The Best Nail Strengtheners for Brittle, Weak Nails, According to Experts

Nail technicians, nail artists, and even a podiatrist weigh in on the best formulations to strengthen your digits.
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Trying to grow your nails can feel impossible. Just when they start to reach your goal length, the inevitable happens: one of them breaks. Weak nails may grow just fine, but if they peel and crack in the process, it's pretty difficult to ever get over that length plateau. In these cases, a nail strengthening polish can be a savior. No one knows healthy nail care better than licensed nail technicians, nail artists, and even podiatrists, so we asked them to pick their favorite nail strengtheners to combat filmsy, peeling, or brittle nails.

These are the best nail strengtheners for weak nails, according to experts:

These nail strengtheners are applied just as you would nail polish, and some can even stand in for your go-to base coat or topcoat. Strengthening polishes work by fortifying weak nails with proteins including keratin, wheat germ, or biotin to prevent cracking and peeling. With continued use, nails can grow not just longer but stronger, so you won't always be pulling out your file to fix yet another uneven edge. (Related: Semi-cured Gel Nail Polish Strips Are the Secret to a Flawless Home Mani)

If long nails are on your beauty bucket list or you're simply trying to strengthen weak nails that peel frequently, these are the nail strengtheners experts recommend to their clients and patients.

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Top-Rated: OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener

Buy It, $17

With more than 17,000 five-star ratings, OPI's Nail Envy has many fans — including Dana Ready, a licensed nail technician at The Spa at The Hotel at the University of Maryland. "Not only does Nail Envy strengthen your nails, but it will also protect your manicure from chipping," says Ready. "I recommend applying it three days after your manicure and every day after that." The clear formula uses wheat protein to fortify nails. 

Best for Peeling Nails: Nail Tek Intensive Therapy 2

Buy It, $9

Ren Wu, the co-founder of nail art brand Maniology, recommends this strengthening treatment for people with soft, peeling nails. "The product reinforces and thickens the nails while promoting strength," says Wu, adding that it should be reapplied every two weeks. The protein-rich formula also adds a healthy shine to nails and can be used as a top or base coat.

Best for Damaged Nails: Dermelect Cosmeceuticals Launchpad Nail Strengthener

Buy It, $18

With more than 25 years of experience as a nail technician at New Jersey's Depasquale the Spa, Brunilda Lushaj calls this nail strengthener her favorite. "I love using this product because it has keratin protein peptides, which have helped my clients' nails recover after removing acrylics," says Lushaj. "I have never seen a better, faster recovery than with this product. It's great for weak, brittle nails and splitting nails. It restores flexibility because it hydrates the nail." It's best used as a base coat — and it can make a manicure last longer, too.

Best for Manicure Maintenance: Deborah Lippmann Hard Rock Hydrating Base & Top Coat

Buy It, $20

When using a nail strengthener alone or as a base and top coat, podiatrist Nelya Lobkova, DPM, says she grabs Deborah Lippman Hard Rock. The treatment is rich in protein to helps nails to grow long and strong. Amazon shoppers especially love that the polish doesn't peel and dries quickly

Best Long-Lasting: Zeva Nail Guard

Buy It, $15

This nail hardener dries with a clear, matte finish and is made with a formulation of three different types of resin, which fortify nails and fill in uneven ridges. Nail technician Rae Getter, who has worked with celebrity clients including Regina King and manages Frenchie's Nails in Minnesota, considers it her favorite. "I see quick, long-lasting results, it fills in ridges, and really builds up damaged nails," says Getter. "My favorite thing is that it stays on and lasts for a week without reapplication."

Best Shine: Maxus Nails Strengthener 2.0

Buy It, $20

This vegan nail strengthening polish is a favorite of celebrity nail artist Elle Gerstein. "The two key ingredients — hydrating safflower oil and biotin — are proven to work for promoting nail growth," says Gerstein. The clear formula also includes bamboo extract, which helps to smooth nail ridges, and man-made pearl essence, which gives nails a long-lasting shine. 

Related: 5 Ways to Make Gel Manicures Safer for Your Skin and Health

Best for Cuticle Care: CND RescueRx

Buy It, $20

This daily strengthening treatment is a hybrid of a traditional nail strengthener and cuticle oil. Formulated with jojoba and sweet almond oils in addition to keratin, it's been clinically shown to improve nail strength after a week of use. "The keratin proteins in the treatment bond to the natural nail and can help repair damage by restoring strength and moisture," says Kelley Baker, a licensed nail technician in San Francisco, California. "I recommend this product for clients to use at home between appointments or following gel removal."

Related: This Cuticle Oil Pen Can Help You Maintain Salon-Worthy Nails Without Leaving the House

Best Oil: Gehwol Nail Care

Buy It, $25

If your nails are in serious need of R&R, then take this strengthening treatment under consideration. "It promotes nail growth and strengthens them," explains Marcela Correa, licensed medical pedicurist and owner of Medi Pedi NYC. "It also provides flexibility to broken and torn nails." Just apply two drops of the oil per hand and massage into the nails. Wheat germ oil fortifies weak nails, and bisabolol and undecylenic acid monoethanolamide help fight against fungal infections.