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16 of the Best Nail Strengthener for Longer, Stronger Nails in No Time

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As much as we love trying out all the latest nail trends, all those DIY and gel manicures can take a toll on the health of your nail beds, often resulting in brittle nails prone to breakage. To avoid this, there's a superhero nail product we can all add to our nail care routine: nail strengthener.

“Nail strengthener is a common nail treatment that helps to strengthen your nails when they are feeling weak and flimsy,” says Amy Lin, the founder of SUNDAYS, an NYC-based nail care brand focused on wellness. “For people who have very flimsy nails, we recommend applying a nail strengthener instead of nail polish on a daily basis to strengthen your nails. It's like a base coat. It's not too shiny, it’s very light, and you can apply one layer every day on a daily basis for strengthening.”

Lin notes that these nail formulas often include ingredients like calcium to condition brittle nails. But she says there’s another not-so-common ingredient you may want to look out for: ethyl acetate. “This helps to bond to certain proteins in your nails to make them harder.”

But when should you use this nail-care essential? According to Lin, the best time to use a nail strengthener is right after a manicure. “It’s like the same philosophy of using a face mask after deep cleansing. The strengthener is designed to make sure your nail absorbs all the proteins and vitamins to make your nails stronger.”

With the right nail strengthener in your kit, you can keep your nails healthy, happy, and ready to take on the next big nail trend in no time. Explore 16 of the best nail strengtheners below.


About the Expert:

Amy Lin is the founder of SUNDAYS, an NYC-based nail care brand focused on wellness.

1. Best Nail Strengthener for Everyone:

OPI Nail Envy Original

OPI Nail Envy Original
Courtesy of OPI

If you're totally new to using a nail hardener, this OPI formula is a good place to start. The best-selling treatment uses a combination of hydrolyzed wheat protein and calcium for natural nails that are harder, longer, and noticeably stronger.

2. Best Drugstore Nail Strengthener:

SALLY HANSEN Advanced Hard As Nails Strengthener

SALLY HANSEN Advanced Hard As Nails Strengthener
Courtesy of SALLY HANSEN

This strengthening treatment is a drugstore favorite that hardens nails and smooths deep ridges. The formula features ingredients like nylon, retinol, soy, and omega 3 fatty acids to fortify nails for healthy-looking, shiny nails that last. It even protects against chipping and splitting.

3. Best Nail Strengthening Cream:

ONYX BRANDS Hard as Hoof Nail Strengthening Cream

ONYX BRANDS Hard as Hoof Nail Strengthening Cream
Courtesy of ONYX BRANDS

Don't want to deal with waiting for a nail strengthening lacquer to dry? Try this cream. Simply massage a bit into your nail beds, cuticles, and undersides of nails up to three times per day to dramatically strengthen nails with a nourishing blend of vitamins, minerals, and emollients.

4. Best Nail Strengthening Nail Polish:

OPI Nail Envy in Bubble Bath

OPI Nail Envy in Bubble Bath
Courtesy of OPI

Can't stand the thought of rocking bare nails? This OPI must-have is essentially just the classic OPI Nail Envy with a bit of nourishing nail color added in. Now you can have all the perks of the OG formula while also having the delightful look of perfectly pink nail lacquer.

5. Best Nail Strengthener to Use After Acrylics:

ELLA + MILA Damage Control

ELLA + MILA Damage Control
Courtesy of ELLA + MILA

As stunning as a set of fierce acrylic nails can be, they can take a serious toll on the health of your nails. When you need a nail strengthener that's going to give those nail beds some serious TLC, reach for this powerful formula. It's made with horsetail, a nutrient-rich healing herb, that strengthens, conditions, and helps normalize the natural nail plate for super healthy nails in about two weeks' time.

6. Best Nail-Strengthening Serum:

ISDIN SI-NAILS Nail Strengthener

ISDIN SI-NAILS Nail Strengthener
Courtesy of ISDIN

This innovative nail strengthener comes in a super convenient pen-shaped brush, making it easy to hold and fast to apply. Brush the serum onto your nails to coat them in hydrating ingredients that promote keratin and silicon production in the nails—two fundamental elements of strong, healthy nails.

7. Best Nail-Strengthening Base Coat:

SUNDAYS B.03 – Nail Strengthening Base Coat

SUNDAYS B.03 – Nail Strengthening Base Coat
Courtesy of SUNDAYS

If you're dealing with damaged, brittle nails but you still need to paint those fingertips, one of the best things you can do is reach for a strengthening base coat. This formula from SUNDAYS is enriched with vitamin E, argan oil, and amino acids to promote longer, stronger nails—all while also creating a comfortable grip for nail polish to adhere to.

8. Best Nail Strengthener for Longer Nails:

NAIL TEK Nutritionist Bamboo & Biotin

NAIL TEK Nutritionist Bamboo & Biotin
Courtesy of NAIL TEK

While most nail strengtheners will help to create longer nails (less breakage means longer, stronger tips), there are certain formulas with ingredients that specifically target nail growth. Take this nail treatment for example, which uses biotin and bamboo extract to strengthen and improve the condition of nails for optimal nail growth. Natural almond nails here you come!

9. Best Nail Strengthener to Use After Gel Nails:

ORLY Nail Defense

ORLY Nail Defense
Courtesy of ORLY

If you've gone ahead and done that one big no-no when it comes to gel manicures (*ahem*, peeled off the polish instead of soaking the gel off), you're likely going to be left with brittle nail beds that are peeling and flaking. To put them in recovery mode, apply a coat of this formula every other day for three to four days. Designed to cure splitting, peeling nails, it's an ideal nail strengthener to apply post-gel mani.

10. Best Strengthening Top Coat:

DEBORAH LIPPMANN Hard Rock Nail Strengthening Top and Base Coat

DEBORAH LIPPMANN Hard Rock Nail Strengthening Top and Base Coat
Courtesy of DEBORAH LIPPMANN

When we talk about nail strengtheners, we mostly talk about solo treatments or base coats, but this versatile formula can strengthen and protect whether you apply it as a base or a top coat (or ideally, as both). The quick-drying formula is made with diamond powder to strengthen and protect nails, encouraging natural growth and nipping weak nails in the bud. This formula is also made without harmful ingredients such as parabens, sulfates, and formaldehyde.

11. Best High-Gloss Nail Strengthener:

ESSIE Treat Love & Color

ESSIE Treat Love & Color
Courtesy of ESSIE

The Treat Love & Color collection from ESSIE is a collection of 16 sheer to full-coverage formulas that deeply nourish while also providing a tint or heavy dose of color. It's another ideal pick if you're struggling with weak nails but also don't like leaving your nails bare. Each vegan formula is infused with calcium and camellia extract to strengthen and makeover dry, brittle nails.

12. Best (Mostly) Natural Nail Strengthener:

NAILS INC. NailKale Superfood Base Coat

NAILS INC. NailKale Superfood Base Coat
Courtesy of NAILS INC.

You're already using kale in your skincare routine, so why not incorporate it into your nail care as well? This nourishing base coat primes and preps nail beds for manicures using a wide range of strengthening and antioxidant-rich superfood extracts. We're talking ingredients like kale, aloe vera, lemon, ginseng, pomegranate, and grape. While this may sound good enough to eat, we promise it is a nail treatment. Use this mostly natural formula regularly to deeply nourish, smooth, and brighten nails before every manicure.

13. Best Multitasking Nail Strengthener:

TRUST FUND BEAUTY Glow Up 7-in-1 Nail Elixir

TRUST FUND BEAUTY Glow Up 7-in-1 Nail Elixir
Courtesy of TRUST FUND BEAUTY

If your nails aren't particularly brittle but you want to keep them as healthy as possible, reach for this multitasking formula. Using ingredients like argan oil, vitamin E, keratin, and sweet almond oil, it moisturizes, strengthens, and restores the health of nail beds for fingertips that are primed for polish—or that look great left natural.

14. Best Nail Treatment for Damaged Nails:

PRETTY WOMAN NailMedic Nail Revolution Strength

PRETTY WOMAN NailMedic Nail Revolution Strength
Courtesy of PRETTY WOMAN

If the health of your nails is seriously struggling, it may be time to pull out this three-piece nail treatment system. First, apply Nail Strong, a fortifying nail lacquer infused with keratin that helps to thicken and strengthen weak, soft nails. Then apply High Five, an algae- and vitamin E-infused lacquer that has a re-mineralizing effect on the nails. Finally, finish with Argan Drops to deeply hydrate damaged cuticles.

15. Best for Dry Nails:

MISCHO BEAUTY Nail Elixir Cuticle Oil

MISCHO BEAUTY Nail Elixir Cuticle Oil
Courtesy of MISCHO BEAUTY

Are your nails clearly in need of some serious moisture? Treat them to this cuticle oil that leaves nails supple, soft, and super smooth. Hydration is priority number one here, thanks to a combination of coconut oil, jojoba oil, and grapeseed oil—all superstar hydrators. Did we mention that it's also vegan, cruelty-free, gluten-free, and free of artificial fragrances?

16. Best for Long Nails:

PEAR NOVA Enhance Nail Strengthener

PEAR NOVA Enhance Nail Strengthener
Courtesy of PEAR NOVA

If you like to keep your natural nails pretty long, it's important for them to be strong but still flexible. This formula aims to bring both of those benefits to your nail beds with the help of skin-loving aloe. Use two to three times a week on your long, luxurious nails to keep them in pristine shape.

Want to discover all the best formulas for your nail care routine? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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Article Last Updated January 13, 2022 12:00 AM