Makeup Tips

Using These Nail Strengtheners Will Bring Your Post-Manicure Nails Back to Life

Zoe Weiner

Photo: Getty Images/Kseniya Ovchinnikova
Though you may not think twice about it, your nails go through a lot on a day-to-day basis, and that's where a good nail strengthener comes in. Between hand washing, regular wear and tear, weekly manicures, and (if you're anything like me) being subjected to the oddly-satisfying process of gel polish peeling, they're bound to be left feeling dry and brittle from time to time. And the fix, according to pros, is to treat them to a little TLC with some of the best nail strengtheners on the market.

While strengthening your nails may not seem as important as, say, strengthening your core, it's still something worth keeping an eye on. "Healthy nails are not vital for your overall health—it won’t kill you to have brittle nails—but our nails are important for day-to-day activities,  and having weak nails may impair our ability to perform simple tasks and pleasures that can decrease our quality of life overtime," says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. "Our ability to pick, scratch, and even use our nails to do simple behaviors such as opening up a can of soda require healthy strong nails." Plus, breaking a nail is wildly uncomfortable, so may as well avoid it at all costs.

Best nail strengtheners

Keep scrolling for the products that will help you do it.

Best nail strengthening polish

Londontown Lakur — $35.00

Dr. Nazarian is a fan of Londtown’s line of Lakur nail polishes, which are infused with moisturizer to keep nails hydrated and healthy. Key ingredients include hydrating cucumber extract, fortifying garlic extract and rapseed flower oil, replenishing evening primrose oil, and calming chamomille. The line comes in an entire range of shades from poppy pinks to subtle neutrals so you can opt for whatever type of mani suits your mood.

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Zoya Nail Lacquer — $10.00

What’s great about Zoya’s polishes is what they don’t have. They’re ten-free, which according to Dr. Nazarian means that they’re made without ingredients that threaten the strength of your nails, like toluene, formaldehyde and DBP. They’re also ultra-breathable, which means your nails will feel just as healthy when you remove your manicure as they did when you put it on.

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OPI Original Nail Envy Nail Strengthener Color — $18.00

The tagline for this polish is basically ripped from the song, “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.” It’s got hydrolyzed wheat protein and calcium to fortify your natural nails, and comes in cutesy shades like “Hawaiian Orchid” and “Bubble Bath.” According to one reviewer, “After one use I’m pleased with the results—My nails look stronger and aren’t peeling.”

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Dior Nail Glow — $28.00

What’s cool about this polish is that it technically doesn’t have a color of its own—instead, it’s designed to brighten your natural nail shade. The result? An instant French Manicure effect without any of the hassle. Not only will it make your nails look healthy, but it will also help strengthen them over time.

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Orly Nailtrition — $10.00

“Nailtrition” is exactly what you’d expect: nutrition for your nails. The barely-there pink polish promotes natural nail growth within 14 days, and will give your nails a subtle sheen that hides any imperfections until they’re gone for good.

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Best base coats for nail strengthening

TenOverTen The Foundation — $18.00

Prep your polish with this nail-strengthening base coat, which is made with moisturizing ingredients that fortify your natural nails and help your polish stay on longer. You can wear it on its own to give your nails a healthy glow, or layer it under your favorite statement-making shade for a manicure that actually lasts as long as you need it to.

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NAILS INC. Back to Life Recovery Treatment & Base Coat — $15.00

Think of this as a two-in-one base coat and treatment. A blend of natural oils hydrates and nourishes damaged nails (especially those that have been covered in gel polish for the better part of the last decade), and have been seen to reinvigorate nails after three weeks of use. It’s got a slightly pink, glow-y finish, so feel free to wear it on its own as a sort of tinted moisturizer for your nails.

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Sally Hansen Advanced Hard as Nails Strengthening — $4.00

This $4 drugstore fave comes highly recommended by reviewers who swear by it. A combination of nylon, omega 3, and soy work together to fortify fragility, prevent peeling, and reduce the look of ridges for smoother, healthier-looking nails.

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Butter LONDON Horse Power Nail Rescue Base Coat — $18.00

Brittle nails don’t stand a chance against this nourishing base coat. With vitamins C and E, it forms a layer of protection underneath your polish while also giving your nails the nutrients and moisture they need to stay strong on their own.

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essie
Essie Strong Start Nail Treatment — $10.00

Biotin is one of the key vitamins that impacts nail strength, and this base coat delivers a topical version of the stuff to help do away with brittleness. It also helps to prevent peeling, chipping, and breakage, which will make it your go-to first step in all your at-home manis.

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Best nail strengthener and growth treatments for post-acrylic nails

Isdin Si-Nails — $28.00

The brand behind some of our favorite skin-care products (if you haven’t tried the sunscreen, you’re missing out) brought its formulating prowess into nail care with this quick-absorbing nail strengthening pen. According to clinical trials conducted by the brand, it’s been proven to strengthen brittle nails by increasing thickness, density, and durability of the nail and cuticle to the point of visible results in only 14 days. Its ingredients promote the production of silicone, keratin—two of the building blocks of strong nails—and add hydration with hyaluronic acid.

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Onyx Professional Hard As Hoofs Nail Strengthening Cream — $8.00

This conditioning cuticle cream will literally make your nails as hard as hoofs, and it’s got the five-star reviews to prove it. It’s enriched with an entire alphabet’s worth of vitamins (A, C, D, and E), plus jojoba seed oil, calcium, and beeswax for maximum nourishment and hydration. As one reviewer put it, “I took my acrylic nails off and my natural nails were extremely damaged…thin as paper and splitting… I tried this product and within 7 days my nail were looking and feeling great and my cuticles are healthy and soft.”

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CND RescueRXx — $20.00

The makers of the best-in-the-business gel polishes are also behind this daily nail treatment. It uses jojoba and almond oil to carry keratin protein into your natural nail, and the combo of ingredients strengthens the surface while helping to restore moisture.

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Nutra Nail Bullet-Proof Strength Formula — $14.00

Ok, this stuff is made with the same type of nylon used in bullet proof vests, so you know it’s gotta be strong. So much so, that it can make your nails up to 50 percent stronger immediately after it’s applied. It’s made without nail-weakening ingredients butyl phthalate, formaldehyde, or toluene, and provides a buffer against anything keeping your nails from growing to their maximum potential.

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Dermelect Revital-Oil Nail Cuticle Treatment — $14.00

Taking care of your cuticles is important for helping your nails grow long and strong, and this stuff can help you do it. “Cuticle oil should be massaged into your cuticles, nail bed, and surrounding skin year-round to promote growth,” Rachel James, founder of Pear Nova previously told Well+Good. Shake up the bottle to combine strengthening keratin protein peptides with nourishing jojoba, citrus, and argan oils for a maximum dose of fortification and hydration.

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TripleOPolish Cuticle Oil-Repairing Formula — $11.00

If your cuticles are feeling extra ravaged, douse them in some of this repairing oil. It’s made with a mix of almond, tamanu, and pumpkin oils (and smells deliciously of honey and almond), and will infuse broken skin with enough moisture to help it rebuild back to normal.

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What impacts the strength of your nails?

1. Dehydration

You know how cold, dry air and moisture-stripping products can mess with the strength of you skin barrier? Well, the same thing can happen to your nails. "Anything that is applied topically or substances your nails come in contact with may draw out moisture, such as harsh cleansers or soaps, chemicals to clean and disinfect, or even working with your hands and flipping papers all day long, can pull moisture out of our nails and cause them to become dry and brittle," says Dr. Nazarian. "Colder, drier times of the year, like winter, can draw moisture out of our skin and nails, making them weaker."

2. Improperly removing nail polish

There's a reason why your nails sometimes look (and feel) like crap when you peel off a gel mani or pick at your acrylics. "The way our nail polish is removed, either being peeled off or dipped in polish remover, can strip our nails of the natural hydrators that keep them healthy and strong," says Dr. Nazarian. According to Sarah Gibson Tuttle, Founder and CEO of Olive & June, picking your polish can lift your nail plate, which leads to damage and peeling—two things that aren't only uncomfortable, but can also prevent future gels and polish from sticking properly to your nail.

3. Certain nail products

"Weak nails can be caused by overuse of gel and acrylics," says Rachel Apfel Glass, founder of GLOSSLAB. As we previously learned, gel manicures in particular can lead to nail thinning. "Certain types of polishes can also weaken the nail beds, particularly some gels and acrylic polishes," adds Apfel. According to Dr. Nazarian, ingredients like formaldehyde and parabens can decrease the integrity of your nails, so you'll want to look for polishes that are formulated without these elements.

How to tell if you have strong nails

In most cases, you can tell if your nails aren't quite up to snuff simply by looking at them. "You’ll know if your nails are not as healthy and strong as they need to be if they fray at the end, break, peel, or just fail to increase in length," says Dr. Nazarian. In other words, if you can't pick up a dumbbell without losing a tip, it's probably a sign that your nails need a little TLC.

How to strengthen your nails

Bringing your nails back to their full, fortified potential is as simple as finding the right topical products. "If you're not wearing polish, I'd be sure to use an oil or something like that to keep your nails moisturized," Fleury Rose, a New York City-based nail artist, previously told Well+Good. "Massaging a cuticle oil directly onto your nails can make them look glowy and healthy." Dr. Nazarian recommends looking for formulas with nourishing oils and proteins, such as mastic oil, sunflower oil, and vitamin E, and Apfel Glass is a fan of using pure coconut oil which aids in moisturization and prevents brittleness. Another great ingredient option? Nylon, tiny particles of which are blended into nail treatments to provide a sort of shield from the environment, making your nails thicker and less prone to cracks and breakage.

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