Brittle or weak nails? While a broken nail doesn’t seem all that dire in the grand scheme of things, it does signify that your nails need to undergo a bit of rehab. And we’re not talking about a fresh coat of nail polish. You’re going to need to apply a nail strengthener. Unfortunately, not all nail strengtheners sold in the market are safe. Some contain formaldehyde or formalin. You needn’t worry though because we’ve found the 10 best nail strengtheners in the market today, that are not toxic.
Top 10 Nail Strengtheners of 2019 Reviewed
- Top 10 Nail Strengtheners of 2019 Reviewed
- 1. OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener Original Formula
- 2. Onyx Professional Hard as Hoof Nail Strengthening Cream
- 3. Sally Hansen Diamond Strength Instant Nail Hardener
- 4. Nail Tek Nail Strengthener Xtra
- 5. CND Rescue RXx Daily Keratin Treatment
- 6. OPI Nail Lacquer Treatment, Start-to-Finish Formaldehyde-Free
- 7. Nail Magic Strengthener
- 8. Gelish Vitagel Recovery LED/UV Cured Nail Strengthener
- 9. Maxus Base Coat
- 10. Essie Treat Love & Color
- Nail Strengthener Buying Guide
1. OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener Original FormulaBest Nail Strengthener for Thin Nails
The OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener is appropriately named because after a few applications of this product, your nails truly will be something to envy. The strengthener contains hydrolyzed wheat protein and calcium, both of which can help reinforce the structure of your nails leaving them stronger and promoting growth. The Original Formula is designed to treat weak or damaged nails but it can also be used as a base coat. However, it is expensive. Some users also reported that it can be hard to use the last bit of product inside the bottle as it thickens after a while.
- Contains calcium and hydrolyzed wheat protein
- Can be used as a base coat
- May thicken up after a while
2. Onyx Professional Hard as Hoof Nail Strengthening CreamBest Nail Strengthener for Brittle Nails
The Onyx Professional Hard as Hoof Nail Strengthening Cream is a perfect choice if you’ve got dry and fragile nails. It has a moisture-rich formula which includes ingredients such as silk protein, jojoba oil, coconut oil, Vitamin B-5, and glycerin. This cream can help strengthen your nails as well as prevent cracks, splits, and chips. Not only that, it can condition your cuticles and even function as a hand lotion. We love the fact that the cream is quickly absorbed by the nails, cuticles, and skin so it doesn’t leave your hands sticky. However, it does come in a jar which makes the application a bit hard. You’ll need to scoop it out instead of squeezing the product out of a tube or brushing it on your nails. Also, not everyone likes the smell of coconuts. Also, since you need to apply it multiple times a day, one jar doesn’t last long.
- Moisture-rich formulation
- Can be used as a hand lotion
- Absorbs quickly
- Doesn’t last long
- Comes in a jar
- Not for those sensitive to the smell of coconut
3. Sally Hansen Diamond Strength Instant Nail HardenerBest Nail Strengthener for Guitarists
The Sally Hansen Diamond Strength Instant Nail Hardener isn’t kidding when it says it has diamond strength. It actually contains real micro-diamond and titanium in the formula to create a shatterproof, protective shield on your nails to prevent splitting and tearing. What most people love about this product, which is formaldehyde-free by the way, is that it shows you results within a week of application. Plus, there’s no need to keep reapplying every day since the strengthener can stay on your nails for more than 2 to 3 days. However, the brush is small which makes applying it slightly more tedious than it should be. Also, it doesn’t dry very quickly. In addition, it is quite glossy and there is no matte option.
- Contains real micro-diamond and titanium
- Quick results
- Brush could be wider
- Doesn’t dry very quickly
- Very glossy, no matte option
4. Nail Tek Nail Strengthener XtraBest Nail Strengthener with Formaldehyde
If you have peeling nails, then you’ll love what the Nail Tek Nail Strengthener Xtra can do for you. This product has a concentrated formula that helps treat severe nail weakness. This nail strengthener is pretty easy to use as it dries really fast. Plus, it’s very affordable. Some users have seen results (noticeably harder nails) as short as a week after starting the regimen. However, it does chip or peels off rather quickly. And you do need to keep reapplying this every day. Also, it does contain a small amount of formaldehyde which can cause your nails to become brittle if used too much.
- Treats severe nail weakness
- Dries really fast
- Has formaldehyde
- Requires frequent application
- Peels or chips off rather quickly
5. CND Rescue RXx Daily Keratin TreatmentBest Nail Strengthener for Weak Peeling Nails
Keratin is the building blocks of your nails so it’s only logical that you use a nail strengthener containing keratin proteins to strengthen your weakened or damaged nails. The CND RescueRXx Daily Keratin Treatment does just that. It also contains jojoba oil and sweet almond oil to hydrate your nails and cuticles, leaving you with healthy looking nails. As an added bonus, this product contains all natural ingredients and is formaldehyde-free. Plus, we like the fact that this is so easy to apply on the nails. However, this is not a fast-acting product and it doesn’t get absorbed quickly.
- All natural ingredients
- Easy to apply
- Helps soften your cuticles too
- Not fast-acting; can take weeks for results to start showing
- Takes time to get absorbed by the nail
6. OPI Nail Lacquer Treatment, Start-to-Finish Formaldehyde-FreeBest Nail Strengthener for Ridges
The OPI Natural Nail Strengthener is more than just for strengthening your nails. This particular product acts as a top and base coat. As a base coat, it helps harden your nails and prevents discoloration due to the nail polish. As a top coat, it provides a matte finish. Plus, it is formaldehyde-free. However, it is slightly more expensive than some of our other picks. The product thickens a bit too quickly for our liking which gives it a short lifespan. And there are some reports of the polish chipping off too quickly.
- 3-in-1 product
- Prevents discoloration of the nail
- Gets thick too fast
- May chip off too quickly
7. Nail Magic StrengthenerBest Nail Strengthener for Splitting Nails
This nail hardener and conditioner from Nail Magic has been rejuvenating nails since 1960. It was formulated by a professional manicurist to successfully treat weak, splitting, and thin nails. Like the OPI product we just reviewed, this one can also be used as a base coat, a top coat, or a clear polish. What we love about this nail strengthener is that there is no need to apply it multiple times a day, every day. Just twice a week will do. Plus, it comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. However, the product does thicken up after a while so you need to make sure you only get the small bottles. It does take at least 8 weeks for results to show. Also, this doesn’t dry quickly.
- 100% satisfaction guarantee
- 3-in-1 product
- Reputable brand
- Thickens after some time
- Takes 8 weeks for results to show
- Doesn’t dry quickly
8. Gelish Vitagel Recovery LED/UV Cured Nail Strengthener
If you want to repair your nails and promote growth after years of acrylic use, then there is none better than the Gelish Vitagel Recovery LED/UV Cured Nail Strengthener. Unlike traditional nail strengtheners, this gel polish requires the use of an LED lamp. What we love about this is that it doesn’t chip or peel off. It also doesn’t stain your nails. And when you want to take it off, just soak it and it comes right off, leaving you with smooth, healthy nails. Plus, have we mentioned that it’s formaldehyde-free? However, it isn’t easy to apply as the product is a bit thick. Also, you can’t use this with other Gelish products because it will cause the polish to peel off quickly.
- Doesn’t stain
- No chipping or peeling off
- Easy to remove
- Requires LED/UV lamp
- Will peel off quickly when used with other Gelish products
9. Maxus Base CoatBest Nail Strengthener for Nail Biters
The Maxus Base Coat is not just your average base coat. It also functions as a nail strengthener. It can help rehab brittle, weak, and peeling nails. The formula contains tea tree oil which has antiseptic and antifungal benefits. It also contains 11 ingredients that are vegan and animal-cruelty free. It doesn’t have any gluten, sulfates, parabens, or phthalates. This cross-linking nail hardener also protects your nails from discoloration. However, this is not as potent as dedicated nail strengtheners. It is a bit expensive and it doesn’t work for everyone.
- Functions as a base coat
- Has antiseptic and anti-fungal properties
- Vegan-friendly and gluten-free
- Not as strong as dedicated nail strengtheners
- Doesn’t work for everyone
10. Essie Treat Love & ColorBest Nail Strengthener with Color
The Essie Treat Love & Color is another non-toxic option for those who want to give their nails a rehab but still enjoy a freshly-painted manicure. With this product, there’s no need for a base coat, a top coat, or even the polish itself. This nail strengthener contains brightening pigments to provide you with beautiful nails while the collagen & camellia extract work to reinforce your nails. However, the color is not really that noticeable, more like a nude or sheer polish so don’t expect bright colors. Also, it requires several coats in order to get the light sheer effect.
- Contains collagen & camellia extract
- Dries very quickly
- Just nude or sheer polish; not bright colors
- Requires several coats to get “color”
Nail Strengthener Buying Guide
For most of us, taking care of our nails mean filing them, getting a mani-pedi, etc. One thing we tend to forget is that our nails need more than that to look nice. They need to be healthy too. If your nails tend to chip or break off easily, chances are they need to undergo a bit of rehab. One of the best ways to get healthy nails is to use a nail strengthener. However, you can’t just buy the first nail strengthener you come across in Amazon. Some products contain dangerous chemicals such as formaldehyde that can damage your nails in the long run. If you’re looking for a nail strengthener to “buff up” your nails, then our handy shopping guide can help you sort through the various products available and find the best one for you.
How does a nail strengthener work?
Nail strengtheners typically do two things. One, they provide a protective coating on top of the nail, reinforcing its structure and natural shape. And two, the microelements and proteins in nail strengtheners provide nourishment to the nail plate which promotes nail growth.
What are The Types of Nail Strengtheners?
There are two main types of nail strengtheners – hardeners and hydration. Hydrators are nail strengtheners that moisturize a nail so that it becomes flexible, bending instead of breaking. Just think of them as similar to lotions for your skin or the conditioner to your hair. Hydrators usually contain oily and waxy ingredients mixed with water. The main disadvantage of using this type of nail strengthener is that you need to reapply it frequently to achieve maximum effect. Just like what you do with lotions and conditioners, the strengthener wears off over time and/or can be washed away. The Onyx Professional Hard as Hoof Nail Strengthening Cream is a good option if you want to get a hydrator since it is packed with moisturizing ingredients. You’ll find that hydrators often look like an oil or a cream packed in a tube or jar. The ingredients typically include nylon and/or sulfhydryl protein.
Nail hardeners, on the other hand, can be divided into two types – reinforcing and cross-linking hardeners. Now, reinforcing hardeners like the Nail Tek Nail Strengthener Xtra do as their name suggests. They coat the nail and that added layer reinforces the natural external structure of the nail, much like a splint being placed on a broken bone.
Cross-linking hardeners like the Maxus Base Coat, in contrast, strengthen the “inside” of the nail. The ingredients of the nail hardener react with the proteins of the nails, creating chemical bonds that tie all the proteins together, thereby reinforcing the natural structure of the nail. However, there is a chance that too much of this type of nail strengthener can cause your nail to become brittle over time. Nail hardeners are typically clear and in a bottle much like nail polish. Also, this type of nail strengthener is usually applied using a brush and contains formaldehyde or calcium.
So, Hardeners or Hydrators?
As we’ve already mentioned, hydrators like the CND Rescue RXx Daily Keratin Treatment need to be applied regularly if you want to get the maximum effect. Plus, these generally take a while to show you actual results. If you want a quick fix, however, a nail hardener may be more suitable.
What’s in the Formula?
As we’ve already mentioned, some formulas of nail strengtheners contain formaldehyde which can strengthen your nail. However, it will cause your nail to become brittle over time. Obviously, you’re going to need to stay away from products with that ingredient. But what should you look for? Look for ingredients such as Vitamin E, Aloe Vera, proteins like keratin, and Jojoba oil which can treat nails for brittleness. The OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener Original Formula, for example, contains calcium and hydrolyzed wheat protein. Nail strengtheners with nylon derivatives are ideal for nails that require reinforcement.
What’s Causing Your Nails To Become Weak and/or Brittle?
While nail strengtheners can be good for your weak nails, it can only do so much. It won’t be able to keep your nails healthy if there is an underlying cause that doesn’t get treated. For example, hypothyroidism, anemia, and Raynaud’s syndrome are just a few of the medical conditions that can cause brittle nails. Just biting your nails regularly can also cause them to become weak. This is because doing so keeps your nails damp which make them an ideal breeding ground for fungus. Even if you continuously apply nail strengthener to your nails, you won’t be getting the results you want without treating that underlying cause such as getting rid of that bad habit.