Hands of young woman with acrylic french manicure on the towel

Acrylic is a clear polymer that is very light as used in several capacities. It is used as a casting resin and in the fashion industry to create long-lasting manicures. Acrylic liquid is made from a chemical reaction between a monomer and a polymer to create the liquid that dries to a durable coating. There are a few substitutes for acrylic liquid. However, the real thing is often preferred over the limited number of substitutes.

Casting Substitute

Acrylics are used in creating parts and products that are intended to be clear or transparent and can be cast from a mold. Acrylics dry very clear but give off very toxic fumes before it is cured. A good substitute is polyester resin. A peroxide is added to a polymer to create the resin that can be cast as easily as acrylics. Polyester resins harden at room temperature and with a green color that is transparent, but not always preferred.

Acrylic Gel

The smell of acrylics in the manicure industry is another reason for the arrival of a substitute. Although it is still acrylic, the gel is a less noxious material than acrylic liquid. The gel acrylics have a faster drying rate and last much longer than the liquid. The application is very similar, however. The gel is also a preferred substitute because it looks more natural than acrylic liquid and applies less damage to your real nails while you wear them.

The Illegal MMA

A word must be included about MMA or methyl methacrylate, an acrylic liquid substitute that was popular in the 1970s. It is still used in some nail salons boasting cheap manicures, as MMA is much less expensive than acrylic liquid. MMA is illegal, banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Customers can spot MMA by smell. It is has a more unpleasant smell that is distinct from that of acrylics. Do not allow nail technicians to apply MMA to your hands.


Acrylics are still preferred over their less odorous counterparts because it dries much clearer and harder. However, the chemical is losing ground to polymers that are faster- drying and more durable, like the gel and polyester resin.