IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The 11 best nail strengtheners for stronger, healthier nails.

Experts weigh in on the best nail strengtheners to prevent nail breakage, splitting or cracking.
We spoke to experts, who recommended the best nail strengtheners for growing long, healthy nails.
We spoke to experts, who recommended the best nail strengtheners for growing long, healthy nails.Amazon

There is no shortage of skin care regimens designed to preserve and protect our faces, hands, and feet are rarely in short supply. But our nails — made of the same protein the body uses to create the top layer of our skin — sometimes get overlooked, resulting in nails that split or break in uncomfortable ways. 

We spoke to nail experts about everything you need to know to nourish your nails properly, including their recommendations on the best nail strengtheners for healing damaged nails.

Brittle nails that crack or peel are not uncommon—in fact, Harvard Medical School suggests that over one in four women have onychoschizia, or nail fragility. This can be caused by various factors, including dehydration, nail-biting and even mundane, everyday tasks like typing. Because of this, nail care experts recommend nail strengtheners for folks who frequently find their nails splitting or cracking.

SKIP AHEAD How we picked the best nail strengtheners | The best nail strengtheners in 2024 | How to shop for nail strengtheners

Selected.Our top picks

How we picked the best nail strengtheners

To pick the best nail strengtheners, we followed expert guidance and included only options with active healing ingredients, which you can read more about below.

“Nail strengtheners work by providing extra protection to your nails and helping them to become thicker and stronger over time,” says Dr. Randa Jaafar, who specializes in interventional pain and wrinkle reduction. “They contain ingredients such as calcium, magnesium and vitamins A, C and E, which help to nourish and protect the nail. When used regularly, these ingredients can help to improve the overall strength and health of your nails.” While nails generally become weaker over time, with regular use, nail strengtheners can help to rebuild and revitalize nails.

The best nail strengtheners in 2024

There are dozens of nail strengtheners on the market today, many of which use similar ingredients to achieve the best results for your nails. Deciding which brand works best depends on various factors, including application type, frequency of use and price point. To help you, we’ve followed expert advice to round up some highly-rated picks that our editors and nail enthusiasts love.

Best overall nail strengthener: Essie Hard To Resist Advanced

The primary active ingredient in this product is methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), which studies have shown to benefit nail strength. It’s also a favorite of Rita Remark, Essie’s global lead educator and nail artist. “Nail strengtheners like Essie’s Hard to Resist are perfect to use when nails have been thinned, weakened or damaged from gel or acrylic manicures,” she says.

Type: Polish | Active ingredients: Methylsulfonylmethane | Size: 0.46 fl oz  | How to use: Apply two coats to clean nails and wear for three days in between manicures

Best nail strengthener for nail growth: Nail-Aid Keratin 3-Day Growth Nail Treatment

What we like
  • Fast-acting
  • Buildable formula
Something to note
  • Chips easily

Given that keratin is one of the primary proteins involved in nail growth, it comes as little surprise that it is often cited as a key ingredient in nail strengtheners and recommended by our experts. A favorite of editor Lauren Swanson at NBC Select, this product helps with nail growth in just a few days, especially with regular use.

Type: Polish | Active ingredients: Keratin, vitamin D, wheat protein | Size: 0.55 fl oz  | How to use: Apply two coats to clean nails,letting each coat dry fully. Apply an additional coat every three days.

Best nail strengthener for damaged nails: modelones Nail Ridge Filling Strengthener

What we like
  • Application lasts up to a week
  • Quick-drying
  • Can be used as a base coat
Something to note
  • Has slight smell

Remark warns customers to steer clear of nail strengtheners that include formaldehyde, and this nail strengthener from modelones emphasizes that its formula is free from not only formaldehyde but other potentially toxic and weakening ingredients (including fragrances and phthalates). Instead, the product relies on expert-recommended ingredients including keratin and jojoba oil. This quick-dry formula has an average of 4.6 out of 5 stars from 64, 442 ratings on Amazon.

Type: Polish | Active ingredients: Vitamin E oil, keratin, jojoba oil | Size: 0.5 fl oz  | How to use: Apply two coats to clean nails and wear for up to seven days

Best nail-strengthening hand lotion: Vaseline Healthy Hand & Nail Conditioning Lotion

What we like
  • Easy, no-hassle application
  • Safe for sensitive skin
Something to note
  • Has strong scent

Customers love this hand and nail lotion for its dual purpose — not only does it help to moisturize skin with Vaseline Jelly, but it also contains mineral oil and keratin, two ingredients that Green recommends in any nail strengthener. Over 2,500 Amazon customers have given this product 4.6 out of 5 stars, with several citing a noticeable improvement in nail strength in a couple of weeks.

Type: Lotion | Active ingredients: Mineral oil, keratin | Size: 3.4 or 6.8 fl oz  | How to use: Rub into hands as often as needed/desired

Best nail strengthener oil: CND SolarOil Nail & Cuticle Care

What we like
  • Used for nail and cuticles
Something to note
  • Needs daily application

Vitamin E, which Green notes is critical for healthier nails, is a primary ingredient of this nail and cuticle product. Jojoba oil, which helps lock in moisture over time, is also a primary ingredient. This nail and cuticle oil gets a 4.6 out of 5-star rating from over 26,000 customers on Amazon. 

Type: Oil/Polish | Active ingredients: Vitamin E oil, almond seed oil, jojoba oil | Size: 0.25 fl oz  | How to use: Apply daily to nails

Best nail strengthener polish: OPI Nail Envy

What we like
  • Variety of colors
Something to note
  • Requires daily application

This well-known brand is a customer favorite. It can be used as either a standalone treatment or as a base coat underneath your manicure. Ingredients like hydrolyzed wheat protein and calcium help build stronger nails over time, while the variety of color options lets you maintain a stylish manicure while your nails heal. This strengthener has a 4.3-star average rating from 3,650 reviews on Amazon.

Type: Polish | Active ingredients: Wheat protein, vitamins A, E, and C, biotin and calcium | Size: 0.5 fl oz  | How to use: Apply two coats and then one additional coat daily for six days

Best nail strengthener cream: Elon Lanolin-Rich Nail Conditioner

What we like
  • Easy application
  • Absorbs quickly
Something to note
  • Must be applied multiple times

This nail cream works best when applied a couple of times daily, the brand notes. Its main ingredient, lanolin, has been found to reduce the amount of water lost through the skin by up to 30%, which in turn helps to prevent nail cracking and cuticle peeling. Over 1,500 customers have given this cream a 4.4 out of 5-star rating on Amazon.

Type: Cream | Active ingredients: Lanolin, oxyquinoline, beeswax | Size: 0.35 oz  | How to use: Apply two to four times daily

Best vegan nail strengthener: ella+mila “First Aid Kiss” Nail Strengthener

What we like
  • Can be used underneath polish
Something to note
  • Extensive application process

Expert-recommended vitamin E enhances this vegan and cruelty-free formula, which is made without harmful chemicals like acetone and formaldehyde. According to the brand, it can also be used underneath polish, but it may affect how long your manicure lasts. The product is also fully vegan and has a 4.3-star average rating from 4,135 reviews on Amazon.

Type: Polish | Active ingredients: Vitamin E | Size: 0.45 fl oz  | How to use: For two weeks, apply one coat to clean nails, removing and reapplying every seven days. For the following two weeks, apply one coat every other day, removing each coat before re-applying. 

Best nail strengthener top coat: duri Rejuvacote 1 Nail Growth System

What we like
  • Used as a top or base coat
  • Dries quickly
Something to note
  • May peel off

You can use this Duri product as both a base coat and a top coat to help keep in moisture and provide a healthy dose of collagen and fatty acids—two expert-recommended ingredients for stronger, healthier nails. It averages 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon from 4,135 reviewers.

Type: Polish | Active ingredients: Wheat protein, soy protein, calcium | Size: 0.45 fl oz  | How to use: As a base cost, apply once and continue applying as a top coat for seven days. For solo use, apply two coats and follow the same.

Best nail strengthener base coat: Sally Hansen Maximum Growth

What we like
  • Can be used as a base coat
Something to note
  • May effect manicure longevity

NBC Select SEO editor Nikki Brown loves acrylic tips, but when she’s ready to give her nails a rest, this Sally Hansen nail strengthener is her favorite product. “ I like this one because it doubles as a clear polish, so my nails are naked but not that naked, and still getting the nourishment they need from the protein and silk formula,” she says. Whenever I’m wearing this, my nails feel harder and break way less.”

Type: Polish | Active ingredients: | Size: Hydrolyzed silk, corn protein, wheat protein  | How to use: Apply one coat to clean nails every other day, or use as base coat under polish

How to shop for a nail strengthener

When it comes to finding the right nail strengthener for you, experts say that there are a few ingredients to look for and avoid while shopping. “When looking for a nail strengthener, you should look for key ingredients such as calcium, magnesium and vitamins A, C and E,” says Dr. Jaafar. 

In addition to looking for certain nourishing ingredients, she recommends steering clear of nail polishes and other nail strengthening products that contain harsh chemicals, which can damage nails.

Ingredients to look for in nail strengtheners

  • Calcium: Brittle bones and nails are often linked to calcium deficiencies, especially since calcium is a key mineral for stronger nails. Insufficient calcium intake could result in nails that break or chip more easily, or become thinner over time.
  • Magnesium: Given that magnesium is necessary for protein synthesis in your body (which nails need to grow), it is surprising that this mineral is important for healthy nails. Folks with vertical ridges in their nails may even have a magnesium deficiency.
  • Vitamin A: Vitamin A helps keep your nails hydrated and promotes nail growth, says Dr. Jaafar. In particular, vitamin A promotes the synthesis of keratin, which is what our nails are made of.
  • Vitamin C: Collagen production in the body depends upon vitamin C intake, and the collagen protein helps build fingernails (hair and teeth). Insufficient vitamin C intake could result in more brittle nails or slower-growing nails.
  • Vitamin E: Vitamin E is crucial for keeping your nails hydrated and protecting your cuticles. Our experts note that using vitamin E oil — especially around your nail bed and cuticle — can help to undo the damage done by polish use.

Ingredients to avoid in nail products

  • Formaldehyde: Jaafar and the FDA warn that excessive use of products containing formaldehyde can make nails more brittle and likely to peel. Moreover, some folks have sensitivities to this compound, which could result in allergic reactions.
  • Toluene: While toluene can help to keep your nail polish smooth upon application, the chemical has been linked to nervous system damage; so much so that the EU has restricted toluene inclusion in a range of beauty products, including nail polish.
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP): While DBP can make nail polish more durable, some studies have linked the compound to endocrine issues, making it difficult for the body to produce hormones. As with toluene, the EU has banned DBP use in nail polish and other beauty products.

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts with specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Dr. Randa Jaafar, MD, is an anesthesiologist, interventional pain specialist, and the founder of FILD Studio, which focuses on precision wrinkle prevention.
  • Thea Green MBE is the founder of Nails. INC. Since founding Nails. INC. in 1999, her brand portfolio has expanded to include INC.redible Cosmetics, My Mood, and Holler & Glow.
  • Rita Remark is an editorial manicurist and educator in New York. Her creations can be found on runways and fashion magazines, including Alexander Wang and Vogue Korea.

Catch up on Select's in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to stay up to date.