The 6 Best Nail Strengtheners of 2022

The SI-Nails Nail Strengthener will keep your nails healthy and strong

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Weak and brittle nails can be hard to manage, especially if you’re unsure about what is causing the damage. “Typically we think of a weak nail as a nail that splits easily, or peels easily, or cracks and breaks,” says Chris Adigun, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist with Dermatology & Laser Center of Chapel Hill. Luckily, there are nail strengtheners that can help.

Reviewed & Approved

Enriched with hyaluronic acid, ISDIN's SI Nail Strengthener works to combat dry nails. We also recommend Sally Hansen's Hard as Nails Clear Hardener if you're on a budget.

Nail strengtheners can work to not only add resilience to the actual nail but also provide much-needed hydration to the cuticle and skin around the nail. “I like different types of emollients to serve this purpose, to hydrate the cuticle as well as hydrate the nail plate itself,” Dr. Adigun says.

When buying nail strengtheners, look into both the form of the product as well as the ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and silicon, which are beneficial for the nails, says Shari Lipner, MD, PhD, an associate professor of clinical dermatology and dermatologist at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “It is best to avoid strengtheners with formaldehyde or formalin. They can initially make the nails feel stronger, but they will quickly become very brittle,” she adds. We researched dozens of nail strengtheners and evaluated them for ingredients, price, and ease of use.

Here are the best nail strengtheners on the market today.

Best Overall: ISDIN SI-NAILS Nail Strengthener

4.8
ISDIN SI-NAILS Nail Strengthener

Courtesy: Amazon

Pros
  • Free of harsh chemicals

  • Absorbs quickly

  • Easy to use

Cons
  • Takes longer to see results

  • Expensive

Who else recommends it? Today, Harper's Bazaar, and Good Housekeeping all picked the ISDIN SI-NAILS Nail Strengthener.

What do buyers say? 71% of 1,200+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

We chose this nail strengthener from SI-Nails as the best overall because it works like a serum and absorbs quickly into the nail after use. All it takes is applying the serum, which is enriched with hyaluronic acid, directly to the natural nail for best results. Users then experience stronger and more hydrated nails with consistent usage. The product also works to improve nail roughness and appearance, making it great at restoring the nail to what it was prior to any damage.

Active Ingredients: Cationic hyaluronic acid | Dosage: One coat per day

Best Budget: Sally Hansen Advanced Hard as Nails

Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Clear Hardener

Courtesy: Walmart

Pros
  • Affordable

  • Easy to use

  • Long-lasting protection

Cons
  • Alcohol ingredients can be harsh on sensitive skin

  • Can flake off easily

Sally Hansen is a name brand in nail care, and for good reason. The Hard as Nails Clear Hardener is one of the brand’s well known products and is a solid budget-friendly option. Not only does the clear coat help prevent any chipping, splitting, or breaking of nails, it also assists in healthy nail growth by preventing weak and brittle nails. All it takes is swiping the clear coat underneath nail polish or using the product on its own to receive the full benefits. Plus, the product is also available in various tints and clear shades to help with any discoloration on the nail.

Active Ingredients: Acetate, isopropyl alcohol | Dosage: One coat per day

Best Natural: Doctor Rogers Restore Healing Balm

Doctor Rogers Restore Healing Balm

Dermstore

Pros
  • Plant-based

  • Hydrating formula

  • Free of harsh chemicals

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Can feel greasy

The Dr. Rogers Restore Healing Balm comes highly recommended by Dr. Adigun for its natural formula, which addresses any dehydration in the nail or skin around it and prevents breakage. “Dr. Rogers Restore balm is a totally plant-based emollient, so you will actually be able to transfer lipids to the nail,” Dr. Adigun says. The natural product has been clinically tested to address all your skincare concerns—including chapped lips, dry nails and cuticles, and eczema. Apply it at least once per day to the nail, cuticle, and skin around the nail for best results.

Active Ingredients: Ricinus communis (castor) seed oil, glycerin, hydrogenated castor oil | Dosage: One coat per day

Best Polish: OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener

OPI Nail Envy Sensitive & Peeling Nail Strengthener

Courtesy: Amazon

Pros
  • Formaldehyde-free

  • Infused with hydrating ingredients

  • Different shades available

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Can flake off easily

Harsh chemicals, such as formaldehyde, are commonly found in nail polishes, but they come at a price. Formaldehyde has been identified by the EPA as a "probable human carcinogen," so some people try to avoid using this ingredient in any form. Luckily, this pick from OPI is formaldehyde-free. 

The product includes enriching ingredients like vitamin E and kukui nut oil—both of which will add moisture back into the nail plate and cuticle. Either swipe this product on once per day by itself or it can be used underneath other nail polish.

Active Ingredients: Not available | Dosage: Coat nail once per day

Best Oil: CND RescueRXx Daily Keratin Treatment

CND RescueRXx

Courtesy: Ulta

Pros
  • Chemical-free

  • Hydrating formula

  • Easy to use

Cons
  • For natural nails only

  • Can feel greasy

CND RescueRX is a daily keratin treatment with one of the main ingredients jojoba seed oil. The jojoba seed oil draws moisture into the nail plate and cuticle, as well as the skin surrounding the nail, making it the best oil. The oil-based formula is used by simply brushing it across the nail bed all the way up to the cuticle because that area of the nail also needs moisture. The combination of jojoba seed oil and keratin works to revive the nails to prevent any breakage or splitting. Use this product on natural nails only, as the formula may cause polish to flake off.

Active Ingredients: Prunus amygdalus dulcis (sweet almond) oil, oleate, aqua | Dosage: Apply a thin layer at least once per day

Best Cream: Onyx Professional Hard as Hoof Nail Strengthening Cream

Onyx Professional Hard as Hoof Nail Strengthening Cream

Courtesy: Amazon

Pros
  • Hydrating formula

  • Cruelty-free

  • Works on fingernails and toenails

Cons
  • Scent may be too strong for some

  • Requires multiple uses per day

Formulated with vitamin A, C, D, and E, jojoba seed oil, and beeswax, this cream is the best cream for your nails because it’s packed with hydrating ingredients to restore your nails back to health. When blended together and applied to the nail, it helps boost moisture in the product while assisting in endurance and long-lasting strength. The best part? The product is affordable, so you don’t have to put a big dent in your wallet.

Active Ingredients: None | Dosage: Pea-sized amount to nails three times per day

Final Verdict

Formulated with hyaluronic acid, the SI-Nails Nail Strengthener delivers moisture to the nails and its serum-like formula makes it quick absorbing, which is why we chose it for our best overall pick. If you’re looking to opt for a budget-friendly option instead, try Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Clear Hardener. The clear coat prevents chipping, splitting, and breaking and the polish comes in a variety of shades to hide discoloration.

How We Selected the Nail Strengtheners

When selecting nail strengtheners, we spoke with dermatologists and spent hours combing the web for the best and most effective products. After taking all of our options into consideration, we determined which to feature based on a few key criteria as recommended by dermatologists: key ingredients, form, price, and personal nail needs.

Once we narrowed down our options, we compared each treatment's benefits to its price tag. While some choices on our list may be more expensive, we wanted to give a wide range of options that would fit all needs and budgets. Based on all of these factors, we compiled this list of the best nail strengtheners.

What to Look for in a Nail Strengthener

Ingredients

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a nail strengthener is the ingredients in the product. Key ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and silicon are beneficial for the nails, says Shari Lipner, MD, PhD, an associate professor of clinical dermatology and dermatologist at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “It is best to avoid strengtheners with formaldehyde or formalin. They can initially make the nails feel stronger, but they will quickly become very brittle,” she adds.

Beneficial ingredients to look out for that will add hydration to the nail instead of weakening it include silicon, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and propylene glycol. When selecting a nail polish remover, Dr. Adigun recommends avoiding ones with acetone, as they strip the nail of necessary moisture.

Form

Nail strengtheners come in a variety of forms, including polish, cream, oil, and serum. Dr. Adigun recommends combining a polish with a cream or oil, as the latter will bring moisture into the nail bed and cuticle. When looking for a cream or oil, it is important that it is on the greasier side, Dr. Adigun says. “You want something that is going to be a bit more tackier, otherwise known as greasier, so that it will stay put longer,” she says.

Keep in mind that using a nail strengthener that’s also a polish can sometimes make the nail too strong. “The problem with nail hardeners is that they can make nails too hard so that rather than bend with gentle pressure, they will crack and break easier,” Dr. Adigun says. “So you want your nails to hold together but then be able to bend. That is a strong nail.”

Nail Damage

There are a handful of reasons why nails could be cracked, splitting, or discolored, but oftentimes it can be because the nail is not getting enough moisture or moisture is being pulled out of the barrier. “The peeling and splitting is more of a problem with hydration status,” Dr. Adigun says. Internal health factors can also cause nail problems. “As we age, cholesterol content in the nail decreases, which may make nails weaker. Inflammatory disorders, such as eczema and psoriasis, can also cause fragile nails. Problems with circulation, thyroid disease, and chemotherapies can also cause weak nails,” Dr. Lipner says.

Knowing the cause of your nail issues can help decide which nail strengthener to use. Dr. Adigun says people should schedule an appointment with their dermatologist if they’re experiencing “any discoloration in the nails, persistent splitting in any of the nails, one nail that really looks different from the rest.”

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you put nail strengtheners underneath gel polish?

    These products can be used underneath gel polish, but it is important to note that using gel, depending on its ingredients, can cause damage to the nail plate no matter how you prepare the surface. Dr. Adigun recommends prepping the nail with an emollient that will hydrate the nail prior to painting them. Then use a 3-free polish to avoid any harsh chemicals that could irritate the skin. “3-free polish means it is polishes that are made without formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate,” she says. “Those are the big problematic ingredients known to cause an irritant reaction and an allergic reaction to the nail and the skin around the nail.” Upon removing the gel polish, Dr. Adigun advises patients to use an acetone-free nail polish remover, noting that it is one of the most harmful chemicals to apply to nails.

  • Do nail strengtheners help nails grow?

    Whether nail strengtheners will assist with nail growth remains unknown. Given that the goal of the strengthening is to revive and make the nail more resilient, it is likely that using the products will aid in growth. “Theoretically, they protect the nail plate from irritants and physical damage, so they would make the nails grow longer and prevent splitting and breaking,” Dr. Lipner says.

  • How often should you use nail strengtheners?

    The frequency of using nail strengthener can differ depending on what type of product you’re applying. A nail strengthener that doesn’t last on the nail plate, unlike a polish, can be used every day for best results. “ If you have weak or brittle nails, it is best to apply nail strengthener for two weeks every two to three months,” Dr. Lipner says. Polishes can stay on the nail longer than when using an oil or cream. So some can be applied every other day instead of every day.

    Depending on your specific nail concern, it might be best to consult with a dermatologist, as they can help guide you on what might work best to improve them. “While nail strengtheners may be recommended often there are prescription and non-prescription treatments that your dermatologist may want to try first,” Dr. Lipner says.

Why Trust Verywell Health

Receiving her master’s degree in public health in 2020, Kayla Hui is a seasoned public health practitioner and health journalist. She has interviewed dozens of experts, reviewed numerous research studies, and tested a plethora of products to deliver well-researched product reviews and roundups. Her goal is to help readers make more informed decisions about their health and well-being.

Additional reporting by Danielle Zoellner

As a seasoned health writer, Danielle Zoellner knows the importance of finding just the right product to fit your medical needs. Throughout her career, Danielle has interviewed a variety of experts in the medical and health fields while reviewing dozens of products. Her experience and knowledge in the field work together to help readers like yourself find the best products for your daily life.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. 11 Best Nail Strengtheners for Your Strongest Nails Ever. Good Housekeeping. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/beauty/nails/g32497177/best-nail-strengtheners/

  4. American Cancer Society. Formaldehyde. May 2014.