I was dubious too—do nail strengtheners work? Well, as I type this, I'm looking down at the evidence. After years of having flaky, flimsy and ridged nails that would break and chip even just opening an envelope, I now have 10 sparkling nail beds that feel thick and strong.
No, I haven't really let up on my Shellac habit, but what I have done is spent the downtime between gel manicures religiously applying a nail strengthener as though my life depended on it. Not only has it made my bare nails look shinier and a bit more, well, manicured, but the best formulas reinforce nails with a potent mix of keratin, protein and/or calcium—that good stuff that weak nails tend to lack.
The nail strengthener that really worked for me was CND's Rescue RXx (£21), which I'll go into further detail on in just a minute, but there are a handful of other formulas at a range of price points that have the same effect on nails as a HIIT session has on your body—I've laid them out below for you.
More like a nail oil than a polish, there's a load of keratin in this formula that takes all of about half an hour to penetrate the nail. There, it plumps up the nail fibres and fills in any areas of severe damage. And, as it contains jojoba and sweet almond oil, it will get to work on those frayed cuticles too. It's one for extreme cases like mine.
If you struggle to grow your nails beyond your fingertips without them breaking, this super-strength clear polish will lay down a protective film that helps you gain centimetres fast.
Painted onto nails once every few days, Ciaté's nail strengthener contains hexanal, which, weirdly enough, is used in the food industries as a flavouring. In your polish, however, it has this profound effect on nail density, helping to scaffold weak, bendable nails.
The strengtheners at work inside OPI's polish are calcium (which we know is vital in supporting bone, hair and nail health) and protein, which is all about strength—wherever found in your body. Apply every other day for a couple of weeks to see a difference.
Like a protein shake for the nails, Nailtique's cult formula doesn't just plump up nails, but it also helps smooth out the surface so you'll notice that nail polish goes on a lot smoother.