Why not acrylic body jewelry?

The principle:

Don’t buy body jewelry from retailers that do not offer these qualifications.

http://jewelry.piercing.org/ explains how not to get taken advantage of:

  1. First, make sure the body jewelry is chemically safe.

    1. Some PMMA acrylic could be chemically safe, but it is virtually impossible to know if that is what you are buying without certification of tests from the manufacturer. Self curing monomer is reported to cause more allergic and irritant reactions.
    2. Some PTFE Teflon could be chemically safe, but the same applies to know your source is refined for medical quality contact with human tissue. (ASTM F754)
    3. Some plastics have very unsafe endocrine disrupting properties.
  2. Make sure the body jewelry is smooth and properly cleaned.

  3. Make sure the body jewelry can be, and has been, safely sterilized.

    1. Steam autoclave (by the studio) or ETO gas or H2O2 gas plasma (by the manufacturer) are sterilization options; dry heat and liquid chemical baths are not effective.
    2. Finding sterilized acrylic jewelry is uncommon, and there is very little one could do in a home setting to get it clean enough to put in contact with stretched, damaged or healing piercings.
Image created from a quote of mine in a conversation with Matt Reyes, aka The Penguin

Please don’t share the image without my site linked on it, because although the facts are on point, it was quoted out of context. Evidence indicates that we should not be using acrylic that does not meet implant specifications for new, healing or stretching piercings, but I do not encourage shaming people for their jewelry choices.

The statement on this image should be taken in the context of a much longer and more involved conversation on body jewelry materials safety in which we discussed the potential advantages and disadvantages of different products. Generalization, even for the sake of summarization for a sales pitch, can be inappropriate.


I suggest that we stop using acrylic for body jewelry.

You may note from my website and other scholarly references that there are some dental and medical applications for some specifications of PMMA, including a few for corneal implant and bone cement. These specifications are not used for body jewelry by any company that I have been able to find. I’d be interested to see them if someone knows of a manufacturer working with these implant specifications of PMMA or other polymers. Please contact me about it.

Even the dental PMMA acrylic used for body jewelry is also less safe than it should be, plus it is virtually impossible to identify what the composition of body jewelry without laboratory analysis. X-ray fluoroscopy would be one appropriate means to determine the chemical composition, but it will not give you much indication of what will be released under wearing conditions.

The burden of proof is on the manufacturer of body jewelry to test and validate the safety of any product that they bring to market.


  1. ASTM F3087 – Standard Specification for Acrylic Molding Resins for Medical Implant Applications developed by Committee F04.11
  2. Methyl methacrylate:
    Chemical hazards of the components released from MMA and PMMA
  3. Acrylic allergies information (Candulor Dental Prosthetics)
  4. Sensitization to Acrylic Denture materials
  5. Local and Systemic Effects of Unpolymerised Monomers:
    One of the effects noted with low quality polymer body jewelry are sores that appear on the piercing in contact with the material after prolonged exposure. This may be contact stomatitis: “Contact allergy results from a delayed hypersensitivity reaction that occurs when antigens of low molecular weight penetrate the skin or mucosa of susceptible individuals. When allergic reactions were noted, they were described as white, necrotic lesions on the mucosa; either as small, multiple lesions or as large ulcers mimicking aphthous stomatitis.”
  6. Surgical applications of methyl methacrylate: a review of toxicity.

    For surgical implant quality materials: “At present, MMA is not thought to be carcinogenic to humans under normal conditions of use.”


Interesting commentary on the subject here:

Exactly the reason why we are not fans of acrylic body jewelry. Please share with your friends and help encourage them to wear more body (and earth) friendly materials!

More discussion here:

Hi Brian. Am genuinely interested in two issues surrounding jewellery, materials and suitability. Could you possibly point to me some of the work surrounding your findings on the toxicity of acrylic as a material for healed piercings and also any information regarding possible tissue damage resulting from using it. Kind thanks

  • Gyles Woodwork Sorry I’ve read both of these and the first sources the second but the second is for the liquid methyl methacrylate as a monomer and the hazards associated with exposure to the liquid as it stands and not to acrylic as a polymer. Can you clarify something on the Acrylic Material Safety Data that says “This material is classified as not hazardous under OSHA regulations.” and “Skin Contact – Material can cause the following: – cuts (when using cut sheets) . Ingestion – No hazard expected in normal use.” I may be missing something here so would love some feedback.
  • Gyles Woodwork One of the main issues I have, and am happy to be proven wrong, is that many within the industry are claiming acrylic to be poisonous and toxic having read that Methyl Methacrylate is hazardous they have made the logical leap towards suggesting that acrylic itself is as dangerous. Also do you have somewhere I can read about the breakdown of acrylic into monomer vapours and at what temperature this occurs. I realise this is a lot to ask however I am trying to better educate myself on the whole issue of acrylic and you are definitely the guy everyone sources. Kind thanks
    Brian Skellie We should begin from the perspective of finding out what specifications of a material has been approved for human implant purposes. Acrylic and other polymers in general are as nebulous a category as any of the materials commonly used for body jewelry such as steel or titanium.

  • We don’t just assume any titanium is safe for jewelry, we use only standard specifications such as ASTM F136 alloy or ASTM F67 for pure elemental Ti. Standards bodies such as ISO are informed by the specifications worked out by consensus based organizations such as the ASTM International.

    We might have a standard to hold acrylic jewelry makers to, soon if this passes. It has been new and interesting to read: Standard Specification for Acrylic Molding Resins for Medical Implant Applications in the works.

    “Biocompatibility of implant devices made using acrylic polymers meeting this specification shall be determined in accordance with Practice F748 or the ISO 10993 series, unless otherwise agreed upon between the implant manufacturer and regulating bodies. Biological testing should be conducted on the finished product after it has gone through all processing steps including sterilization.
    10.2 Acrylic polymers meeting the requirements of ASTM F451 which consist primarily of PMMA but with substantially higher concentrations of residual monomer (MMA) have been used successfully as in-situ curing bone cements for over 35 years. A comprehensive listing of commercially available bone cements has been published which includes information on the co-monomers used, although the percentages of the co-monomers are not given.”

    As far as I have been able to determine, there are not any acrylic jewelry manufacturers who are willing to disclose any proprietary details about their material sources, or provide ISO 10993 or ASTM F748 test results. Without these test results, we should not presume a material to be safe for wear in the body for hours, days weeks or longer.
  • Gyles Woodwork Presumably this failure to provide test results for ISO10993 and ASTMF748 also applies to other materials such as bone, wood, gold, silver, brass, stone, crystal etc.
    Brian Skellie The standards for initial jewelry are simple: proof of safety to implant specifications. People tend to lose track of the safety factors once a piercing has healed. http://jewelry.safepiercing.org/ details this.
  • Minimum Standards for Jewelry for Initial Piercings The APP Board of Directors has adopted a revision to the…
    Gyles Woodwork But this suggests that bone, wood and stone are no safer than acrylic for healed piercings. Something I’m sure many people will take issue with. Clearly acrylic is not safe for initial piercing but with its uses in the dental, clothing and maternal industry I am unconvinced of its toxicity with regards to healed piercings.
  • Brian Skellie This tells us that we know equally little about the risks, based on standard testing. Since polymers can be made by many different formulas and methods, there may be one or more that are safe. We need test results to prove it.
  • The burden of proof is on the manufacturer to test and validate the safety of their proposed materials to recognized scientific standards.
  • Brian Skellie We can make no assumptions without risk otherwise.
  • Gyles Woodwork Ok but what if the manufacturer has proof that acrylic is safe for the dental market won’t that make it safe for the healed piercing market? The World Health Organisation cites acrylic as fundamentally safe for humans in regards to touching and wearing it other than those with an allergic predisposition.
  • Brian Skellie We need test results for proof. Over a decade ago, one company used a specification of dental acrylic used for retainers and dentures, but they kept it a trade secret. The assertion that a company makes a product safe for one market does not confirm nor refute the fitness of that product for our purposes. We must have public access to the specifications and test results, or a third party validation.

    *WHO is not responsible for implant specifications. Acrylic products are not of great concern to them compared to BPA and other plastics that have more impact on the health of greater numbers of the population.

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