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Having fun with your nails can lead to not-so-fun results. Sure, nail art looks glam, but all that time in the salon can take its toll. And who hasn’t been guilty of peeling off a gel manicure? Don’t even get us started on the mess acrylics can leave behind. Even if you’re polish-free, cold and dry weather can do damage to your digits. Nail biters and cuticle chewers get their own category. No matter how you got there, many of us have had to deal with, weak, brittle, soft, peeling, damaged nails. Instead of heading straight to the salon to cover them up again, it’s time for a little nail rehab. We’re talking nail strengtheners.
There are plenty of formulas out there to tackle your nail needs, but all good nail strengtheners tend to have a few things in common. Keratin-boosting products are beloved for strengthening nails—if you have flaky nails, this is the ingredient for you. Look for other nutrients in the ingredient list that will deliver the nourishment your nails crave. Check out our selection of the top nail strengtheners and you’ll have the long, strong nails you want in no time.
Best Overall: CND Rescue RXx Daily Keratin Treatment
Weak, flimsy nails will be a thing of the past once you start using this daily Keratin treatment that has been clinically proven to boost nail health in just one week, thanks to its triple threat of ingredients. Keratin protein, which is naturally a main component of nails, bonds to the nails to strengthen them; sweet almond oil conditions and softens rough textures; and jojoba seed oil works as a carrier oil to deeply penetrate into the nail, helping other ingredients sink in while working to nourish and hydrate nails.
Best Budget: OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener Original Formula
Hydrolyzed wheat protein and calcium are the star ingredients in OPI’s Nail Envy Nail Strengthener, which transforms even the weakest, most damaged nails into harder and stronger nails. The maximum strength formula will trigger growth within two to three weeks. Simply use the exclusive ProWide Brush to paint on two coats to dry nails. After one week, remove it with nail polish and apply the polish again.
Best Polish: Essie Treat Love & Color Nail Polish & Strengthener
You don’t always have to go with clear polish when working to strengthen your nails. Essie’s Treat Love & Color Nail Polish & Strengthener comes in a range of pretty, sheer hues that work to fix brittle, dry nails in just a week. The formula contains a blend of active ingredients, including collagen and camellia extract, that penetrate the nail to work their magic. Even better, the polish is free of harsh, damaging ingredients like formaldehyde, DBP, and toluene.
Best Drugstore Option: Sally Hansen Hard As Nails
The OG of nail strengtheners, Sally Hansen’s Hard As Nails is a tried and true classic. The clear formula has a mix of film-formers to shield nails from splitting, cracking and chipping, delivering long-lasting protection. You can wear it solo or as a base coat, but either way you can expect tougher, stronger nails. Dubbed “the original nail clinic in a bottle,” it helps nails grow longer and stronger. For maximum effect, apply it under nail tips for extra protection.
Best for Peeling Nails: Nails Inc NailKale Superfood Base Coat
You know how a veggie-packed smoothie can leave you with healthier-looking, brighter skin? Well this “superfood” base coat is basically a green smoothie for your fingertips. The potent combination of antioxidants, kale extract, and keratin works to trigger nail growth, nourish, prevent breakage and splitting, and deeply hydrate. The base coat can be used solo for a high-shine finish.
Best for After Acrylic Nails: Deborah Lippmann All About That Base CC Base Coat
Acrylics can sometimes leave your nails in pretty bad shape, with visible damage like white spots and peeling. That’s where the Deborah Lippmann All About That Base CC Base Coat comes in. Essentially a filter for your nails, the base coat glides on to cover, conceal and correct those imperfections. The multitasking formula brings 10 nail treatment benefits, too. The hydrating complex with panthenol brings major moisture, plus it strengthens, brightens, primes and fill ridges to get a smooth finish. The matte polish can be worn alone or before applying color.
Best Cuticle Oil: CND SolarOil Nail and Cuticle Conditioner
Healthy cuticles equal healthy nails—it’s pretty hard to have one without the other. It’s easy for nails to become brittle and dry, which can lead to cracking and splitting, and just looking not so pretty. Combat that with a cuticle oil, like this twofer from CND that both strengthens and conditions. It contains jojoba oil and vitamin E to prevent nails from drying out, all while softening cuticles.
Our writers spent 4 hours researching the most popular nail strengtheners on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 20 different nail strengtheners overall, screened options from 15 different brands and manufacturers, read over 25 user reviews (both positive and negative) and tested 10 of the nail strengtheners themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.