Learning About Acrylic Acid and Its Uses

Acrylic Acid in Nail PolishAcrylic acid is a type of organic compound that is miscible with alcohols, chloroform, water and ethers. Each year, over one billion kilograms of this compound are produced. The liquid is well-known for its tart or acrid smell and it is the simplest unsaturated carboxylic acid available.

Acrylic Acid Production

This acid comes from propene, a gasoline and ethylene production byproduct. More modern and environmentally-friendly methods are being explored in laboratories throughout the world. One that is quickly gaining ground is the production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3HP) from fermented sugar. 3HP is a precursor for acrylic acid.

Acrylic Acid in Cosmetics

One of the most popular uses for this acid is for use in acrylic nail polish. The two most common types include water-based acrylic paint and a polish that is designed specifically for acrylic nails.

An acrylic polymer emulsion is the base for water-based acrylic polish and this was developed in 2003, making it relatively new. The difference between this type of polish and those of the past is that instead of the acrylic resin particles being suspended in alcohol, they are suspended in water. This creates a stronger, longer lasting polish because the resin fuses together and the water component partially absorbs into the nail. This comes with other advantages as well, including easier cleanup and removal of the polish, and faster drying times.

Other Uses for Acrylic Acid

This type of acid is put through the regular reactions of carboxylic acid and it forms the corresponding ester when reacting with alcohol. An ester is simply a compound that results from an alcohol and acid reaction that eliminates a water molecule. The salts and esters that are associated with this acid are referred to as propenoates, or more commonly, acrylates.

To form polyacrylic acid, the esters and acrylic acid combine with other monomers or themselves by reacting with the associated double bond and forming copolymers and homopolymers. These polymers are used to manufacture many different things, including coatings, elastomers, floor paints, plastics, adhesives and floor polishes.


When someone is working directly with this acid, they must take the proper precautions because in its raw form, it can easily irritate a human’s eyes, skin and mucous membranes. If it splashes into the eyes, there is a risk for blindness. It is important to wear the right personal protective equipment, such as chemical-proof gloves, body protection and eye goggles. Frequent exposure to high levels of this chemical may cause pulmonary edema and this condition is characterized by excessive fluid collecting in the lungs, making it difficult to breath, causing heart palpitations and a bad cough.

There is a lot of research that shows the various uses of acrylic acid. In recent years, this acid is being used more frequently in the cosmetics industry, as well as in many other chemical preparations. Mass-produced products are generally safe, but those working with the raw chemical must be wary of overexposure.