What is Acrylic Liquid?

Acrylic nails have become a staple fashion accessory in the lives of many women today. However, achieving this unique, trendy art technique of fake nails is different from other artificial manicures. 

Unlike regular nail polish, gel nails, press-on nails, or dip powder nails, acrylic nails combine liquid monomer and polymer powder, which hardens and adheres to your nail structure for a long duration.

This article discusses everything you need to know about acrylic liquid. We also share another alternative to acrylic liquids and how to make homemade liquid monomers to help you create beautiful acrylic nails. So, sit back and enjoy reading.

What is Acrylic Liquid Used For?

Acrylic liquid, also called “liquid monomer,” is a clear liquid used alongside acrylic polymer powder to create a malleable bead that hardens when exposed to air.

They are commonly used in acrylic nails, and when applied using a brush, the liquid polymerizes and forms a hard, durable resin that can be filed and buffed to your desired size and shape.

The acrylic liquid monomer is an essential component of an acrylic manicure. It acts as a binder between the polymer powder in this chemical mixture.

Without the liquid monomer, the acrylic powder cannot be activated. When getting a consistent and smooth finish, it’s best to mix equal parts of the acrylic liquid and polymer powder. 

If the acrylic mixture is too wet, it can cause your faux nails to shrink, lift or peel easily. On the other hand, if it’s too dry, it can result in chipping or tip cracking of the nails.

Furthermore, if you are going for a natural-looking acrylic manicure, acrylic liquid can be used to create one. However, nail technicians can mix different color pigments to create more diverse and fun looks.

What is Acrylic Liquid Made Of and Used For?

Acrylic liquids are chemical components made mostly of these ingredients- acrylic monomers, catalysts, and inhibitors. Each ingredient plays an essential role in ensuring smooth and working acrylic systems.

For example, many different chemicals are classified as monomers. However, the most common option for monomers used for traditional acrylics is Ethyl Methacrylate (EMA).

The EMA has adhesive properties to hold the acrylic manicures together. It also resists cracking and spreads evenly when applied to your real nails.

On the other hand, the catalyst accelerates the polymerization process and allows the acrylic product to harden within minutes of the application instead of hours.

Usually, a chemical reaction occurs when the acrylic liquid comes in contact with the activator in the polymer powder. Therefore, it is this essential ingredient that determines the setup time of the acrylic.

The inhibitor is an essential component that prevents premature polymerization. An acrylic monomer is a chain of molecules linked together.

However, if the molecules link too early, it can result in the monomer hardening in the bottle. Hence, the inhibitor will slow the process down.

What is the Best Type of Acrylic Liquid?

Two types of monomer liquid are used in acrylic manicure applications- Ethyl Methacrylate (EMA) and Methyl Methacrylate (MMA). However, the best type of acrylic liquid to use is EMA, not MMA.

This is because Methyl Methacrylate is now illegal and has been banned by the Food and Drugs Administration for being harmful and causing personal injuries to many.

Illegal MMA was a common ingredient used in nail products until it was proven to contain toxic and harsh chemicals that cause fingernail damage, deformity, permanent nail loss, allergic reactions, and contact dermatitis.

While it is cheaper than EMA, sets up quickly, and adheres faster, it can cause natural nails to break off easily, exposing them to infections. Unfortunately, many nail salons still use illegal MMA.

Conversely, most professional nail manufacturers use Ethyl Methacrylate, which has been approved and declared safe. Unlike the MMA formula, acrylic liquid containing EMA formulas is non-toxic and less likely to stimulate allergic reactions.

But how do you recognize if your nail technician is using illegal MMA? Here are red flags to look out for:

  • If your acrylic set is overly cheap, chances are that cheap products are being used.
  • Ask questions immediately if the products used have no brand name or label.
  • MMA monomers have a very hard and repugnant odor when applied and filled.
  • Lastly, MMA is extremely difficult to remove and may start to have a yellow tinge with time.

Acrylic Liquid vs. Activator- What’s the Difference?

Contrary to opinions, the acrylic liquid is different from an activator. Acrylic liquids are essential components for creating acrylic nails. The purpose of acrylic liquid is to act as a durable bond between the polymer powder in an acrylic mixture for your nails.

When you mix both the liquid and powder system with an acrylic brush, you get a putty-like resin spread over your natural nail, allowing it to dry before filing down.

While an activator is a product that allows the acrylic liquid and powder chemically adhere better. It can be used to increase its viscosity (thickness), so it can be smoothly applied over your nails.

It is usually in the form of a spray and can be mixed with acrylic systems. Plus, it can also be used to cure, bind, and dry dip powder nails in a dip powder system.

Although both products are necessary for creating acrylic nails, there is a difference in their usage. An acrylic activator is added to the acrylic liquid to make it an emulsion that can stick well to surfaces.

When the acrylic liquid touches the powder system, the activator begins to bond and harden together to create the nails. It will prevent the substance from running or dripping off before it completely dries.

Can I Make My Own Liquid Monomer at Home? 

If you are uncomfortable with using a salon-quality acrylic liquid, you can make yours from the comfort of your home. While this is a more budget-friendly option, you must be careful during the process as it can be difficult to get the right consistency.

If you fail to get the right consistency, your nails may not harden properly. If you want to create your homemade liquid monomer, below is an easy guide for you to follow. Firstly, you will need the following materials:

  • A mixing bowl
  • An old empty nail polish bottle
  • Medium or waterproof acrylic powder
  • 70% rubbing alcohol
  • A spatula
  • A dry transparent jar with a lid.

How to prepare

  • First, mix the waterproof acrylic powder and rubbing alcohol in a bowl.
  • Next, stir the mixture until you have a thick consistency.
  • Afterward, pour the combination into a tightly sealed glass jar and set aside for 24 hours until the acrylic powder completely dissolves.
  • After 24 hours, transfer the mixture into an empty dry container or a nail polish bottle for easy application.

Another way to create your homemade acrylic liquid is to pour 1/4 teaspoon of water and 3/4 teaspoon of non-toxic glue into a bottle and shake very well. Once it is properly mixed, you have your own acrylic liquid.

How do your Manicure with Acrylic Liquid

Below is a step-by-step guide to achieving flawless, beautiful nails with acrylic liquid.

Prep your Nails

Start by trimming and prepping your nails. Using a cuticle pusher, carefully push back your nail cuticles. Use a buffing block to remove the shine from your nails so the acrylic liquid and powder mixture can adhere properly.

Apply a Nail Tip (Optional)

If you are using artificial nail tips, pick the correct size that would fit your nails smugly. Then, apply a small amount of nail tip glue to the tip where it will meet your natural nail bed.

Once applied, hold the nail tip firmly to your real nails for 10 seconds until they are secure.

Then, use scissors or nail clippers to cut the tip to your desired length. Also, use a coarse nail file to file to your desired shape. You can also apply nail primer to your entire nail bed to remove any moisture that will prevent the acrylic mixture from bonding.

Mix the Acrylic Liquid and Powder

Pour your acrylic liquid monomer and polymer powder into two acrylic dishes separately. Slowly dip your acrylic brush into the dish and push the brush tip to the side to get rid of excess liquid.

Next, dip the brush tip into the acrylic powder, stroking the brush until you create a perfect malleable bead of acrylic, (ensure not to take too much powder as they must be of balanced ratio.)

Apply the Mixture

Apply the ball of acrylic mixture slowly and neatly to the top of your nail down to the end of the acrylic tip. Sculpt the acrylic by pressing the brush flat to your nails to smooth out bumps.

You can keep your acrylic brush clean by regularly dipping it into the liquid during this process. Repeat the process for all your nails to create a smooth base.

Once completed, let the acrylic dry naturally with air exposure. You don’t need a UV light to cure your acrylic manicure. Finish up with final shaping and use a top coat to seal in the acrylic.

Mixing Acrylic Liquid and Powder

When applying acrylics on clients’ nails, nail technicians employ utmost care to ensure they get a perfect consistency. If you want to create durable, long-lasting, non-lifting artificial nails, you must get the correct ratio of liquid and powder.

The suggested ratio for your acrylic mixture is 2:1 liquid to powder. However, it’s best to pay attention to the manufacturers’ recommendations regarding the ratio mix. If the perfect ratio is achieved, you are assured of limited overexposure, strength, durability, proper set, and curing time.

However, an out-of-balance ratio (i.e., if the bead of acrylic is too wet or dry) can result in potential lifting, excessive shrinkage, bubbles, weakness, longer curing time, and lack of cohesion.

So before applying the mixture to your nails, it’s best to look at the bead. If you are doing your manicure at home, consider practicing a few times to get the correct ratio.

What Can I Use Instead of Liquid Monomer for Acrylics?

There are great alternative options to acrylic liquid. The following is a list of acrylic liquid substitutes you can use instead of liquid monomers.

Polyester Resin

This is the most popular acrylic liquid substitute. Polyester resin is a highly viscous substance that is convertible into polymers. While it is chemically similar to liquid monomer, they are not identical.

Polyester resin has a lower viscosity, and while it is a great alternative, it can leave a greenish tint that spoils your nail color.

Rubbing Alcohol

Another good substitute is rubbing alcohol. Alcohol can be used to thin down the consistency of acrylic paint. It evaporates quickly, making it easier and quicker to work with. However, there are downsides to this.

For one, the acrylic powder may not adhere properly, it can appear lumpy, and the acrylic may peel off within a day or two.

Hydrogen Peroxide

While it is used as a cleaning agent, it can also serve as a nail product. Unfortunately, it can dry nails, so it’s best to use cuticle oil or moisturizer after application.

Nail Glue

Nail glue is a great alternative to traditional acrylics as it contains monomers that can create a perfect bond between your natural nail and the artificial nail product. When applied over a base coat, it is a protective layer for your nails.

Dip Powder Activator

The dip powder activator comes in gel, making it easier to apply and less messy. When applied, the bond is strong and can adhere together when wet. You also don’t need UV light to cure it. Also, the acrylic gel provides a more natural look for your nails and can prevent nail chipping.

What should I not Use as Acrylic Liquid? 

While there are great alternatives to creating your own acrylic nails with liquid monomers, like those listed above, some substances should never be used in place.

We list some of them below.


Water is a substance we do not recommend to be used in place of acrylic liquid. It lacks the bonding consistency required for your acrylic manicure to adhere. Unlike acrylic mixture, water does not harden when it dries.

While water may seem harmless, it can allow liquid to penetrate through and destroy your manicure, also causing them to be discolored.

Acetone Nail Polish Remover

Acetone is a solvent used to remove acrylic nails and not for application. This nail polish remover can dissolve the acrylic adhesive and ruin your manicure. It can also dry up easily, causing your nails to become brittle and weak.

Illegal MMA

As discussed earlier, Methyl Methacrylate is a harsh chemical that can cause lasting damage to your natural fingernails. It will not give you the desired result as traditional acrylic polish; if used incorrectly, it can impact your nails.

Mixed Liquids

Many have tried mixing various types of liquid to find alternatives to acrylic liquid. However, if one is not careful, these chemical mixtures can cause negative chemical reactions that can damage your acrylic manicure and natural nails.

Can Acrylic Liquid Damage My Nails?

The acrylic liquid should not damage your nails. However, poor application and removal processes can negatively impact your nails. This does not rule out that some people have allergic reactions to this chemical component.

So, if you are not doing your own nails, ensure your nail technician or the nail salon is diligent with the services by sterilizing all necessary tools used for the acrylic application process. Also, using inferior or bad nail products can damage your nails.

For example, some non-standard salons (NSS) use MMA because it is cheaper than alternative EMA. Unfortunately, exposure to this toxic substance can cause numerous nail damage and health problems.

So before getting your nails ready, research, ask proper questions, and pay attention to the products used and the application process.

If you are uncomfortable with the salon-quality acrylic liquid, you can create your homemade liquid, as explained above, and take them with you for your nail appointment.


The acrylic liquid is an essential ingredient in creating sworn-worthy and long-lasting nails. Without it, the acrylic powder will not adhere correctly to your nails and can result in a below-standard finish.

If you’ve been curious about good substitutes for acrylic liquid, you now have knowledge of liquid substitutes you can try.

We have also shared with you simple ways to create your acrylic from the comfort of your home. This will save you money, and you don’t have to worry when you exhaust your acrylic liquid mid-way through the application process. We hope you found this article helpful.

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