety," said Susan Tumulty, who owns Natural Nails Salon. "Our philosophy is, natural care is the right way."
If that's not an option for you, here are some warning signs: It takes at least two hours to remove MMA by soaking in acetone. Technicians often use a drill to remove, or maintain, an MMA nail. Watch for rough methods, like using a coarse file on nail plates.
"I'll hear a lot of the same things, to the point where they'll stop wearing nails because of something they did," added Kauffman. "And I don't believe that."
There are no MMA lawsuits in Missouri because, women and industry experts said, victims are too embarrassed to come forward. They also said that means few disciplinary actions by the state board.