Acrylic nails are a fun and freeing way to up your manicure game. Not only can you choose the color and finish of your nails like with regular nail polish, but you can also design your own shape and length to your tastes… but what happens when you run out of monomer liquid?

Uh oh, disaster! How are you going to finish your set or start those nails you were counting on to have for that big event tomorrow?

Keep reading to find out more about possible replacements for that ultra-important monomer liquid.

applying acrylic monomer to nail

What is Monomer Liquid?

Monomer liquid contains acrylic monomers (surprise, surprise) which help bond the polymers in acrylic powders together. Unfortunately, it is EXTREMELY strong-smelling and should not be used in a poorly ventilated space precisely for that reason. Also, if you put your head too close to your nails, the fumes might begin to sting your eyes (this has happened to us… not fun).

The monomer used is typically ethyl methacrylate. It contains the chemicals dimethacrylate or trimethacrylate, which are added to strengthen the acrylic formula and speed up the bonding process. There are also various catalysts (specifics depend on brand to brand) that help with this.

This solution typically comes in a small bottle and is generally much pricier than something like acetone-based nail polish remover. Every drop is precious, and it’s so essential not to oversaturate your brush. Not only will you waste tons of monomer fluid, but you’ll also get acrylic into the base of the bristles and ruin the brush. Practice your dipping technique before trying to “pull a bead.”

Why is Monomer Important?

The monomer is almost more important than the actual acrylic powder. This crucial liquid is what changes the dust from a powder to a liquid and then to a solid as the acrylic cures. Without an acrylic monomer, the polymerization process (the bonding of the individual molecules in the acrylic powder) doesn’t happen, so you can probably see why monomer fluid is vital to the entire acrylic process.

In short, with no monomer liquid, your acrylic powder will stay an acrylic power.

Here's a list of what monomer (commonly referred to as EMA liquid) can be used for:

  1. Applying acrylic nail powder colors to your nails.
  2. Sculpting acrylic powder into 3D shapes (such as flowers).
  3. Blending or smoothing acrylic powder.

Are There Any Substitutes to Monomer liquid?

Unfortunately, there are no perfect substitutes for the monomer liquid. Monomer is specifically designed for applying acrylic nails. 

Here are a few (not so good) substitutes for monomer.

Polyester Resin

Polyester resin is similar in chemical composition but not exactly the same, and most people don’t have it on hand. Additionally, the polyester resin will dry down slightly green-ish, which could ruin your perfectly color-coordinated nail color.

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol MIGHT work in a tight situation, but the powder will not bond, might be lumpy, the color may be washed out, and the actual acrylic itself will be extremely weak. You can expect to have your acrylic flake off within a day if you choose this method.

Dip Powder Activator

Dip Powder Activator is a form of acrylic monomer and will work to create acrylic nails. However, the activator is also at a higher price point than the average monomer liquid and comes in a smaller bottle, so this method probably isn’t practical. Fairy Glamor activator comes in a nail polish-shaped bottle, and you won’t be able to shove your acrylic brush down into it.

Nail Glue

Nail glue is has very similar ingredients to the ones you see in the "base" liquid for dip nail powder systems. While it is much too thin and runny to work well, you can try using it if you have any on hand and the acyrlic powder should stick.

What Should You Do if You Run Out of Monomer Liquid?

If you’re in the middle of a nail set, you probably don’t want to have one hand completed and the other hand with no acrylics on. Here are a few things you can try instead.

fairy glamor dip powder jars

Use the Dip Nail Powder Method instead of Monomer.

Dip powder is an excellent alternative to acrylic and is much more straightforward, too. Acrylic takes a great deal of practice to get down pat (if you would like some tips and tricks, here are ways to get smooth acrylic nails), while dip powder is just about painting your nails and then dipping them.

If you’re like us, you want to save as much space as possible, which is why we’ve created a 2-in-1 acrylic and dip powder collection with over 150 color options!

While you can use acrylic powder for dip powder nails, it's best to use a 2-in-1 dip and acrylic system or a dip powder system for better results. Dipping powder requires dip liquids to apply; specifically, you will need a dip base liquid, dip activator, and a top coat. New to dip nails? Check out our easy step by step dip nail tutorial.

dip nail powder liquid application method

Press on Nails instead of Monomer.

If you’re going for a long nail set and run out halfway through, there’s really no alternative other than press on nails or dip powder with half-cover tips. Full-cover press on nails look the same as true acrylics and are much easier to take off; the only problem is that you might have an issue matching your acrylic color to a regular or gel polish to paint those press ons.

Conclusion: Try Nail Glue or Dip Powder Liquids as a substitute.

While there's really no "great" alternative to acrylic monomer, the best alternative we've found is nail glue (if you have it on hand!) or just using a dip powder system instead. If you're looking to try dip powder instead of monomer (it's much easier to apply dip powder if you're at home!) we have many dip powder color options that will work with both dip and acrylic systems.

October 08, 2021 — Fairy Glamor
Tags: question


Brittany suttles said:

So am I able to use any kind of glue, for instance: super glue, or nail glue?

Val said:

I should be more specific..100% acetone and 90% alcohol mix a 2 to 1 ratio ..2 acetone and 1 alcohol

Val said:

Try using nail polish remover mixed with 90% alcohol

Raven said:

What brand of nail glue should I use ?

Keira Wells said:

I’ve heard if you mix 1/4 of water and the test Elmer’s glue in a nail polish bottle can be a substitute. Can I use superglue and water instead of Elmer’s glue?

Shelley said:

Thank you for all the great information!

Karen Weeks said:

I use the glue and dip in acrylic powder as I can’t use the liquid

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Fairy Glamor designs unique 3-in-1 dip and acrylic nail powders in Galveston, Texas. We're a 100% family owned business that was founded in 2020 and went from making handmaking powders in our spare bedroom to shipping out of a big warehouse. We believe in both quality and affordability--that's why our powders are used by both professional nail technicians and in homes. Our unique colors are hand-designed to give you gorgeous manicures that'll make your nails feel magical.