Every person is different. Similar to different shampoos for different hair styles, there are different types of nail strengtheners make for different types of nails.
Finding the right brand and type of nail strengthener for your nails can be a daunting task. Depending on the condition that your nails are in, you can have different results with different types of nail strengthener products.
To find the ten best nail strengtheners, we looked at ingredients in the strengthener formula and broke down how the key ingredients interact with your nails.
We also looked at who would benefit from the nail strengtheners the most from a particular formula, along with the size of the product so that you can get an idea for how long the product will last before you need to replace the bottle/container.
With this article, we will be reviewing ten of the best nails strengtheners on the market, and comparing their strengths and benefits to take the guess work out of your next purchase.
Table of Contents
Nailtiques has different formulas available for different nail types. The Formula Two Plus was designed to treat soft, peeling, bitten, weak, or thin nails. For people with nails that are too soft and flexible, the Formula 2 Plus can be a good option to harden your nails.
The Formula 2 Plus nail protein provides a smooth, firm nail surface after treatment. Included in the package are two 0.5 oz bottles that will last months with regular use.
Some of the key ingredients in the nail protein include hydrolyzed keratin, and protein with gelatin and calcium to aide in hardening your nails. The other ingredients in the formula allow the solution to be applied smoothly like a nail polish.
Together these ingredients help to build a strong nail foundation by binding the various nail layers. Over time, the nails become resistant to peeling, chipping, and splitting.
Nailtiques recommends using the Formula 2 Plus for six weeks. For best results, you should apply the nail protein daily to allow coats to build up for roughly a week. Using a non-acetone remover, they instruct you to remove the layers at the end of the week to prevent excessive buildup. This process should be repeated each week for the six week duration.
This does require some dedication to apply the nail protein daily; for those with less time available, or those who need more immediate results, other products in this list may suit you better.
Results will vary from each user. Many people with damaged nails from using acrylic nails in the past have had their weakened nails restored after continued use. While many will see results within the first week, others may not see signs for up to six weeks.
Some users have reported discoloration of nails with a yellow/brown color from excessive buildup, but this can be alleviated with using a non acetone remover.
Here are some tips that can assist you with having the best results when using the Formula 2 Plus nail protein. Prior to applying a coat of formula, the nail surface should be completely dry. Excess residue can be removed from your skin with soap and water, while nail protein should also be cleaned from the cuticles to prevent hardening.
For those that want to add a bit of color back to their nails, the nail protein can be used as a base coat, followed by the color of your choice. The next day you can follow up with another layer of the nail protein like normal.
- Good for people with soft and weak nails
- Provides a smooth, firm nail surface
- Can be used as a basecoat to allow color to be added with a polish
- Includes two 0.5 oz. bottles to allow months of use
The nail hardener from Quimica Alemana comes with two 0.47 oz bottles. Manufactured in Columbia, the formula is designed to help with the correction/prevention of nails that chip, peel, and split. As a nail hardener, it’s designed to strengthen your thinning nails and over time, prevent excessive nail peeling if you’re experiencing those symptoms.
The Quimica Alemana nail hardener can be a good option for people who experience weak nails that are prone to breaking, without needing to reapply the solution as frequently as some of the other nail strengtheners.
Users are instructed to use the product weekly, after each week, you should remove the layer with a non acetone remover and apply a new coat of nail hardener.
The formula is designed to be long lasting, users report the coats lasting for at least a week or longer between applications. Being a concentrated formula, you shouldn’t use the product more than once per week as this can cause a burning feeling/sensation, while others report soreness in their nails.
If at any time you do experience these symptoms, you should discontinue use and use a non acetone remover to remove the product from your nails.
One of the main ingredients in the nail hardener is formaldehyde resin which helps to harden your nails. For the first three weeks, you’re instructed to brush on a thin coat from the middle of your nail to the tip.
This will allow your nails to absorb the product over time in smaller amounts and should help with the possible side effects of the product. After three weeks, you can apply thin coats of the product to the whole nail, taking caution to avoid applying the product directly to the cuticles.
The nail hardener can be used as a base coat for those that would like to use nail polish with the nail hardener. Most users report seeing signs of benefits within one to three weeks of use; several users state that their nails grow longer, stronger, and shinier in a short amount of time.
For users that need a product that’s long lasting, the nail hardener from Quimica Alemana may be the product for you. Unlike other products that may need daily application, you can go more than a week between applications without diminished effect.
The concentrated formula allows you to see results faster for when you need results quickly.
- Good for people with weak nails/nails prone to breaking
- Can be used as a basecoat or standalone
- Long lasting formula, lasts for a week + without reapplying
- Strengthens nails to prevent peeling
Started in 1981, OPI creates a wide range of nail lacquer colors and nail strengtheners to customers worldwide. The OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener comes in a 0.5 oz bottle and is available in different colors.
Nail Envy has six different formulas available for various nail types and needs. All six of them can be used as a base coat or as a stand alone treatment with different results depending on the formula used.
The original formula is designed for overall strengthening of weak nails using hydrolyzed wheat protein and calcium to create harder, longer, natural nails. The matte formula works similar to the original formula, but without the additional shiny finish that you will get from the original formula.
Dry and Brittle works to moisturize your nails to increase their flexibility so that your nails don’t break as easily. Harder nails are less flexible and can lead to breakage from common accidents, but with Dry and Brittle, it adds moisture back to your nails.
Sensitive and Peeling was designed with vitamin E and kukui nut oil to help moisturize the nails. The Kukui Nut oil naturally contains vitamins A, E, and F that are commonly used in skin treatment. In addition, the formula also contains aloe vera to help sooth sensitive nails.
As for effectiveness, many users with peeling nails have found better success with the original formula so you may need to try different formulas to find the one that work work best for you.
For those with soft, overly flexible nails, OPI’s formula for their Soft and Thin nail strengthener adds extra calcium and a layer of protection. While some strengtheners can discolor or yellow nails, all of the OPI nail strengtheners leave the nails natural looking. With Soft and Thin, soft nails become harder and healthier over time.
Last on the list of the Nail Envy nail strengtheners is the Healthy Maintenance formula. OPI recommends using this formula once users have gotten the desired result with one of the other formulas and contains a balance of strengthening and protecting ingredients to maintain your nails.
Do note that OPI doesn’t recommend the Healthy Maintenance formula for those using the Sensitive and Peeling formula.
Applying OPI’s Nail Envy formula is fairly simplified and in the middle in terms of time commitment. Initially you need to apply two base coats to your nails, avoiding the cuticles and skin as with other nail strengthening products.
After this initial coat, you apply a single coat every other day, with all of the layers being removed with a non acetone remover weekly. You then repeat the process starting with two coats.
For those with less time, the initial two coasts will last about 7 days without signs of chipping, so there is some flexibility with the formulas. Nail Envy can also be used as a top coat over nail lacquer as well.
- Six different formulas for various nail conditions/treatment
- Natural looking nails result from use
- Long lasting, 2 coats will last for approximately 7 days
- Available in different colors
Sally Hansen describes their Diamond Strength Nail Hardener as a high powered, instant nail hardener. It’s “titanium and micro-diamond” formula is intended to strengthen and seal your nail layers while locking in moisture to aid in nail growth. The formula comes in a 0.47 oz bottle with an included brush to apply the solution to your nails.
Unique on the list of ingredients for these ten nail strengtheners, the Diamond Strength Instant Nail Hardener contains diamond dust as one of the ingredients. The diamond dust is intended to help strengthen your nails, help your nails resist chipping, and as a shimmer effect to your nails to improve their look.
Most users have seen their nails harden after about a week of use, while a small portion claim to have experienced immediate results. Sally Hansen recommends applying the nail hardener as a single coat, though a second coat can be applied as needed once the first coat has dried. The nail hardener is multipurpose; you can use it as a base coat, a stand alone, or as a top coat after you’ve applied a coat of polish.
For people with weakened nails from using acrylic or gel nails, the Diamond Strength Instant Nail Hardener can help to repair nails that have been damaged from acrylic/gel nail use.
As with nail polish, the nail hardener should be used in a well ventilated area; the fast drying formula will allow you to apply a coating of nail polish in a short period of time.
While the nail hardener can strengthen your nails, the titanium dioxide in the nail hardener helps the solution to be spread across your nails easier rather than harden your nails.
On their website they state that you can expect to grow healthy looking nails in 5-7 days but this can vary from person to person as some users have reported seeing results after 7-10 days.
The formula can be easy to use and apply to your nails. Apply a base coat of the hardener and once dried, apply a coat of polish if you’d like to add color to your nails and follow up with a top coat of the formula.
Reapply a top coat as needed, typically once a day and after seven days, use a non acetone nail polish remover and restart the process. The product has some longevity between coatings that help to protect the nails from chipping, splitting, and peeling.
- Contains diamond dust to add shine to nails and strengthen them
- Healthy looking nails within first two weeks of use
- Makes nails more resistant to chipping
- Repairs damage from using acrylic and gel nails
This nail strengthening cream from Gena Laboratories has been claimed to find its origins with horse trainers using the formula on horse hooves as the name implies. The use of nail polish and nail remover over time can take its toll on your nails.
For those with weakened, dry, or cracked nails, Healthy Hoof is supposed to moisturize your nails and cuticles while strengthening them over time with proteins and comes in a four ounce container.
Nail polishes and other acetone based products can dry out your nail cuticles, making them brittle and cracked. Gena Healthy Hoof Cream uses a lot of the same ingredients that you would find in a skin moisturizing cream.
As moisture is added back to your nails, they will become more flexible and will help you avoid breaks in your nails. In addition, the formula contains hydrolyzed wheat proteins that get absorbed into your nails to allow them to be strengthened overtime.
Together, a balance of strength and flexibility will help you grow longer, healthier nails that are resistant to breaks, cracks, and peeling.
Odor-wise, the Hoof Cream has more of an herbal smell, so it can be a nice change from other nail strengtheners on the market. The lavender and rosemary oil within the cream can be soothing, but can be cleaned off easily with soap and water if needed.
Unlike other nail strengtheners, the cream is supposed to be massaged into your nails and cuticles on a daily basis; generally at night before you head off to bed. Many of the ingredients also work well as a skin moisturizer so you don’t have to worry if the cream gets onto your skin.
Healthy Hoof is intended to be a long term solution; some users see results after six weeks of continued use up to three months and beyond before they have strong nails that are resistant to breaks, chips, and peeling.
This doesn’t mean that you won’t see more immediate results; it can vary from person to person, but some users have seen nail growth and stronger nails after a couple of weeks.
Ingredient-wise, some nail strengtheners contain formaldehyde compounds to aid in strengthening your nails. Reviewing the ingredients list, Healthy Hoof uses ingredients like castor oil that helps to add moisture to your dried out nails, and hydrolyzed protein to strengthen your nails. Other oils found in the cream include lavender and rosemary oil that have been used in past nail treatments.
- Moisturizes and strengthens nails.
- Low odor, lavender and rosemary scented
- Formaldehyde free
- Treats brittle and cracked nails and cuticles
The Treat Love and Color Strengthener from essie is a combination strengthener and color polish in one 2.2 ounce bottle. Essie claims that after one week of use, your nails will have 60% less peeling and 35% less breakage.
The strengthener is intended for use with various nail types from normal to dry/brittle nails, and is good for people who want to strengthen their nails while keeping them colored at the same time.
Looking at the ingredients in essie’s TLC formula, the strengthener is DBP, toluene, and formaldehyde free. Formaldehyde compounds are used in different strengtheners and polishes to strengthen nails, while DBP improves the staying power, and toluene helps to form a smooth finish across your nails.
In large amounts these ingredients can be harmful; if you’re specifically looking for a strengthener without these ingredients, you can put your mind to ease with essie’s Treat Love and Color Strengthener.
The two main ingredients that essie points out are collagen extract, and camellia leaf extracts. The collagen extract has proteins that provide strength and structure back to your nails, while the camellia leaf extracts have antioxidants that add vitamins back to your nails and skin.
In addition the formula also contains MSM (Methyl-sulfonyl-methane) that has been known to promote nail growth and thickness for thin and weak nails.
The Treat Love and Color strengthener comes available in seven different shades to add color back to your nails without needing to add a separate layer of nail polish on top of the strengthener.
The formula is designed to provide a longer lasting vibrant color that can clear up the stained look to nails that can result from using acrylic/gel nails for long periods.
Applying the strengthener is fairly straightforward. You apply two coats to your nails and refresh them every 5-7 days with a non acetone remover and repeat the process. The strengthener formula dries pretty quickly and goes on in thin coats.
Most users see results after the first week; the strengthener can start to restore dry, brittle nails and strengthen them in the first week. After a couple of weeks, you can see less peeling and breaks in your nails as they’re better protected and continued use should should bigger signs of improvement over time.
- Useful for various nail conditions from normal to dry/brittle nails
- DBP, Toluene, and formaldehyde free
- Fast acting- results after first week of use
- Available in seven different shades of color
The Growth Calcium Formula from Nutra Nail claims to help soft, weak nails grow stronger with results in five to seven days in a 0.45 ounce bottle and applicator. This strengthener is good for people with weak, brittle nails and edges that are prone to peeling, cracks, and splits.
Ingredient-wise, the strengthener contains calcium, protein, and vitamins that are intended to get absorbed into your nails with the water based formula. The formula has a gel-like texture as opposed to a polish consistency like other nail strengtheners and may take some adjusting to if you’ve been using other types of strengtheners.
The gel-like formula gets absorbed into the nails; those with brittle nails will find that their nails have moisture added back to them making them less brittle. The formula contains no formaldehyde, toluene, and DBP that find their way into other strengtheners, and this should provide some piece of mind when applying the solution to your nails.
Applying the strengthener is a fairly straightforward process. The strengthener has a brush included to apply the gel over your clean nails and cuticles and under the nail tips. Once the solution is applied, you’re instructed to massage the gel into your nails for approximately five seconds. You’re instructed to apply the strengthener twice a day; most users apply it in the morning after they’ve showered, and at night before heading to bed.
With the results, most people do start to see results in the five to seven day time frame, but for more long term results, you should continue to use the solution beyond the timeframe.
Most users experience faster growing nails, and those with peeling nails find that their nails have grown stronger with less peeling at the tips. The gel consistency does aid with moisturizing your nails, so those with brittle nails may find relief with this strengthener.
Nutra Nail advertises a money back guarantee with the nail strengthener if the product doesn’t work to your satisfaction. You’re directed to reach out to the manufacturer for the refund.
From visiting Nutra Nail’s website, if you’re unhappy with the purchase, you need to mail the unused portion of the bottle, along with the sales receipt, and UPC Code from the package to Nutra Nails.
After six to eight weeks you’ll be refunded by Nutra Nail for purchases made in the US. If you purchased the product outside of the US, then you wouldn’t be eligible for the refund.
- Good for people with weak, brittle nails
- Gel-like solution that absorbs into nails to add moisture back to nails
- Formaldehyde, Toluene, and DBP free
- Results within five to seven days
Barielle’s Nail Strengthener Cream is another nail strengthener that finds its origin in the equine world for hooves. In a one ounce container, the nail strengthener cream works as a hydrating strengthener to make your nails more flexible.
The formula is formaldehyde free, and contains hydrolyzed soy protein to strengthen your nails and helps to prevent breakage, peeling, and splitting. The cream is also infused with Vitamin E to moisturize your dry and cracked cuticles, and also keeps the surrounding skin healthy.
As a hydrating strengthener, the nail strengthener cream is good for people with dry or brittle nails that have been damaged from extensive use of acrylic or gel nails.
Similar to moisturizing creams for your skin, the Barielle Nail Strengthener Cream contains mineral oil, and lanolin wax (similar to beeswax) that help to moisturize your nails. With the cream, your cuticles absorb these oils and add back moisture to promote healthy nail growth.
The hydrolyzed soy protein works to strengthen your nails over time as your nails absorb the protein. The combination of proteins and moisturizers work to provide strength to your weakened nails and prevent them from becoming brittle as can be the case with acetone based products.
Application wise, the nail strengthener needs to be applied at least twice a day to your nails and cuticles (three if your nails are badly damaged). The best time would be once in the morning and once at night; the overnight application is where your nails will benefit the most from the cream.
After about three or four weeks, you’re going to see the most significant results to your nails as the ingredients help strengthen your nails to resist splits, peels, and breaks.
Compared to other creams, Barielle has formulated a fairly non greasy cream that is mostly unscented, perfect for going to work in the morning after applying the cream.
The nail strengthener cream can be used on top of nail polishes without needing to remove the polish to reach your nails. For badly damaged nails, you should apply the cream for without any polish on your nails for the first two weeks, while the cream heals the nails.
After the two weeks have past, you can switch to using nail polish again. Continue to use the cream over the nail polish while it moisturizes your nail and cuticles and providing a slight sheen to your polish.
- Moisturizes nails with mineral oil, and lanolin wax
- Non-greasy cream
- Use on nails that have polish without removing color
- Formaldehyde free
The Xtra version of Nail Tek’s nail strengthener is intended for people with weak, damaged nails that are resistant to other treatment types. People with thin and weak nails, nails that peel and split easily, and nails with slow to no growth can see results with the extra strength formula.
While other nail strengtheners on the list encourage long term use, The Xtra nail strength formula is instructed for only short term until your nail symptoms improve, and comes in a 0.5 ounce bottle.
With the concentrated formula, you should take care to avoid putting the strengthener on your cuticles and skin as it can dry them out. The formula is free of DBP and toluene but does contain formaldehyde resin that works to harden your brittle nails.
To aid in strengthening your nails, the formula also contains wheat protein and calcium. Hardening and strengthening your nails on its own won’t repair your damaged nails. Properly moisturizing them adds flexibility back to the nails so that they don’t break as easily.
Dimethicone helps to aid in moisturizing your nails while triphenyl phosphate adds back flexibility.
Applying the nail strengthener is fairly straightforward. Nail Tek recommends applying the formula two to three times each day over a foundation or layer of nail polish while avoiding the cuticles and skin. This should be repeated daily for a week with a non acetone polish remover being used at the end of the week and the process restarted.
Most users see more immediate results compared to other more long term solutions. The nail strengthener creates thicker, longer nails within the first week. The formula works best as a top coat over your polish or foundation, and creates a shine appearance on top of your polish.
Users that have applied the formula directly to their nails may find their nails more tender and sensitive due to the concentrated formula.
- Wheat protein and calcium to strengthen and harden damaged nails
- Moisturizing formula adds flexibility back to your nails
- See more immediate results
- Creates shiny, smooth appearance on top of your polish
It’s also designed to extend the life of your manicures, ward off dryness, and encourage strong, healthy nail growth, in an easy to use 0.61 ounce bottle.
What does this mean for you? The formula contains hydrolyzed wheat and soy protein to help promote nail growth. To strengthen your nails, the formula contains a formaldehyde resin that harden your nails to protect against breakage and damage.
Duri recommends applying a coat to your nails as a base coat, taking care to avoid the cuticles. A nail polish can be applied on top of the base coat, followed by a top coat of the formula.
The top coat should be reapplied daily, and removed after seven days with a polish remover and the process restarted. This allows you to spend less time on maintenance compared to other nail strengtheners where you have to apply and reapply the nail strengthener several times each day. As your nails strengthen, you can reduce the application to every other day.
The nail strengthener can also be used to make your manicures last longer. The formula can be applied as a top coat once your manicure is complete and will create a shiny, smooth coat of protection. Over time the strengthener will add flexibility back to your nails and this will lessen the amount of times that your nails can break or crack due to dried out nails.
Looking at the two to three week claim to see improvements, most users should see stronger/harder nails within this timeframe as the formaldehyde resin works fairly quickly. in terms of nail growth, this can vary from user to user.
You should see some increase in nail growth, but this largely depends on the health of your nails. Re-creating healthy nails can take time, and the strengthener can aid in the recovery of your nails. Most importantly, you need to find a balance between keeping your nails hydrated and strong.
- Mends brittle, weak, or cracked nails within two to three weeks
- Make manicures last longer
- Apply only once daily
- Shiny, smooth appearance for your nails
Nail Strengthener Buyer’s Guide
In this article, we’ve presented you with ten of the best nail strengtheners on the market, but which one is best for you? Your nails require a balance of strength and flexibility to create healthy looking nails.
Each nail strengthener treats different types of symptoms. Weak nails typically need a formula to strengthen your nails to help them become resistant to breaks. Hardness and strength are similar properties, where strength allows nails to be resistant to breaks, hardness allows them to have resistance against being scratched and dented.
Nails that are too hard can be prone to shattering and splitting. Flexibility deals with how well your nails can bend. Harsh cleaners and solvents can rob your nails of flexibility and make them more brittle. Last on the list of nail properties, toughness is a balance of strength and flexibility.
Nails that are too flexible can be weak and prone to breaks, whereas on the other side, nails that are too strong become brittle the longer your nails become.
What does this mean for you and how can you choose the right nail strengthener that will treat your symptoms? Once you’ve identified your nail symptoms, you can choose a strengthener that will treat your symptoms to create healthy nails. Over time you may need to switch to a different strengthener based on your changing symptoms so that you can find the right balance for your nails.
Primarily there are two types of nail strengtheners: hardeners and hydrators. Hydrators, as the name implies, adds moisture back to your nails. Dehydrated nails can cause the splitting, peeling, and cracking of your nails.
Some common causes of dehydrated nails can come from excessive hand washing, wet work, and exposure to moisture/oil sapping chemicals. Using acetone based products can cause your nails to become more dehydrated, which is why many of the nail strengtheners recommend using non acetone based nail removers.
Hydrating nail strengtheners typically come in a cream form and is applied to your nails, skin, and cuticles. Two of the hydrator nail strengtheners on the list is the Healthy Hoof Cream from Gena, and the Nail Strengthener Cream from Barielle.
These nail strengtheners typically have similar ingredients that you will find in heavy duty moisturizers such as mineral oil, beeswax, glycerin and more. Hinalydrator nail strengtheners are a good option for people with nails that may be peeling or brittle.
Compared to the hardening type of nail strengtheners, hydrator users typically start to see results in months rather than weeks. Hydrators need to be used for long term treatment to be effective; moisturized nails have increased flexibility compared to dehydrated nails.
Hardeners on the other hand use nail hardening ingredients like calcium and formaldehyde. These types of nail strengtheners are best for people with weak nails, and those with nails that break easily.
Over time, the hardeners strengthen your nails to make them less prone to splits and breaks. Nail hardeners come in two varieties, cross-linking hardeners and reinforcing hardeners.
Cross-linking hardeners work directly with the protein in your nails and typically include formaldehyde and calcium in their ingredients list. Some of the nail strengtheners in this list that would fall under the cross-linking side would be the Quimica Alemana nail hardener, and Nail Tek’s Nail Strengthener Xtra.
Reinforcing hardeners on the other hand, coat the top of your nails and often have ingredients that include nylon, and sulfhydryl protein. These products typically have you apply the strengthener as a top coat where the nails harden, but typically need to be reapplied frequently to protect your nails.
Opposed to the hydrator nail strengtheners, you will see signs of improvement more immediately. However, the solution needs to be reapplied frequently to be effective and prolonged use can cause your nails to become brittle.
Once you’ve identified the type of damage to your nails, you can choose a nail strengthener that will work hard to repair and strengthen your nails back to a healthy, stronger, more flexible form.
Finding the right balance can be hard, but with time and patience you can have the nails you’ve always wanted. The key is understanding that you may need to change the type of nail strengthener that you’re using to maintain the balance between strength and flexibility.
If you see a nail strengthener that’s not on this list, feel free to let us know in the comments below.