The Best Nail Strengtheners to Say Goodbye to Flimsy Nails

Our best overall pick is Duri Rejuvacote 1

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duri Rejuvacote 1

Byrdie / Jessica Juliao

Acrylics, gel manicures, cold weather, or age can compromise nail health and lead to flimsy, peeling, and breaking nails. Infused with a host of essential vitamins and proteins, nail treatments can make nails harder, stronger, and healthier.

Byrdie Researched & Approved

Our best overall pick is Duri Rejuvacote 1, which contains two different proteins, calcium, and keratin to strengthen, stimulate growth, and remedy dryness and peeling. For a more affordable option, consider the drugstore favorite Sally Hansen Mega Strength Hardener with a fortifying diamond powder to keep your tips extra strong.

We conducted hours of research on the best nail strengtheners, evaluating formulas on active ingredients, ease of application, and results. Our team then combined these results with nail artist-recommended picks to create this list.

Ahead, find the best nail strengtheners to make brittle nails healthy again.

Best Overall: duri Rejuvacote 1 Original Maximum Strength Nail Growth System, Base and Top Coat

3.6
Duri Rejuvacote 1

 Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Dries quickly

  • Seals in moisture

  • Minimizes dryness

What We Don't Like
  • Might peel for some

Who else recommends it? PureWow also picked duri Rejuvacote 1.

When it comes to nail strengtheners, this one can't be beaten. 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 it 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 topcoat.)

What makes this product so magical? Two different proteins plus added calcium and keratin, which work together to stimulate growth. The formula also effectively seals in the moisture and fatty acids naturally produced by your nail plate to minimize dryness and peeling.

Active Ingredients: Ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, keratin | Dosage: Once per day for a week | Size: 0.6 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Drugstore: Sally Hansen Mega Strength Hardener

SH mega strength hardener
What We Like
  • Various colors to choose from

  • Great brush

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Might dry and streak for some

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.

Active Ingredients: Ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, diamond powder | Dosage: Two coats | Size: 0.4 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Drugstore, Runner-Up: Orly Nail Defense Nail Strengthener

Orly Nail Defense Nail Strengthener

Ulta

What We Like
  • Great brush

  • Affordable

  • Adds shine

What We Don't Like
  • May take some time to work

Affordable and effective, this is a protein-packed treatment that happy reviewers say helps their nails grow and not peel or split. It works as a base coat, although the extra shiny finish of this means it looks like you're wearing a clear polish if you do want to sport it solo. It also has the brand's special grippy brush that makes precise swiping a breeze.

Active Ingredients: Ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, horsetail extract | Size: 0.6 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Peeling Nails: Nails Inc. Nailkale Superfood Base Coat

4.5
Nails Inc. Nailkale Superfood Base

 Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Minimizes dryness

  • Adds shine

  • Promotes nail growth

What We Don't Like
  • Strong scent

True to its name, it does 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, glass-like sheen.

Active Ingredients: Butyl acetate, ethyl acetate, pomegranate extract | Dosage: Two coats three times per week | Size: 0.5 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Natural Nails: OPI Natural Nail Strengthener

OPI Natural Nail Strengthener

 Courtesy of Ulta

What We Like
  • Dries quickly

  • Prevents staining and discoloration

  • Applies smoothly

What We Don't Like
  • Might peel for some

  • Strong scent

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 formula. 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.

Active Ingredients: Ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, camphor | Size: 0.5 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Kit: Zoya Naked Manicure Women's Starter Kit

ZOYA Women's Starter Manicure Kit

Amazon

What We Like
  • Dries quickly

  • Applies smoothly

  • Shiny finish

What We Don't Like
  • Might peel for some

  • Strong scent

To create the look of truly healthy 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 all over 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 a result that makes it look like you're not wearing any polish at all—just that you have the most natural, gorgeous nails ever.

Active Ingredients: Ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, sunflower oil | Size: 0.5 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Polish: Essie Treat Love & Color

Essie Treat Love & Color Nail Polish & Strengthener

Courtesy of Ulta

What We Like
  • Applies smoothly

  • Various colors to choose from

  • Fast results

What We Don't Like
  • Might dry and streak for some

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 treatment 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 topcoat with it.

Active Ingredients: Ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, collagen | Dosage: Daily for one week | Size: 0.5 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Base Coat: Butter London Horse Power Nail Rescue Base Coat

Butter London Horse Power Nail Rescue Basecoat

 Courtesy of Ulta

What We Like
  • Protects against future damage

  • Dries quickly

  • Shiny finish

What We Don't Like
  • Runny texture

  • Slow results

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. 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.

Active Ingredients: Ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, biotin | Dosage: One coat | Size: 0.5 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Base Coat, Runner-Up: Dr.'s Remedy Enrich Nail Polish Hydration Nail Moisture Treatment

Dr. Remedy’s Enrich Nail Polish Hydration Nail Moisture Treatment
What We Like
  • Dries quickly

  • Shiny finish

  • Hydrating

What We Don't Like
  • Might streak and peel for some

This effective formula, a favorite of celebrity nail artist Elle Gerstein, relies on biotin, wheat protein, and pentavitin to help keep nails long and strong. "I use this as a base coat, especially during the cold winter months, to help seal moisture into my nails," she says.

Active Ingredients: Ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, biotin | Size: 0.5 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Nail Biters: Barielle No Bite Pro Growth

 Barielle No Bite Pro Growth
What We Like
  • Prevents nail biting

  • Fragrance-free

  • Promotes nail growth

What We Don't Like
  • Bitter taste when eating finger food

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.

Active Ingredients: Ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, silica | Size: 0.5 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Tinted: Pear Nova Enhance Nail Strengthener

Pear Nova Enhance Nail Strengthener

Pear Nova

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Subtle tint makes nails look healthy

  • Minimizes dryness

What We Don't Like
  • Brush could be a little denser

The aloe vera in this formula makes this a nice option for combating dryness. But it's the (super subtle) pink hue that gets us excited about this pick. It's not color—to that point, this can easily be layered under polish in place of a base coat—but it's just enough to make your nails look healthy and almost glowy. Think of it as the nail equivalent of a tinted moisturizer.

Active Ingredients: Aloe | Size: 0.34 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for All Nail Issues: Olive & June Nail Strengthener

Olive & June Nail Strengthener

Olive & June

What We Like
  • Addresses multiple nail issues

  • Easy to hold cap

What We Don't Like
  • Must be applied daily for best results

If your nails have breakage, peeling, white spots, or ridges, reach for this guy. Credit a variety of plant-based extracts, including celery seed extract, that help strengthen nails—up to a 77% increase in nail strength, according to the brand.

Active Ingredients: Ethyl acetate, celery seed extract | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best 17-Free: Ella + Mila First Aid Kiss Nail Strengthener

Ella + Mila First Aid Kiss Nail Strengthener

Ulta

What We Like
  • 17-free

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Slow results

You've likely heard of 5-free and 7-free and even 8-free polishes. Buckle up because this formula is, wait for it, 17-free. It contains good-for-your-tips vitamin E and is great for weak, thin, and splitting nails. FYI, it's best when used for four weeks, which can feel a bit tedious, though the results are worth it.

Active Ingredients: Ethyl acetate, butyl acetate | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for the Entire Nail Area: CND RescueRXx Daily Keratin Treatment

CND RescueRXx

Courtesy: Ulta

What We Like
  • Can use on skin and nails

  • No dry time

What We Don't Like
  • Can't use as a base coat

Think of this as a cuticle oil-nail strengthener hybrid. The base is jojoba and sweet almond oils, both of which impart tons of moisture not only to the nail but to the surrounding skin, too. But unlike a cuticle oil, there's protein-rich keratin in the mix to help bolster the strength of the nail. All you have to do is swipe it on (truly, as haphazardly as you want since you can't mess this up) and rub it into the nail and entire nail area. Do so daily and prepare to be amazed by how much better your nails look.

Active Ingredients: Sweet almond oil, keratin | Size: 0.5 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Nontoxic : Lisa Lacquer Nail Strengthener

Lisa Lacquer Nail Strengthener

Lisa Lacquer

What We Like
  • Can used as a base coat

  • 10-free

What We Don't Like
  • Slow results

All colors in this line are 10-free and contain no toxic ingredients. We love this strengthener, which can double as a base coat, for containing vitamin A, which has been found to be effective in treating splitting nails, making them grow healthier and stronger.

Active Ingredients: Vitamin A | Size: 0.43 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Cuticles : Peacci The GelBottle Oil

Peacci tgb Oil

Peacci

What We Like
  • Nice smell

  • Absorbs quickly

What We Don't Like
  • Contains dyes

This formula softens cuticles and locks in moisture with a rich blend of natural oils. We especially love this treatment for those who have acrylics to use on cuticles, and on nails in between appointments. Reviewers note the non-greasy texture is fast-absorbing into nails and skin.

Active Ingredients: Coconut oil, freesia, peach oil, tea tree Oil, | Size: 0.5 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Final Verdict

Our best overall pick is Duri Rejuvacote 1, which contains two different proteins, calcium, and keratin to strengthen, stimulate growth, and remedy dryness and peeling. For a more affordable option, consider the drugstore favorite Sally Hansen Mega Strength Hardener with a fortifying diamond powder to keep your tips extra strong.

Meet the Expert

Celebrity nail artist Elle Gerstein is a media expert featured in top magazines for her knowledge of nail care.

What to Look For in a Nail Strengthener

Clinically-tested Products

Gerstein notes many products make lots of promises without any hard evidence to back up those claims. Do your research to see which companies have tested their products. It's the best way to know if you're getting something that contains key ingredients and is going to work, she says.

Proteins

To the ingredients point, it's ideal to seek out proteins in any nail strengthener like keratin and wheat protein since your nails are primarily made of protein.

Biotin

Biotin is another tried-and-true nail enhancing ingredient, great for helping to promote healthy nail growth.

FAQ
  • Do nail strengtheners work?

    Yes, according Gerstein, but you have to use them correctly so that the nail can absorb the nutrient. "Clean the nail with antibacterial soap, wipe it with alcohol to balance the pH level, then apply the nail strengthener," she says.

  • Does a nail strengthener help nails grow?

    "Nail strengtheners promote growth because you have a well-sealed, hydrated nail," Gerstein explains. "Nails are just like a sponge—when a sponge is hard and dry, it cracks, which is the same as a nail without a proper manicure."

  • How often should you use a nail strengthener?

    Gerstein suggests using a nail strengthener once per week and complementing it with a daily cuticle oil application to help keep the nails hydrated.

  • Can you put nail strengthener under gel polish?

    Unfortunately, nail strengtheners (in polish form) can't be used under gel polish. "Regular polish and gel polish are two different services that do not interact together," says Gerstein. That said, if you're looking to boost the strength of your nails before you get gels, treat your nails for two weeks leading up to your service or opt for vitamins and the other forms of strengthening treatments listed above.

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She considered dozens of nail strengtheners for this roundup, evaluating each on its formula of active ingredients and results.

Updated by Jill Di Donato
Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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