How to Strengthen Your Nails

Want harder, healthier nails? Look no further than these best ways to strengthen your nails — plus the pro-approved products that help.

Maybe you've thought, "Dang, why can't my natural nails be this long?" after a recent nail tip application. Or maybe you need stronger nails for playing the guitar. Whatever your motivations, if you're yearning to strengthen your nails, there are various tricks that can make a noticeable difference.

Problem is, it's not always easy to pinpoint the cause of weak nails, let alone figure out the best way to address them. Artificial nail application, genetic disposition, malnutrition, illness, dehydration, medication side effects, and underlying nail infections are just some of the common causes of weak nails, according to Flora Kim, M.D., F.A.A.D., a Texas-based dermatologist. Whatever the reason, the result is still the same: fingernails that are best described as fragile, rigid, and prone to breakage. Sound familiar? Then you're probably wondering how to strengthen your nails — and you've come to the right place. Read on for experts' perspectives on the best way to strengthen your nails. (

How to Strengthen Your Nails

Add a cuticle oil to your routine.

If you want strong and healthy nails, one of the most important things you can do is to start using cuticle oil regularly, says celebrity nail artist Pattie Yankee. "You should massage it into the matrix area — right at the base of the nail and the skin right below," she says. "If you really massage the oil into that area, you nourish the matrix of your nail, which is the root of your nail. And as it grows out, it's going to grow out healthy."

Yankee suggests looking for a formula containing jojoba oil as one of the main ingredients. "It has small enough molecules that it's able to penetrate to your nail plate," she says. (Jojoba oil is lightweight enough to sink into your skin, and the nail plate is more porous than skin.) She also suggests looking out for almond and safflower oils, which moisturizes and, in turn, helps to strengthen your nails. (Excessive moisture loss can lead to dry, peeling nails.) While there are a lot of options out there, one of Yankee's top picks is CND Solar Oil (Buy It, $9,, which has both jojoba and sweet almond oils.

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CND SolarOil Nail & Cuticle Care


Whip up a DIY soak.

To impart your skin and nails with even more oil, Yankee recommends incorporating a DIY two-ingredient soak two to three times per week. She suggests using lemon juice, which she says helps to brighten and strengthen nails thanks to its vitamin C content, and olive oil to moisturize your skin and nails. Here's how to try it:

  1. Remove any existing nail polish. Mix half a cup of lemon juice with half a cup of olive oil in a bowl. Microwave the mixture until it's lukewarm, around 30 seconds.
  2. Submerge hands in the bowl and allow them to soak for five to 10 minutes.
  3. Once the time is up, massage excess oil into nails. Then, put on a pair of cotton gloves (Buy It, $10, and wear them overnight to allow any remnants to soak in.

Rethink how often you use polish.

Beyond altering the look of your nail, nail polish can help serve as a protective layer. "You want to have a coat on the nails — a color, clear polish, or some sort of strengthener — so that your nails can be protected by a barrier," says Yankee. "Water can penetrate your nail plate because it's porous, and this can make the nail softer and weaker. You want to add almost like armor or shield on top of it with polish." For this reason, she recommends having a coat on at all times, except for when you're doing the above overnight soak on your natural nails. Not a fan of color? No problem — a clear strengthener such as OPI Nail Envy (Buy It, $18, will do the trick. And one more tip: Make at least a week off every month from heavier enhancements like gel polish and acrylics, she advises. (

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OPI Nail Envy

OPI Nail Envy

Check in with your doctor.

"Vitamins and minerals are super critical to developing healthy nails," says Dr. Kim. "In this busy world, it can be challenging to eat the right combination of foods each day. Thus, I highly recommend finding the right oral supplements to ensure that you are getting all the nutrients you need each day." (For example, low iron is a common culprit. Biotin might also play a role, but deficiencies are rare.) Your doctor can help you pinpoint if you have any deficiencies by discussing your diet and running blood tests.

While not every health expert sees eye to eye on the potential of collagen supplements for nail growth, Dr. Kim sees promise. (She actually developed a hair skin and nail collagen powder for her own skin-care line.) Her reasoning: "To have healthy nails, you need to ensure that you have the building blocks necessary to develop healthy nails," she says. "Numerous scientific studies recommend oral ingestion of bioactive collagen peptides." Here's an example of one small study where oral collagen peptide supplements such as the ones below seemed to affect nail growth rate and brittleness.

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Vital Proteins Collagen Powder Hydrolyzed Peptides Supplement


A doctor can also help rule out other potential issues that can cause brittle nails such as a thyroid issue, says Dr. Kim. Depending on your situation, they might suggest trying an Rx treatment. "There are several prescription interventions that have scientific studies demonstrating efficacy for nails such as topical application of Tazorac or Genadur," says Dr. Kim. (Tazorac is a retinoid — a vitamin A derivative — that might help prevent brittle nails, and Genadur is a nail lacquer for protecting fragile, brittle, or split nails.)

How Long It Takes to Strengthen Your Nails

No matter what intervention you end up taking, don't expect to see any differences overnight. "Changes can take many months — longer for toenails than fingernails because they take longer to grow — to become noticeable," says Dr. Kim. "People tend to give up too quickly. Unfortunately, there are no super-quick solutions if the end goal is to have truly healthier nails." Again, it could take up to several months depending on your personal growth rate, so stick it out. (

Part of it comes down to your genetics. Your genetic makeup and the presence of conditions such as psoriasis or thyroid issues can affect nail growth."Because some people will genetically be more prone to weaker nails, any intervention may take even longer to reap visible results and the degree of improvement may be somewhat diminished, unfortunately," says Dr. Kim. "But with patience and perseverance, it is still possible."

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