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15 Best Nail Strengtheners for Better Nail Growth

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Whether it’s stress-related or too many fab manicures that rely on acrylics or other harsh techniques, weak, soft, cracking, or splitting nails can happen to the best of us. While you can cut out harmful nail processes, you still might need to put in a little extra effort to bring your nails back to their original vitality. And this is where a good nail strengthener can come in handy.

Designed to be used at home, they can be an integral part of a nail repair routine that can help to revitalize your nails. Whether you prefer a daily, once weekly, or even a cream-based hydrating nail repair method, there’s a solution for everyone. And we’ve rounded up 15 of the best nail strengtheners that are designed to give you the perfect set of 10 in no time.

In this article:

Our Picks for the Best Nail Strengtheners

From the traditional formula to cream and multi-purpose products, below are the best nail strengtheners for different preferences!

1
Best Overall
OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener Original Formula
OPI Ulta.com
$18.95

OPI is a fan favorite when it comes to nail care, whether you’re talking about nail color or treatments to help improve the health of your nails. Their Nail Envy Nail Strengthener Original Formula is a simple brush-on strengthener that incorporates calcium and hydrolyzed wheat protein to help prevent your nails from cracking, peeling, or splitting.

This is one of the best nail strengtheners intended to be used regularly, with two coats applied initially and then a coat on alternating days. Note that it’s meant to initially be used alone over bare nails. And only after a week of consistent use can you use it along with nail lacquer. Buy it at Ulta or Amazon!

Key Features:

  • Size: 0.5 oz.
  • Key Ingredients: Calcium, hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Finish: Clear
  • Usage: 2 coats initially followed by every other day
  • Formula: Maximum strength
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: No/No

Pros

  • Can also double as a base or top coat with nail lacquer
  • Easy to use
  • Can improve nail health to prevent splitting, cracking, & peeling

Cons

  • Some users noted that reapplying a coat every other day created a sticky, bumpy texture on nails

2
Runner-up for Best Overall
Sally Hansen Triple Strong Nail Strengthener
Sally Hansen Amazon.com
$9.62

If you like the idea of a nail strengthener but want something that’s proven and accessible, you can’t go wrong with Sally Hansen. This nail brand has been around for decades and offers a wide range of manicure offerings designed to do everything, from boosting nail health to giving you a perfect manicure at home.

Their Triple Strong nail hardener is designed with a three-in-one technology meant to mimic the strength that a gel manicure can provide. The formula leverages an epoxy polymer and combines it with calcium and titanium complexes to yield a stronger nail that’s less prone to chipping, cracking, and splitting. For best results, use it alone or add it as the base coat step in your at-home manicure routine. Buy it on Amazon!

Key Features

  • Size: 0.32 oz.
  • Key Ingredients: Epoxy polymer, calcium, titanium complex
  • Finish: Clear
  • Usage: Begin with two coats, reapply every 3 days
  • Formula: Gel-like
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: No/No

Pros

  • Recreates the hardness achieved with a gel manicure
  • Can also be used as a base coat in a manicure routine
  • Requires less frequent reapplication

Cons

  • May peel prematurely

3
Best Drugstore
Orly Nail Defense
Orly Ulta.com
$12.99

Whether you’re concerned about accessibility issues or you want a product that’s affordable for a wider range of budgets, drugstore brands are usually the go-to option. The Orly nail hardener is something that’s usually found in a wide range of stores. This pick uses a protein strengthener to help boost your nail health.

Similar to other nail strengtheners, this pick will work best when used by itself but can also serve as a base coat to help prolong your next at-home manicure. To use this strengthener, start by applying one coat on bare nails and then reapplying every other day. As your nail health improves, reapply every four to five days or twice a week. Buy it at Ulta or Amazon!

Key Features

  • Size: 0.6 oz.
  • Key Ingredients: Protein
  • Finish: Clear
  • Usage: Begin with a single coat and reapply every 4 to 5 days
  • Formula: Gloss
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: No/No

Pros

  • Can double as top and base coat
  • Protein-based formula
  • Less frequent application may be preferable to some

Cons

  • May not be ideal for manicures, as it can bubble as a top coat

4
Best Fast-Acting
Nail-Aid Keratin 3 Day Growth Nail Treatment & Strengthener
Nail-Aid Amazon.com
$5.99

Most people are aware that our hair and nails are made from keratin. So, it only makes sense that a keratin-based formula would be a good solution for boosting the health of hair or nails. This is the best nail strengthener solution for people that don’t have the patience to wait a few weeks to see results.

This option features a quick-dry formula that also incorporates powerful amino acids to help bolster nail health. The brand promises that you’ll see results in as little as three days from when you start using this hardener. Similar to other brands, you’ll start with two coats over clean, bare nails but then reapply every three days. Buy it on Amazon!

Key Features

  • Size: 0.55 oz.
  • Key Ingredients: Keratin, amino acids
  • Finish: Clear
  • Usage: Two coats to start followed by reapplications every 3 days
  • Formula: Gloss, 21-free
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/Yes

Pros

  • Can produce results in as little as 3 days
  • A quick-dry formula that’s easy to use
  • A 21-free formula

Cons

  • Repeated layers of polish can create an odd color on nails

5
Best Cream
Onyx Professional Hard As Hoof Nail Strengthening Cream
Onyx Professional Amazon.com
$9.99

Not everyone likes a nail strengthener that has to be repainted every few days because it means you have to sit around waiting for it to dry. If this sounds familiar, then the Onyx Professional nail cream is a great alternative. Instead of a traditional nail coat, this is a cream that is applied regularly.

It conditions both your nails and cuticles, thanks to the use of key ingredients like hydrogenated jojoba oil, vitamins, and calcium. Meanwhile, it also helps to prevent nails from chipping, splitting, and cracking. Plus, you’ll appreciate the coconut scent. Buy it on Amazon!

Key Features

  • Size: 1 oz.
  • Key Ingredients: Hydrolyzed jojoba oil, vitamins A, C, D & E, calcium, beeswax
  • Finish: Clear
  • Usage: Apply morning and night
  • Formula: Cream
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/No

Pros

  • Easy application without having to wait for drying
  • Can also be used on toenails
  • Hydrating formula

Cons

  • Long timeline to see results can take as long as 4 weeks

6
Best 17-Free Formula
ella+mila First Aid Kiss Nail Strengthener
ella+mila Ulta.com
$10.50

Anyone concerned about harsh chemicals in their cosmetics would do well to focus on formulas that prioritize safer ingredients. Often referred to as ‘free,’ these products lack harsh ingredients like formaldehyde or toluene. The ella+mila pick is one of the best options if a safer formula is your goal.

Along with being 17-free (meaning that it’s free from 17 known harsh ingredients), it’s also a cruelty-free, vegan formulation that will give you added peace of mind. This PETA-certified pick is designed to strengthen your nails, thanks to the inclusion of vitamin E. Note that this is a once-weekly application that’s intended to be used for four consecutive weeks to see results. Buy it at Ulta or Amazon!

Key Features

  • Size: 0.45 oz.
  • Key Ingredients: Vitamin E
  • Finish: Clear
  • Usage: Use once weekly for 4 weeks
  • Formula: 17-free
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/Yes

Pros

  • PETA-certified cruelty-free
  • Once-weekly application process
  • 17-free formula without harsh ingredients

Cons

  • Can take up to 4 weeks to see results

7
Best Long-Lasting
Sally Hansen Diamond Strength Nail Hardener
Sally Hansen Ulta.com
$6.99

A common complaint with nail strengtheners is that the results can fade if you stop using the product. But Sally Hansen’s Diamond Strength Nail Hardener is designed to produce results that stick around. A single application promises to offer up to 10 days of nail strengthening protection that ensures your nails won’t crack, peel or split.

This formula offers intense shine and, while intended for use on bare nails, can also double as a base and top coat as part of your manicure routine. You’ll also appreciate a faster drying time and the fact that this can help your nails grow with consistent use. Buy it on Ulta or Amazon!

Key Features:

  • Size: 0.45 oz.
  • Key Ingredients: Micro diamond, titanium
  • Finish: Clear
  • Usage: Apply 1 coat to bare nails
  • Formula: Glossy
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: No/No

Pros

  • Offers up to 10 days of protection
  • Helps to prevent peeling, splitting, and breaking
  • Can also double as a base coat

Cons

  • May not be as effective for people with severely damaged nails

8
Best Base Coat
Nails Inc. NailKale Superfood Base Coat
Nails Inc. Sephora.com
$15

We love a good multifunctional product, which is what makes this pick from Nails Inc. one of the best nail strengtheners you can pick. Their Superfood Base Coat is an antioxidant-rich formula that has five nail-friendly benefits and promotes its primary kale ingredient as the source of its nail strengthening power.

The kale works to boost keratin production, which is essential for nail health. This pick works to boost nail hydration, strengthen to prevent splitting and breakage, stimulates nail growth, and offers deep nourishment that helps to improve the look of nails with consistent use. All of that and a high gloss finish! Buy it at Sephora or Amazon!

Key Features

  • Size: 0.47 oz.
  • Key Ingredients: Keratin, botanical extracts
  • Finish: Clear
  • Usage: Apply 2 coats to clean, bare nails, then reapply daily. Remove after a week and repeat process
  • Formula: Gloss
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/No

Pros

  • Paraben-free formula
  • Contains botanical extracts that help to brighten the appearance of nails
  • High gloss finish

Cons

  • Can cause premature chipping when used as a base coat

9
Best Top and Base Coat
Deborah Lippmann Hard Rock – Nail Strengthening Top and Base Coat
Deborah Lippmann Nordstrom.com
$20

Deborah Lippman is a fan favorite – especially if you love a good at-home gel-like manicure. Their nail hardener is not only ideal for improving the health of your nails but can also pull double duty as a base and top coat. This pick has a quick-dry formula so you can get on with your day and is made with specialized ingredients designed to make your nails stronger in a matter of weeks. This nail strengthener is especially recommended for people with weak or brittle nails. Buy it at Nordstrom, Sephora, or Amazon!

Key Features

  • Size: 0.5 oz.
  • Key Ingredients: Biotin, hydrolyzed soy protein, Aucoumea Klaineana extract
  • Finish: Clear
  • Usage: Daily
  • Formula: Glossy, quick-dry
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/Yes

Pros

  • Quick-dry formula
  • Can work as part of a manicure routine
  • Ideal for boosting nail health for people removing gels or acrylics

Cons

  • May peel off fast
  • Chemical smell

10
Best for a Natural Finish
Essie Hard to Resist Nail Strengthener Treatment
Essie Ulta.com
$10

Not everyone wants a high gloss finish on their nails. And for those people, Essie’s nail hardener is a great alternative. This option is ideal for protecting the nails against weakening that can occur from daily exposure to factors that can cause wear and tear. You’ll find that after using this product, within three days, you’ll see an improvement in the look of your nails. Plus, it helps to create a natural glow to your nails while also brightening and removing any yellow tinges. Note that this product is only intended to be used on bare nails. Buy it at Ulta or Amazon!

Key Features

  • Size: 0.46 oz.
  • Key Ingredients: Glycerin, citric acid, cannabis sativa seed oil
  • Finish: Natural glow, neutralizing tint
  • Usage: Apply 2 coats to bare nails, let sit for 3 days, remove & reapply
  • Formula: Low-luster
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/Yes

Pros

  • Easier application process
  • Available in 2 finishes depending on the state of your nails
  • Pink tint can double as a manicure

Cons

  • Some users noted that the violet tint designed to remove yellowishness may not be effective

11
Best Plant-Based
Nailtopia Spinach Nail Strengthener
Nailtopia Ulta.com
$10

Anyone completely against using products that have questionable ingredients will know that plant-based formulas are the best defense against exposure to harsh chemicals. Nailtopia’s pick is a plant-based alternative that is both Leaping Bunny- and PETA-certified, free from animal testing but also relies on clean manufacturing processes.

Spinach is the primary ingredient, contributing beta-carotene as well as vitamins A and C to create a smart formula that not only improves the look and condition of your nails but also boosts cuticle health. Your nails will also benefit from the inclusion of both AHAs and PHAs that make it easy for your body to absorb vitamins and experience stronger better-conditioned nails. Buy it at Ulta or Amazon!

Key Features

  • Size: 0.41 oz.
  • Key Ingredients: Spinach, plant-based AHAs and PHAs
  • Finish: Clear
  • Usage: Routinely apply one coat to nails and cuticles, let dry
  • Formula: Glossy
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/Yes

Pros

  • Vegan, cruelty-free formula that prioritizes spinach
  • Helps to boost look and health of nails
  • Clear coat finish

Cons

  • Niche brand that may be hard to find for some

12
Best Biotin Formula
Nail-Aid Biotin Ultimate Strength – Nail Treatment & Strengthener
Nail-Aid Amazon.com
$4.45

Everyone knows that biotin is a key nutrient that can markedly improve the health and growth rate of your hair and nails. It’s a critical ingredient that’s often found in vitamins targeting hair, skin, and nails. So, it’s unsurprising that Nail-Aid would tap this powerhouse component for a nail support product.

Their topical nail treatment features the fast results as their other products, but with an emphasis on reinforcing weak, broken nails. As if that’s not enough, this product will provide a high-wattage shine and an anti-chip finish, making it ideal as a top coat solution. Note that this is a 20-free formula. Buy it on Amazon!

Key Features

  • Size: 0.55 oz.
  • Key Ingredients: Biotin
  • Finish: Clear
  • Usage: Apply 2 coats on clean bare nails and then reapply every 3 days
  • Formula: 20-free
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/Yes

Pros

  • Works in as little as 3 days
  • 20-free formula for added peace of mind
  • Relies on biotin to boost nail health

Cons

  • May peel off prematurely

13
Best Multi-Purpose
Essie All-In-One Base Coat + Top Coat + Strengthener Nail Polish
Essie Amazon.com
$8.89

Whether you’re trying to cut down on your nail care steps or you like the idea of a two-in-one formula, the Essie All-In-One is going to be your go-to solution. This three-in-one pick is relatively affordable and is infused with argan oil to help strengthen and reinforce your nails. More importantly, this can become an integral part of your manicure routine, creating better color adhesion for nail lacquer while also creating a plump, gel-like finish that will have everyone wondering if you just got a pro gel manicure. Buy it on Amazon!

Key Features

  • Size: 0.48 oz.
  • Key Ingredients: Argan oil
  • Finish: Clear
  • Usage: Apply 1 coat before applying 2 coats of color, follow with an additional coat
  • Formula: Gel-like gloss
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: Yes/Yes

Pros

  • All-in-one formula
  • Incorporates argan oil to boost nail health
  • Creates a plump, gel-like finish

Cons

  • Slim brush can make applying product difficult

14
Best for Yellowing Nails
OPI Natural Nail Strengthener
OPI Ulta.com
$10.79

Nothing makes you look older or unhealthy like yellow nails. The OPI Natural Nail Strengthener works to correct discoloration, making it one of the best nail hardeners. In particular, it’s especially effective at preventing discoloration related to applying color nail lacquer. While it can be used alone, it can also work as a base coat step for a color manicure application. For best results, apply to clean nails before moving on to the color nail lacquer step. Buy it at Ulta or Amazon!

Key Features

  • Size: 0.5 oz.
  • Key Ingredients: Ethyl acetate, butyl acetate
  • Finish: Clear
  • Usage: Use as a base coat under manicures
  • Formula: Low luster
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: No/No

Pros

  • Helps to prevent yellowing
  • Strengthens while also doubling as a base coat
  • Prevents nail breaking and bending

Cons

  • Can cause premature peeling of nail lacquer

15
Best for Soft and Thin Nails
OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener for Soft & Thin Nails
OPI Ulta.com
$18.95

If you have soft, thin nails, you know that getting stronger nails is a priority. OPI Nail Envy is designed to nurture your nails back to health by helping to thicken them and providing a layer of protection for your soft nails. As with traditional nail strengthening products, this topical solution should be applied with two coats initially on top of clean, bare nails. Follow up with an additional layer every other day. Buy it on Ulta or Amazon!

Key Features

  • Size: 0.5 oz.
  • Key Ingredients: Hydrolyzed wheat protein, calcium
  • Finish: Clear
  • Usage: 2 coats on clean, bare nails followed by an additional coat every other day
  • Formula: Gloss
  • Cruelty-Free/Vegan: No/No

Pros

  • Helps to boost nail health with repeated use
  • Can serve as a base coat for manicures
  • Repairs weak, soft nails

Cons

  • May cause premature chipping when used as a base coat


What to Look for in the Best Nail Strengthener for You?

There could be several reasons why you’re shopping for a nail strengthener. While you could have naturally thin or weak nails, it’s equally possible that your nails have suffered damage from repeated nail procedures like acrylics or gels. So, there are a few things to keep in mind as you find the right formula that will reverse the damage present in your nails.

Clinically Proven Ingredients

It’s very easy to claim that products will perform as promoted – even if they don’t. But the reality is, that rigorous testing is required to prove that an ingredient is effective. And by that benchmark, the range of truly effective ingredients can be limiting.

Many brands make alluring claims while knowing that minimal testing – if any – has been done to confirm those statements. Proven options include classic faithfuls, like biotin, vitamin E, and proteins, like keratin or wheat protein. They’ve been tested in unbiased reviews that are unrelated to the cosmetics industry.

Usage Frequency

While many nail strengtheners can be effective, pay attention to how often it needs to be applied. In some cases, when applied too often, nail strengtheners can have the opposite effect, leading to brittle nails that create a new problem. This is a common issue with strengtheners that promote hardening properties. While they do work to reverse the effects of soft nails, when used excessively, they encourage brittleness.

Application Method

As shown through our round-up, there is a range of nail strengtheners out there. Some are designed to be applied topically to your nails as you would a traditional nail lacquer. But others are creams and are meant to be massaged into the nails and skin.

In reality, there’s no wrong or right answer as to which is more effective. However, you’ll want to consider factors such as how quickly a traditional topical lacquer-like dries and how frequently it needs to be reapplied. In some cases, the product is intended to be continuously applied on top of previous layers. While this can boost nail strength, it can require sacrifices by way of inconsistent manicures that might have too much texture or chip prematurely if you attempt to use it as part of a manicure application.

Formulation

With nail strengtheners, the most common options are going to be hydrators or hardeners. As the names imply, hydrators are meant to nourish the nail. While this can boost flexibility, they’re usually only most effective when you use them regularly. Meanwhile, a hardener has ingredients that penetrate the nail’s exterior and reinforce the protein inside it. While effective, they can lead to excessive rigidity that can encourage breakage for some people.

What to Look for in the Best Nail Strengthener for You?
@shuga.studio

Nail Strengthener FAQs

Below are answers to common nail strengthener-related questions for you!

Are Nail Strengtheners Effective?

If you use them properly, the answer is yes. But this means that you follow the directions exactly. Often, nail strengtheners must be used consistently and applied daily, every other day, or every few days – per the manufacturer’s recommended timeline.

Can Nail Strengtheners Be Used with Gel Manicures?

Sadly, the answer is no. These products are usually best suited for use on bare nails or with traditional nail polish. A strengthener usually doesn’t interact well as a base choice for gels. Instead, if you’re concerned about weak nails but love gel manicures, consider taking a break from gels and using a nail strengthener during the week or two leading up to your manicure service.

Will Nail Strengtheners Make My Nails Brittle?

The short answer is that it depends. Depending on the ingredient lists, some additives are more likely to encourage brittle formation. Specifically, formaldehyde and calcium are two known ingredients that can make your nails brittle with consistent use.

Who Should Consider Using a Nail Strengthener?

Anyone who struggles with soft, weak, or fragile nails is a good candidate for using a regular nail strengthener.

Photos via Sephora, Ulta, Instagram