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An unexpected reaction or allergy to the glue that bonds an acrylic nail to your can ruin an evening or event. Nail glue has to be strong enough to bond acrylic or fake nails to your real ones, and that means strong chemicals are required. Knowing what these ingredients are, and what they do, can help you decide which products are suitable for your health and nails.


Many brands of nail glue include ethyl cyanoacrylate, BHA, polyurethane acrylate oligomer, hydroxypropyl methacrylate, benzoyl isopropanol, violet 2, and citric acid. Some of these ingredients can cause skin irritation or are toxins that negatively effect human health. Check your glue bottle to see which ingredients it contains.

Ethyl Cyanoacrylate

Ethyl cyanoacrylate is a colorless liquid with a characteristic odor that is the main adhesive ingredient in a variety of glues. It is also a human immune system toxicant and can irritate skin, eyes and lungs. The Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory at Oxford University warns not to let this chemical come in contact with your skin or eyes, and to use it with adequate ventilation.


BHA is a chemical used in some cosmetics to prolong shelf-life. It is also associated with warnings of endocrine disruption, allergies and immunotoxicity, bioaccumulation and organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), according to the Environmental Working Group, which publishes a cosmetic safety database. Tests on mammalian cells show positive mutation results for cancer and animal studies show that it affects the brain and nervous system even at moderate doses. The European Union has banned the use of BHA as a fragrance and the state of California requires that any product containing BHA should include a warning label that it may be a carcinogen. Not all nail glues contain BHA.

Polyurethane Acrylate Oligomer

This chemical helps to reduce the tackiness of the nail glue after it dries.

Hydroxypropyl Methacrylate

Hydroxypropyl Methacrylate helps lengthen or build the nails. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel says this chemical is safe to use in cosmetics as long as the product also warns against contact with skin.

Benzoyl Isopropanol

Benzoyl Isopropanol turns the nail glue into a solid form and keeps your new nails securely attached. The FDA has found this ingredient to be safe to use in cosmetics.

Violet 2

As the name might suggest, violet 2 is used in cosmetics for its color properties. The FDA has assessed this synthetic pigment as being safe for external use only.

Citric Acid

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Citric acid is a white powder that comes from citrus fruits such as lemons or oranges. It can also be made from fermented sugar solutions. In cosmetics, this ingredient helps preserve products, maintains a certain acid/base balance or adds a fresh lemon scent. According to the Environmental Working Group, animal studies have shown that at a moderate dose, citric acid may irritate the skin.