How Do Nail Strengtheners Work? Easy Guide

You’ve got your hand cream and your emery board. You might even have a nail buffer and regularly use cuticle oil. But did you know that nail strengthener also plays an essential role in nail care? Read on to discover how nail strengtheners work and why you should add them to your routine.

How Do Nail Strengtheners Work

Nail strengtheners work by fortifying and reinforcing your natural nails. They can help with peeling, flaking, softness, and thinness. Combining ingredients like keratin and biotin with vitamins like E and B12, nail strengtheners nourish and support the healthy growth of your natural nails.

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What Is Nail Strengthener?

A nail strengthener is a gel-like substance that you can brush onto your nails in order to reinforce their natural strength and durability and prevent further damage in the future.

Formulas will vary between brands, but they tend to be infused with proteins and vitamins in order to support nails in becoming strong, hard, and wear-resistant.

Natural nails are made up of keratin, a protein that ensures they are robust and strong enough to resist damage. 

Nail strengtheners contain proteins like keratin or biotin and vitamins like E and B12 so as to nourish and fortify nails.

Just as you’d use keratin-infused haircare in order to support your hair, so too can you use a nail strengthener to support your nails.

That said, they also tend to contain chemicals, as it is these that are most responsible for recuperating and restoring the strength of your natural nails. 

The most common that you’ll see include nitrocellulose, ethyl acetate, and butyl acetate. 

Do not use a nail strengthener that contains formaldehyde or formalin. These ingredients may cause a short-term difference but can result in your nails becoming brittle and weak over time.

Don’t confuse a nail strengthener with a nail hardener. The latter is designed as a short-term treatment for soft nails, whereas a nail strengthener is designed to nourish and condition your nails on a long-term basis, so as to support the growth of strong, wear-resistant natural nails. 

A nail strengthener can also be used preventatively, unlike a nail hardener, which is more of a quick fix treatment.

How Do Nail Strengtheners Work?

How Do Nail Strengtheners Work

Nails are made of keratin, which is a protein that the body naturally produces. A healthy nail should be hard and strong, but also flexible and resistant to wear. 

But as we age, our body produces less keratin, which can, in turn, result in dry, brittle, flaky nails. 

Nail strengtheners can be made up of a variety of components, but the most common include keratin, biotin, and vitamins like E and B12. 

They are designed to fortify and strengthen nails so as to prevent and mitigate the effects of damage.

Nail strengtheners tends to be a flexible film that offers a protective coat to your nails. It’s a bit like a top coat or base coat for your nails in texture, and can be swiped onto your nails in order to nourish and condition the nail plate, as well as to prevent damage. 

The formula will reinforce the nail’s structure and strength, and the added vitamins can help to support healthy nail growth.

Who Should Use Nail Strengthener?

Anyone can use nail strengtheners – they can be used both for those with very damaged, flaky nails, but also as a preventative tool for those who want to avoid getting weak nails.

You can use a nail strengthener every day or every other day for anywhere from a week to two weeks on damaged nails. After this time, you should start to see a difference. 

If you’re using a strengthener preventatively, apply it once a week or use it as a basecoat for a manicure.

You could also combine a strengthener with a nail conditioner, which helps brittle dehydrated nails to retain moisture.

Can Nail Strengtheners Ruin Nails?

Nail strengtheners won’t ruin nails, as they’re designed to protect and fortify natural nails that are weak, inflexible, and fragile.

However, as with any product used over a long-term period, your natural nails will start to become accustomed to the strengthener, and may even rely on it in order to grow healthily.

You may therefore need to use the nail strengthener regularly so as to see consistent results.

Should You Remove Nail Strengthener With Nail Polish Remover?

Should You Remove Nail Strengthener With Nail Polish Remover

Don’t assume that your nail strengthener will naturally peel or flake off – it’s designed to prevent peeling and flaking of your natural nails, after all!

If you want to remove your nails strengthener, it’s best to purchase a product that’s specifically designed to do so. 

You can use nail polish remover, but if it’s a formula that’s chemically intense and contains plenty of acetone, then the remover will undo the benefits of the nail strengthener.

If you’re using a nail polish remover to take off your nail strengthener, try to opt for one that contains natural ingredients instead.

For this, check out my list of 17 Best Nail Polish Removers that actually work.

5 Best Nail Strengtheners To Try

Sally Hansen Advanced Hard as Nails Strengthener

1. Sally Hansen Advanced Hard as Nails Strengthener

Sally Hansen has been topping the charts for nail care for years, and there’s a reason why. Affordable but still high quality, this nail strengthener is easy to apply and quick to dry. It comes in different colors, too, but we’ve opted for a clear formula to have the broadest appeal possible.

Nail Strengtheners

2. OPI Nail Envy Strengthener

If you ask your nail technician or manicurist to apply a nail strengthener to your nails, we’d take a good guess that this is the one they’ll use. Coming in different shades, it can be used as a standalone treatment or combined with polish depending on your preference. The formula has added hydrolyzed wheat protein and calcium to support, strengthen, and fortify your nails. 

OPI also has two nail strengtheners designed specifically for more tailored concerns – both ‘soft and thin’ nails, and ‘sensitive and peeling’, so be sure to check those out if you want a more tailored product.

Essie Strong Start Nail Strengthening Base Coat

3. Essie Strong Start Nail Strengthening Base Coat

Strengthen, reinforce, and harden your nails with this strength-boosting formula. Containing biotin, the formula is also vegan without animal-derived ingredients. It pairs beautifully with Essie nail polish to create the perfect manicure and can be used as a case coat.

Nail Strengtheners

4. Orly Nail Defense Nail Strengthener

Orly may be a drugstore brand, but it’s got major credentials – they invented the French manicure, after all. This formula prevents peeling and breakage and can be used both as a top and base coat. We’re particularly fans of the grip features on the nail brush.

Nail Strengtheners

5. Nail-Aid Keratin 3-Day Growth Nail Treatment and Strengthener

Promising healthier, harder, and happier nails after just three days, this keratin-infused formula transforms soft, flakey nails into flexible, resistant ones. Use as a base or top coat with polish or as a standalone treatment according to your needs. It’s also non-toxic and cruelty-free.