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There’s no shortage of things that can contribute to dry, brittle, breaking nails. Maybe you peeled off a gel manicure (a major no-no, but let’s be real, we’ve all done it). Maybe it’s the dead of winter and your nails are just as flaky and peel-y as your hands. Maybe you’ve been sporting some type of polish, gel, or acrylics since the early 2000s and are finally going bare, only to realize just how beat up your naked nails really are. Maybe you’re simply getting older; yep, just like your skin and hair, nails can also show signs of age.
Regardless, in all of these instances and more, a nail strengthener can come up huge. Infused with a host of essential vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients to help make nails harder and stronger, swiping on one of these is the easiest way to get your tips into tip-top shape. Not to mention that these days there’s a wide array of nail strengtheners out there, with options that can be used in place of polish, under polish, post-gel mani, you name it.
Take your pick from the best nail strengtheners below, all of which are Byrdie editor-approved. Trust us, your nails will thank you.
Best Overall: Duri Rejuvacote 1
The tag line for this product reads ‘from dying nails to nails to die for,’ and we couldn’t agree more. We reach for it time and time again, whether to use as a rehab treatment post gels, as a base coat, or whenever our nails are bare and looking kind of blah. (To that point, it works as a solo treatment, as well as base and top coat.) Two different proteins plus keratin plus calcium work together to stimulate growth, and the formula also effectively seals in the moisture and fatty acids naturally produced by your nail plate to minimize dryness and peeling.
Best for Peeling Nails: Nails Inc NailKale Superfood Base Coat
This is the treatment of choice for Byrdie’s Editorial Director, Faith Xue. True to its name, it does, in fact, contain kale extract. Coupled with other antioxidant-rich botanical extracts plus strengthening keratin, the formula delivers five different benefits—hardening, hydrating, and nourishing nails, while also stimulating growth and preventing breakage. While it has a minty tint in the bottle, the base coat goes on clear, imparting nails with a healthy, gloss-like sheen.
Best 8-Free: Tenoverten The Foundation Nail Strengthening Base Coat
Many nail products these days are three- or five-free, but this pick is an impressive eight-free, not using eight different chemicals often found in polishes. (It’s also cruelty-free and vegan.) What it does contain is horsetail leaf extract—a plant-based ingredient rich in calcium in silica, essential minerals for healthy nails—as well as nourishing vitamin E. The results is a base that both helps color adhere better, but also strengthens, repairs peeling, prevents cracking, and fills in unsightly ridges.
Best for Natural Nails: OPI Natural Nail Strengthener
If you like to keep things simple, aren’t sporting acrylics or lots of gels, and just want something to make your natural nails look that much better, try this guy, the go-to for Byrdie’s Associate Social Media Editor Star Donaldson. Along with protecting nails to ensure long, strong growth, it also pulls double duty as a great base coat, preventing staining and discoloration while helping color adhere better.
Best Kit: Zoya Naked Manicure Women’s Starter Kit
To create the look of truly flawless nails—no matter how beat up they might be—reach for this four-step system. Step one is a nutrient-packed base coat full of vitamins, proteins, and amino acids that keeps nails both strong and flexible to ward off peeling and breakage. Follow that with the pink perfector applied allover to instantly brighten nails, and the tip perfector along the free edge to enhance the white tip. A shine-enhancing top coat seals the deal for an end result that makes it look like you’re not wearing any polish at all, just that you have the most natural, gorgeous nails, ever. It’s no surprise that Byrdie Senior Editor Lindsey Metrus is a fan.
Best Polish: Essie Treat Love & Color
For some people, the idea of sporting bare nails is simply unfathomable. We get it, and that’s why we love that Essie offers this nail perfecting polish. It can decrease peeling by 60% and breakage by 35% in just one week; credit collagen and camellia extract. Not to mention that it comes in 32 different hues, all offering a sheer wash of gorgeous color along with these benefits. Plus, you don’t even need a base or top coat with it.
Best Drugstore: Sally Hansen Mega Strength Nail Hardener
Sally Hansen pretty much owns the drugstore nail category, so it’s no surprise that they offer a few different nail strengtheners. This one gets our vote, infused with a fortifying diamond powder to keep your tips extra strong. Bonus points for the extra wide brush that makes application a breeze, as well as the wallet-friendly price.
Best Base Coat: Butter London Horse Power Nail Rescue Base Coat
If you like to have your nails polished at all times, then you’re probably wearing a base coat at all times. And if you’re doing that, you might as well make it a base coat with benefits, like this guy. There are four key ingredients in the formula: Horsetail extract and biotin to promote healthy growth, plus vitamin B and calcium to bolster strength. If your nails are on the struggle bus, this will for sure help transform them, but if they’re already in good shape, this will help keep them that way.
Best After Acrylics: Deborah Lippmann All About That Base CC Base Coat
Acrylics can take a serious toll on your tips, especially if you’re sporting them regularly. When it comes time to give your nails a break, load up on this treatment. Not only does it strengthen, hydrate, and fill in ridges (a few of the many benefits it offers), it also has a subtle tint that works to instantly brighten and camouflage any imperfections or white spots. Think of it as an Insta filter for your nails—it just makes everything look that much better.
Best for Nail Biters: Barielle No Bite Pro Growth
For those who tend to nibble on their nails, this treatment is choice. While it goes on invisible and odorless, it has a nasty, bitter taste that will definitely discourage biting. It’s also infused with ingredients to boost growth and strength, helping to transform your nails from bitten down and brittle to long and strong, all in one step.
Best Supplement: HUM Nutrition Killer Nails
Yes, you can definitely score stronger nails by using a topical product, but sometimes addressing the issue internally can help, too. Enter this biotin-based supplement. The B vitamin is thought to promote cell growth, ultimately strengthening nails (and hair too, for that matter). As with any supplement, you’ll want to check with your doctor before taking it, but if you’re looking for an extra way to give your nails an added boost, this can be a good option.
Best Splurge: Côte Strengthening Base & Top Coat
Spending over 20 dollars on a nail treatment might sound like a lot, but this multi-tasker is well worth the price. First and foremost, it’s infused with both vitamin B5 and coffee extract, which work in tandem to strengthen nails. You can use it solo, but it also works equally well as a base coat and/or top coat. Either way, a quick swipe every two to three days is a surefire way to improve the look and condition of your manicure.