Top Picks

We all know someone who has perfect fingernails without even trying. They can put their hands through just about anything and never once will we hear them say “I just broke a nail!” Comparing ourselves to these people won’t make our nails heal any faster, but taking the right measures and precautions will.

There are plenty of treatments that will get rid of painful and quite frankly embarrassing nails. With the right products, you no longer have to live life from one broken nail to the next.

What to Consider When Shopping for A Nail Strengthener

With so many nail strengtheners on the market, it can be hard to find one that caters to your individual needs — but it doesn’t have to be! We’ve gone ahead and selected some truly amazing (and well-priced) products so you can focus on healing your nails without breaking the bank.

Before we reveal our picks, let’s find out about the different types of nail strengtheners, how they work and whether or not you can benefit from using one.

How Do Nail Strengtheners Work?

Our nails are a clear indication of our health. Commonly, we experience dry and brittle nails when we lack proteins like keratin or vitamins like biotin and B12. Nail strengtheners were designed to coat the nail with a protective layer or supply them with missing nutrients, thus reinforcing them and making them less pliable.

Nail strengtheners come in three forms, but depending on your needs, you might only need one of them.

  • Nail Hardeners: A topical nail hardener usually comes in the form of a polish, which prevents further breakage by thickening the nail plate. These can be applied to bare nails and sometimes even used as a top coat. Some nail hardeners, like Essie All-In-One, offer the best of both worlds: they harden your nails while infusing them with nutrients.
  • Nail Hydrators: Nail hydrators tend to come in the form of a cream or oil. They’re infused with nutrients that help restore moisture. At the same time, they heal cuticles, which promotes growth. However, nail hydrators don’t always work their magic in a time-efficient manner, which can leave the nail susceptible to breakage in the interim. Thankfully, combining a hydrator with a nail hardener can prevent this from happening.
  • Supplements: If applying cream, oil, or polish daily just isn’t for you, you can always opt for nail strengthening supplements. On top of strengthening your nails, these supplements will also do wonders for your hair and skin. They’re loaded with vitamins!

Like nail hydrators, supplements can take time to run their course, so coupling them with a nail hardener can shield them from further damage while you wait to see results. There’s only one supplement on our list, so if that’s what you’re leaning towards, we recommend jumping to Sports Research Biotin.

Do I Need to Use a Nail Strengthener?

Our nails are constantly being stripped of their natural oils, which is why the vast majority of us can benefit from using a nail strengthener. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, because nail issues target everyone, especially those who perform manual labor.

Depending on the health of your nails, using a strengthener may not be necessary. This is especially true if you’re someone who stays hydrated, eats a healthy diet, and consistently sports bare fingernails. However, the hard truth is that many of us don’t give our nails the care they deserve. Everything from doing the dishes and using hand sanitizer to using household cleaning products and performing manual tasks can result in damaged and sometimes even painful fingernails.

If you’re trying to heal your nails after years of acrylics or attempting to kick your nail-biting habit to the curb, chances are you will benefit from using a nail strengthener. But if painting your nails just isn’t your thing, you can always use a supplement like Biotin or a nail hydrator like Hard As Hoof — there are so many solutions to this common problem!

If you’re curious to find out more about damaged nails and why so many of us suffer from this problem, check out our benefits guide.

Picking the Best Nail Strengthener of 2020

We want you to pick the best nail strengthener for you, so we considered the following three categories when making our picks.

  • Type: To keep things simple, we’ll fill you in on the type of strengthener we’re reviewing.
  • Application: We’ll give you a rundown on how to apply each product so that you can know, right off the bat, if it can easily be incorporated into your lifestyle.
  • Time: Some nail strengtheners can take months to work their magic. The problem is, some of us need instant relief. We’ll also include a time frame for results — so you know what to expect and when to expect it.

Just because you made your nail bed, doesn’t mean you have to lay in it. Let’s find out which nail strengtheners have passed the test of time.

Top 10 Best Nail Strengtheners 2020

#1

OPI Nail Envy

#1 OPI Nail Envy

Best Overall Nail Strengthener:


Why we like it: OPI Nail Envy gets your nails manicure-ready, whether you want to add color to them or not. Non-toxic Nail Envy doubles as a base coat while offering maximum nail strengthening.

Editor’s Rating:

Type: Nail Hardener

OPI Nail Envy is a simple yet effective topical solution for brittle nails. Combined, hydrolyzed wheat protein and calcium transform weakened nails, helping them become stronger while promoting growth. It’s called Nail Envy for a reason! If you’re a constant nail-biter, Nail Envy can help you kick the bad habit. If you’re someone who works with your hands and fights to maintain nail health, Nail Envy will act as your shield and armor. It’s literally perfect for people from all walks of life.

Nail Envy is a bit more expensive than other nail hardeners, but its results speak for themselves. Although this version of Nail Envy comes in a neutral shade, other colors are available, too!

Application

Apply two coats of OPI Nail Envy on Day 1 followed by a single coat every other day for a week. Be sure to remove the polish at the end of every week and start anew to prevent chipping.

Time

You’ll notice results after just one week. After a few months, your nails will be unrecognizable (in the best way possible).

Pros

  • Contains protein and calcium
  • Promotes growth
  • Quick results
  • A variety of colors available
  • Non-toxic

Cons

  • A little pricey
#2

Essie All-In-One

#2 Essie All-In-One

Best Nourishing Nail Strengthener:


Why we like it: Essie All-In-One gives you much more than you pay for. It can be used as a nail hardener, base coat, and top coat. If you’re a manicure fanatic who wants to be more mindful about nail health, you have met your non-toxic match!

Editor’s Rating:

Type: Nail Hardener

If you’re the type of person who is constantly cooking, washing your hands, or doing manual activities, you might refrain from wearing nail polish due to how often it chips. But with Essie All-In-One you can sport colored fingernails without bracing yourself for the worst. Amazingly, this same polish also delivers a professional finish when used as a top coat, locking in colors and slapping away wear and tear. Better yet, the polish is infused with argan oil, which promotes healthy fingernails.

While Essie All-In-One does come off as perfect, it has some faults. Mainly, applying the polish isn’t always fluid thanks to its thin applicator brush, and the polish itself can take some time to dry. To prevent this from happening, make sure each layer has had plenty of time to set before applying another one. When used solely as a nail strengthener (no color or top coat), the polish dries quite quickly.

Application

Add your color of choice after applying a base coat of Essie All-In-One. Once dry, add a top coat. For best results, remove all polish after a week and repeat.

Time

Nails should be noticeably stronger and healthier in two weeks.

Pros

  • Doesn’t chip easily
  • Professional finish
  • Infused with argan oil
  • Non-toxic

Cons

  • Thin applicator brush
  • Takes long to dry
#3

Hard As Hoof Nail Strengthening Cream

#3 Hard As Hoof Nail Strengthening Cream

Best Nail Hydrator:


Why we like it: Hard As Hoof Nail Strengthening Cream transforms dry, flaky, and cracked nails by giving them the moisture and nurture they lack. Loaded with vitamins, minerals, beeswax, and more, this cream promotes nail growth and health while leaving behind a soothing coconut smell.

Editor’s Rating:

Type: Nail Hydrator

The Hard As Hoof cream is a cruelty-free solution for brittle nails. If you’re looking to nourish your hands, nails, and cuticles — look no further! Guitarists are particularly fond of this cream since it heals nails that have been strained due to vigorous strumming. What sets Hard As Hoof apart from other nail strengtheners is its easy application. You don’t need to designate time to paint your nails. Instead, you can bring Hard As Nails with you everywhere you go and apply it as you would a regular hand cream.

Hard As Hoof offers damaged nails a breath of fresh air. However, since it doesn’t harden them overnight, we recommend combining this treatment with a nail hardener like Sally Hansen’s Hard As Nails to bridge the gap.

Application

Unless you’re sporting gel tips (which won’t allow the hydrator to seep through to the natural nail), you don’t have to remove your nail polish before applying Hard As Hoof to your nails. Simply massage the cream into your nails beds, paying extra attention to your cuticles.

Time

You’ll notice that your nails are stronger and longer at around the one month mark. For faster results, use Hard As Hoof up to three times a day.

Pros

  • Cruelty-free
  • Amazing coconut smell
  • Moisturizes the cuticles, nails, and hands
  • Loaded with vitamins

Cons

  • Results can take up to a month
#4

Sally Hansen Hard As Nails

#4 Sally Hansen Hard As Nails

Best Budget Nail Strengthener:


Why we like it: Hard As Nails is an inexpensive nail strengthener that delivers quick results. You’ll feel like you went to the salon for an acrylic overlay after just two coats!

Editor’s Rating:

Type: Nail Hardener

Breaking a nail isn’t an easy thing to do when you apply a daily coat of Hard As Nails. If you’re someone who suffers from thin nails due to acrylic overlays, this product will reinforce them in the nick of time. This clear nail varnish offers a polished look despite its low price.

If you’re someone who constantly puts your hands in water, you’ll have to reapply the product because it will start to peel after just a few days. Because of this, and the fact that it doesn’t have any nourishing ingredients, Sally Hansen’s Hard As Nails isn’t perfect. If you’re looking for a nail hardener/top coat that doesn’t chip and will help make your nails healthier, we recommend Nail Envy by OPI.

Application

Apply a coat of Hard As Nails onto clean and bare fingernails. For maximum strength, be sure to add a coat underneath your free edges, too! Let the polish dry before adding a coat of color! If color isn’t your thing, add two coats instead!

Time:

You’ll notice a difference almost immediately!

Pros

  • Instant results
  • Great price
  • Dries quickly
  • Can be used as a top coat

Cons

  • Chips easily
  • Doesn’t strengthen the nails with nourishing ingredients
#5

Bee Natural Cuticle Oil

#5 Bee Natural Cuticle Oil

Best Premium Nail Strengthener:


Why we like it: Albeit more expensive than the average nail strengthener, Bee Natural is worth splurging for. This vegan oil is made with natural ingredients and isn’t tested on animals. It's loaded with moisture, allowing weakened nails and cuticles to form anew.

Editor’s Rating:

Type: Nail Hydrator

Bee Natural Cuticle Oil is a nail hydrator that can be applied like a polish. Its made with natural ingredients like olive oil and vitamin E. It’s known and well-liked for its great smell — brought to you by the perfect trio: lavender, lemon, and tea tree essential oils. If your job requires you to constantly wash your hands and wear gloves, your nails may be stripped of their natural oils. Bee Natural Cuticle Oil is a great solution to that pesky problem! Amazingly, it won’t leave behind an oily residue once dry.

This vegan solution isn’t tested on animals — so what’s not to like? Well, there are a few things not to like, actually. The brush is quite rigid and awkward, and while Bee Natural is stated to be “perfect for your makeup bag and purse,” we don’t exactly agree. It turns out the bottle has a tendency of leaking when sideways. So keep that in mind (we all know how disastrous makeup bag spills can be)!

Application

Apply a thin coat of Bee Natural to your nails and cuticles once or twice a day. Bee Natural can be applied to bare or colored fingernails.

Time

Effects will become apparent within two weeks.

Pros

  • Vegan
  • Not tested on animals
  • No oily residue
  • Great smell

Cons

  • Rigid brush
  • Jar is prone to leakage
#6

Sports Research Biotin

#6 Sports Research Biotin

Best Nail Strenghtening Supplement:


Why we like it: We love how easy it is to nurture your skin, hair, and nails using Sports Research Biotin. Biotin keeps things simple — nail polish isn’t for everyone, after all!

Editor’s Rating:

Type: Supplement

Sports Research Biotin is an all-natural and vegan supplement. Made with organic coconut oil and high-potency biotin, this supplement does wonders for nails, skin, and hair. If you lead a busy lifestyle and can’t commit to painting your nails every single day, biotin is a great solution. The capsule itself is quite small for those of you with a bad gag reflex.

We chose to give Sports Research Biotin 4.5 stars because it isn’t ideal for all skin tones. Turns out, if you have acne-prone skin, Sports Research Biotin can cause you to break out before things get better. As with most supplements, it can take time for you to see results, which is why we recommended using it with Clearly Noticeable — a nail hardener that will harden your nails by 50% with just one coat!

Application

It’s recommended to take 1 liquid soft gel a day with a meal. However, everyone’s body is different, so be sure to consult your doctor!

Time

It can take up to 90 days before you notice results.

Pro Tip

Take pictures of your nails every two weeks to document the changes.

Pros

  • Vegan
  • All-natural
  • Easy to swallow
  • Works on hair, skin and nails

Cons

  • Slow results
  • May cause breakouts for acne-prone skin
#7

Ontel Pink Armor Nail Gel

#7 Ontel Pink Armor Nail Gel

Most Stylish Nail Strengthener:


Why we like it: Healing your nails — post acrylics — has never been so easy. This inexpensive fixer-upper gives off a lavish look while healing the entire nail bed and protecting your cuticles.

Editor’s Rating:

Type: Nail Hardener

Pink Armor Nail Gel offers one of the strongest shields on the market. Its restorative properties encourage healing, while its gel armor prevents breakage. If you break a nail, you can add a few coats of Pink Armor to the front and back of the tear to prevent it from coming off altogether. When under natural light, Pink Armor is a light shade of pink. When under black lights, however, it quickly turns fluorescent.

What makes Pink Armor different from the average gel polish is the fact that it can be removed with regular nail polish remover and doesn’t need an LED light to set. But keep in mind that it does take more time to set than the typical polish. Another thing to note is that while some of its ingredients offer restorative properties, it does contain formaldehyde and other potentially harmful ingredients.

Pink Armor Nail Gel has also been known to turn heavily damaged nails a shade of yellow. To prevent this from happening we recommend using a nail hydrator like Bee Natural before applying the gel.

Application

Apply Ontel Pink Armor to your natural nail. The more coats you apply, the stronger your nails will feel. However, keep in mind that to prevent chipping and discoloration, it’s best to remove and reapply the nail gel every week or so.

Time

You’ll feel a difference as soon as the gel polish sets. Two weeks after your first application, you’ll start to notice that your nails are becoming strong on their own.

Pros

  • Gives nails a thick armor
  • Light pink color that turns fluorescent under black lights
  • Fast results
  • Glossy finish
  • Restorative properties

Cons

  • Made with potentially harmful ingredients
  • Can cause a yellow stain on nails
  • Lengthy drying process
#8

SOZGE Nail Strengthener

#8 SOZGE Nail Strengthener

Best Long Lasting Nail Strengthener:


Why we like it: SOZGE does as promised: it gives your nails an extra layer of protection, shielding them from breakage. We love how this nail strengthener can also be used as a top coat. Its reputation and glossy finish speak for themselves.

Editor’s Rating:

Type: Nail Hardener

If you’re someone who is looking to strengthen your nails and combat discoloration, SOZGE will get the job done. This nail hardener is so strong you only need to apply two coats a week, unlike some that require one to two coats daily.

Just like Nail Envy, SOZGE can be used as a remedy, a base coat, and a top coat. However, there are many differences between these two products. For starters, SOZGE was designed to heal dry nails that suffer from discoloration. While they both offer a glossy finish and quick results, SOZGE is known for hardening the nail plate in a more efficient manner. So why did SOZGE receive one star less than Nail Envy? Well, that’s because SOZGE doesn’t have any healing properties. It works as a shield and prevents breakage but contains a few harmful chemicals, like formaldehyde.

Application

Unlike other nail strengtheners, SOZGE doesn’t need to be applied daily. In fact, two thin coats a week is all you need. It’s that efficient!

Time

You’ll notice a huge difference in just one week.

Pros

  • Fights discoloration
  • Glossy finish
  • Fast results

Cons

  • Contains formaldehyde
  • No healing properties
#9

Rejuvacote

#9 Rejuvacote

Best Maximum-Strength Nail Hardener:


Why we like it: Rejuvacote doesn’t beat around the bush — it does exactly what it’s supposed to do. Although a bit more expensive than other harderners, Rejuvacote offers maximum strength while locking in moisture. Your nails will thank you.

Editor’s Rating:

Type: Nail Hardener

Rejuvacote uses calcium and proteins to enrich your nails, helping them grow to new heights. At the same time, it thickens the nails to prevent them from further damage. It heals the nail bed by locking in moisture and truly delivers maximum strength.

One thing we noticed is that people with extremely damaged nails have reported a burning sensation. This is especially true if they have cracks in their nails. If this is you, it’s important to use a nail hydrator, like Hard As Hoof, a few weeks prior to applying a nail hardener. This way, your nails will have had plenty of time to heal. It’s also worth mentioning that Rejuvacote has a very strong smell to it, in case you have a sensitive nose.

Application

Apply a daily coat of Rejuvacote onto your nail bed for seven days. Once the week is up, remove the polish and repeat the cycle.

Time

It will only take a few days for your nails to thicken, but it can take up to three months before they actually start to heal.

Pros

  • Promotes healthy nail growth
  • Seals in moisture
  • Maximum strength

Cons

  • Slow results
  • Strong smell
  • Burning sensation when applied to excessively thin/cracked nails
#10

Barielle Clearly Noticeable

#10 Barielle Clearly Noticeable

Best Nail Strengthener for Fast Results:


Why we like it: We love how Barielle Clearly Noticeable uses vitamins and proteins to restore nails, while protecting them with a beautiful shine. Your nails will feel 50% stronger after just one coat. Talk about fast results!

Editor’s Rating:

Type: Nail Hardener

Barielle Clearly Noticeable thickens the nails while dosing them with vitamins and proteins. It dries fast and the applicator brush is easy to use. On top of that, it has virtually no scent! If you need immediate results, look no further, Clearly Noticeable is the fastest-acting nail hardener on our list. Still, we chose to give it 3.5 stars for a few reasons.

If you’re someone who is constantly working with their hands or submerging them in water, you’ll notice that Clearly Noticeable has a tendency to chip. In fact, chipping can occur after just two days, which is why applying a daily coat is sometimes necessary. Although it does work as advertised, it can cause your nails to yellow. To prevent this from happening, use a hydrating oil like Bee Natural before adding a base coat.

Application

Apply a coat of Clearly Noticeable every second day or so. Remove the nail polish at the end of each week and repeat the process.

Time

One coat of Clearly Noticeable will strengthen your nails by 50%. It is one of the fastest-acting nail hardeners on the market.

Pros

  • Instant results
  • Contains vitamins and proteins
  • No scent

Cons

  • Chips easily
  • Yellows the nail

Guide to Buying the Best Nail Strengthener

woman applying nail strenghener

What Causes Damaged Nails?

Everything from nail-biting to a lack of iron can affect the health of your nails. In truth, there are many reasons why we suffer from peeled, cracked, or pitted fingernails. Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Fake/acrylic nails
  • Genetics
  • Nail biting
  • Nail injury
  • Dehydration
  • Side-ffects of medication
  • Skin conditions
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Chemotherapy
  • Health issues
  • Weather conditions
  • Allergic reactions
  • Work environment

While some causes are more apparent, others can be harder to pinpoint. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you choose to go the supplement route or suspect an underlying issue.

How Long Do I Have to Use a Nail Strengthener For?

On average, people report healthier fingernails within a month of using nail strengtheners. For some, a month is all they need but for others, using a nail strengthener can become part of their daily routine. The more you put your hands through, the more you will need to protect them.

If you enjoy painting your fingernails on a weekly basis, you can benefit from using a nail hardener like OPI Nail Envy. This nail polish can be used as a base and a top coat, making it easy to incorporate it into your weekly nail routine. Since diet and bad habits affect nails like nothing else, it can be difficult to permanently cure your fingernails without altering your lifestyle.

Once you have successfully healed your nails using the best nail strengthener for your individual needs, little upkeep is required. However, failing to nurture them can result in them becoming brittle once more.

Do My Cuticles Affect the Health of My Nails?

It’s easy to get caught up with your nails and forget all about their closest ally: the cuticles. If your nails aren’t growing, it’s probably because of your cuticles (the protruding skin at the base of the nail bed). These protective tissues are filled with cells that promote nail growth. They’re jam-packed with a protein called keratin, which is vital to the health of our nails. If your cuticles are dry, overly moist, and/or peeled back, they can become a source of infection.

If you’re suffering from damaged nails and cuticles, it’s important to invest in a nail hydrator that will help repair the cuticles instead of simply reinforcing the nail as most hardeners do.

We have two different types of nail hydrators on our list. If that’s what you’re here for, check out Bee Natural and Hard As Hoof.

What’s the Difference Between Nail Polish and Nail Gel?

nails with gel polish
Before 2012, you could only get a gel polish manicure done at a salon. This was because to set the gel, you needed access to an LED nail lamp. However, gel polish eventually became available in home formats and LED lights were soon sold to the public. People love using nail gel because it doesn’t chip as easily as nail polish does.

Better yet, once the gel polish has been set, it cannot be nicked. Nail polish, on the other hand, chips easily (unless a strong top coat, like SOZGE is applied) and can take a long time to dry. The majority of our picks fall under the nail polish umbrella. However, Pink Armor Nail Gel is somewhat of a hybrid. In other words, it gives off the gel look and feel without needing to be set with an LED light.

Even then, nail polishes are the preferred method due to their easy removal. A few cotton balls and a nail polish remover is all you need. Sadly, the same cannot be said about most gel polishes. To remove gel polish you need to soak your fingernails in remover for a few minutes which can seriously dry out your natural nail. Luckily, Pink Armor Nail Gel can be removed with regular nail polish remover!

Are Fake Nails Bad for You?

Fake nails aren’t necessarily bad for you if done right, of course! However, it’s important to give your natural nails time to heal, breathe and grow from time to time. The longer you wear fake nails, the more likely it is that you will encounter a weak or dehydrated nail bed. Luckily, this can easily be fixed by combining a nail hydrator with a nail hardener.

What’s most concerning about fake nails are their ties to infections. Should there be a small gap between the natural nail and the layover, bacteria could easily form, leading to infection. Before going to a salon, make sure that they offer a clean, professional, and sanitized environment to prevent this from happening.

If you love wearing stick-on nails, acrylic nails and gel nails you can take some preventive measures to ensure the health of your natural nails — like using a nail hydrator to keep your cuticles happy! Or, simply take a supplement like Biotin!

Are Nail Strengtheners Toxic?

While many nail products contain toxic ingredients, the nail strengtheners on our list are all safe to use. Some nail strengtheners are known for harboring toxic chemicals, like formaldehyde and phthalates. However, the amount present in each bottle is so minuscule they virtually pose no threat to the human body. Even then, it’s important to steer clear of your skin and cuticles when applying nail polishes and strengtheners (unless the directions say otherwise), as skin irritations can occur.

We love all-natural and non-toxic products, which is why we included a handful of them on our list. If you’re looking for a non-toxic nail strengthener, we highly recommend OPI Nail Envy.

What If My Nails Get Worse?

The last thing anyone wants is for their already damaged nails to take a turn for the worst. So, taking the time to select the best nail strengthener for your individual needs is key. If your nails are severely damaged, using a nail hardener with formaldehyde is something you should be wary of as it may cause a burning sensation to ensue. However, this is extremely rare.

Chances are, most nail products (even nail polish remover) will cause discomfort when applied onto cracked or infected fingernails. For this reason, it’s important to improve the health of your nails via a natural nail hydrator like Bee Natural before applying a nail hardener.

To be safe, apply the product of your choice to a small portion of your nail and allow it to dry before tackling the rest. Should you experience discomfort at any point, or should your nails get worse over time, contact your dermatologist.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Nail Strengthener

Healing your nails and keeping them in tip-top shape takes time and dedication. In fact, some might even say it’s a lifelong commitment. However, when you take the right factors into consideration, you can find a solution that improves your life instead of hindering it. Take special note of the following three factors when selecting a nail hardener.

  • Price: If your nails are constantly causing you problems, pain or embarrassment, spending a little extra on a nail strengthener will go a long way. However, there are plenty of inexpensive options for those seeking small improvements.
  • Results: When searching for a nail strengthener, it’s important to know that some products offer faster results than others. If you’re searching for a nail hardener that offers immediate results, the Barielle Clearly Noticeable can thicken your nails after just one coat. If you have time on your hands, however, you can seek a more long-term solution like Sports Research Biotin.
  • Lifestyle: Most importantly, consider your lifestyle when making your pick. Are you someone who can commit to painting their fingernails every other day? Or would you rather apply a nourishing cream like Hard As Hoof to your nails and cuticles after washing your hands?

Whatever your choice may be, we’re confident that there’s the perfect nail strengthener waiting for you right around the riverbend.
applying nail polish

Final Thoughts

Handshakes make the world go round, and everyone deserves to extend their hand with pride. Whether you’re looking to completely transform your nails or give them some extra love and care, we’re firm believers that there’s a solution for everyone. We hope you now have all the information you need to select the best nail strengthener for your individual needs. We wish you the best of luck!