Nail strengthener and nail hardener—which one will get you stronger and healthier nails?

It’s annoying when your nails get damaged. They’re sometimes chipped, brittle, and unattractive. Products like nail hardeners and nail strengtheners are available to help. If you want stronger, healthier nails, you need these products.

However, it is crucial to understand the distinctions between them to select the most appropriate option. To help you choose the best treatment for your nails, I’ll compare nail hardeners and strengtheners.

The goal of using a nail hardener is to strengthen your nails so that they are less prone to break or chip. Commonly used ingredients include protein and keratin, which work together to fortify your nails. Nail hardeners are helpful for those who have brittle nails or who want long nails without the hassle of frequent breakage.

Meanwhile, nail strengtheners work to prevent your nails from becoming brittle and splitting. Your nails will be nourished and hydrated thanks to the vitamins, minerals, and natural oils they provide. As a result, they are less prone to cracks or peeling. People with brittle nails that easily break, split, or peel would benefit greatly from using a nail strengthener.

Nail strengtheners and hardeners both play important roles in maintaining strong, healthy nails. This article will help you decide which is better for your nail health and why. Then we’ll show you some best result-oriented and nourishing nail strengtheners and hardeners.

Nail strengthener vs. Nail Hardener; are they the same?

You can use a nail hardener to harden your nail plates quickly.

Whereas the purpose of nail strengtheners is to promote stronger and healthier natural nails by nourishing them over the long term.

However, nail strengthener and hardeners are typically considered interchangeable as many products are equipped with ingredients that can perform a two-in-one job by nourishing and hardening your damaged nails simultaneously.

Now, let’s get deep down to it and check how these products work and why they are so different.

How do Nail strengtheners and Hardener work to keep healthier nails?

The main difference between a nail strengthener vs. nail hardener is their primary purposes and what precisely they are designed to achieve. Though nail strengtheners and hardeners have some common ingredients, their formulations and specific outcomes differ. Nail strengtheners primarily promote overall nail health and strength, whereas nail hardeners aim to create a harder and more resilient surface.

opi nail strengthener for strong nails

What is a Nail strengthener?

A nail strengthener is designed to improve overall strength and nail resilience. It focuses on fortifying the nails, reducing brittleness, and preventing breakage. Nail strengtheners typically contain ingredients like proteins, vitamins, minerals, natural oils and moisturizers that nourish and promote healthy nail growth. They work to repair nail breakage, increase thickness, and enhance the flexibility of the nails.

Nail Strengtheners: How Do They Work?

Nail strengtheners directly distribute nutrients such as wheat protein, minerals, vitamins, and other protective substances to the nail plate. These strengthening nutrients penetrate deep into the nail surface and help repair damage, reinforce weak areas, and help healthy nail growth. With regular use for an extended time, nail strengtheners can increase overall strength by reducing brittleness and promoting flexibility.

What Ingredients are used in Nail strengthener

These magical components work wonders in making weak nails healthier and stronger. Let’s break down how each ingredient contributes.

First, there’s keratin protein and collagen on our list. These proteins are renowned for replenishing and reinforcing natural protein structure by penetrating deep into the nail plates. This infusion helps to strengthen and fortify the nails.

Next up, there are vitamins and minerals. Calcium takes the lead in promoting nail growth and strength, ensuring nails are rock solid. Vitamin E is the nurturing superhero, keeping the nails healthy and safeguarding them from damage. And let’s not forget about biotin, the vitamin B7 rockstar that supports the growth of strong and beautiful nails.

Moreover, the ingredients like formaldehyde resin form a resilient film on the nails, making them more resistant to chipping and breakage.

What is a Nail Hardener?

On the other hand, nail hardeners are primarily intended to increase the hardness and durability of the nails. There are two most common types of nail hardeners.

Cross-linking hardener: The main ingredient of cross-linking nail hardeners is keratin protein which aims to create a protective layer on the nail surface that helps prevent splitting, chipping, and breakage.

Reinforcement Hardeners: These nail hardeners often contain ingredients like formaldehyde, ethyl acetate, epoxy resin nitrocellulose, and plasticizers that form a tough, resistant coating. This coating provides a stronger barrier, making the nails less susceptible to damage.

Nail Hardeners: How Do They Work?

Nail hardeners work by creating a protective shield on the surface of the nails, increasing their hardness and resistance to damage. Nail hardeners often contain cross-linking ingredients such as formaldehyde, nitrocellulose, or other resins. These agents create a tough and durable film when applied to the nails. As the Hardener dries, this film forms a protective coating that strengthens the nails and helps prevent chipping, splitting, or breaking.

What ingredients are used in Nail hardener

So, when it comes to nail hardeners, we’ve got some fantastic ingredients that work wonders for promoting healthier nails. One of the main ingredients is formaldehyde. It forms a strong bond with the nails, creating a protective layer that makes them more resistant to splitting and breaking. Then we have ethyl acetate and butyl acetate, which help with the application and drying process. They make sure the product goes on smoothly and dries quickly.

Next up is nitrocellulose. This ingredient forms a tough resistant layer on the nails, adding strength and making them less likely to get damaged. Plasticizers like camphor or tosylamide formaldehyde resin and hydrolyzed keratin are used to keep things flexible. They ensure the nails don’t become too rigid and prevent cracks or splits.

best nail hardener for weak nails

Which one is best for use? nail strengthener vs. nail hardener

The nail strengthener is best for:

  • Individuals with Weak and Brittle nails: nail strengthener is formulated ingredients that fortify and reinforce weak and brittle nails from daily wear and tear.
  • Frequent user of acrylic nails or harsh nail products: if you frequently use acrylic nails or other nail products such as gel polishes and dip powders or expose to water, which can weaken your nails over time. Citation
  • Nails with nutrient deficiency: if your nails are nutrient deficient, then a strengthener is a great choice as it has essential nutrients like vit E and biotin that address deficiencies that cause weak nails.
  • Seeking long, healthy nails: if your nails break easily, you can use a nail strengthener because it provides nutrients for overall nail growth, aiding in longer and stronger nails.
  • Ageing individuals: Nails tend to be weak as we age; the nail strengthener is enriched with nutrients like keratin that counter the natural thinning and fragility of nails due to ageing.

The nail Hardener is best for:

  • Flexible or soft nails: if your nails are softer and bend to breakage, go for a nail hardener as it provides a stronger and firmer structure to damaged nails, specifically flexibility, bending, or nail cracking.
  • Nail enthusiastic: if you often try different nail art and extensions, apply a thin layer of nail hardener to provide a firm base with long-lasting wear and reduced risk of chipping or peeling.
  • Thin nails: if you have thin nails, applying a nail hardener can add density to nails and make them less likely to break.
  • Exposure to hard chemicals: if you experience longer contact with chemicals or water such as hair dyes, then using nail hardeners can help.
  • Quit nail-biting: if you’re trying to quit nail biting, then put on a nail hardener on nails because it creates a hard surface that acts as a deterrent in nail biting.

it’s important to note that prolonged use of nail hardeners is not recommended as it contains formaldehyde that is harsh on nails and may cause allergy when used for longer periods. Formaldehyde in high quantities has been proven to be harmful to human health. Use it temporarily to make your nails tough. Moreover, It should also be used in conjunction with nail-strengthening agents to encourage strong nails. citation

Examples: Best Healthy Nail Strengtheners Brands

There are many reputable brands of nail strengthened and hardeners that are tried and tested over time and have more extraordinary reviews. We have tested some top brands for you; check out a few below.

Sally Hansen

Nail Rehab Strengthener Serum

  • Provides extreme protection from nail damage
  • Get visibly healthier and longer nails within a few weeks
  • Safeguards against any breakage, peeling, or flexibility issues

The Sally Hansen nail strengthening serum works miraculously to restore nail health worn out due to nail application or any nail type. Whether your nails are peeling or cracking, it works wonders, and you won’t be disappointed. There is over 2k+ 5 stars rating for this strengthening cum hardener serum formulated with micro-diamond, titanium, Jasmine, Rose, keratin, vitamin E, nylon and retinol to address nail toughness issues. The serum hydrates and fills the ridges to get the perfect nail shape.


Nail Strengtheners Cream

  • Works for both women and men
  • Apply even while wearing regular nail polish
  • Best results for overall nail growth, splits, cracks, peels, and breaks
  • Requires minimum application 2-3x per day
  • To get the best results wait for 3-4 weeks to see a noticeable improvement
  • Highly recommended to allow the cream to penetrate overnight for the best results

Are you struggling with weak and brittle nails? We’ve got this amazing nail strengthener for you! This incredible daily nail strengthener cream works two ways to build healthier and stronger nails and provides the essential protection they need.

Its fast-drying formula promotes healthy nail growth with nutrients like vit E, Glycerin, soybean oil, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Biotin, calcium, Borago Officinals Seed Oil, and vegetable proteins. More than 1900+ positive reviews for Barielle nail strengthener cream is noteworthy.

OPI Nail Envy strengthening treatment

OPI Nail Envy

Nail Strengthener Gel

  • Comes with a natural strengthening gel-based, hydrolyzed protein wheat formula
  • Added calcium to make your nails stronger
  • Can be used as a base coat to build a stronger base before nail polish
  • Apply a single coat every day for the best results

OPI brahd has a great range of nail strengthening treatments featuring original nail strengthening formula, soft and thin nails, sensitive and prone to peeling nails, dry and brittle nails, and Matt finish. You can pick up any nail strengthening treatments to cure your nail health. Each one contains different formulas to cater to each concern. The original nail-strengthening gel formula contains hydrolyzed wheat protein and calcium to make your nails harder and stronger. Besides, you can use it as a nail base because, according to Easy Nail, tech strengtheners have the same ingredients as base coats to build a stronger base or as a standalone nail strengthening product.

Example: Which is the best Nail Hardener Brand

Gel Base Nail Hardener Nail-AID3-in-1

NAIL-AID 3-in-1

Gel Base Hardener

  • silicon-based Gel formula
  • Prevents chipping, smudging and scratching
  • can be used on both natural and artificial nails
  • Best for beginners or professional use

Elevate your manicure game with the remarkable NAIL-AID 3-in-1 Gel Base. Designed to strengthen and condition your nails, this extraordinary base coat goes beyond the ordinary. This gel-based Hardener provides a perfect canvas for your favourite colours but adds the magic of strength with its silicone-infused formula, Keratin Amino Acids and Collagen. Whether you go with natural or artificial nails, NAIL-AID is your go-to solution with perfection and power. This innovative product outfits both experienced nail professionals and those enthusiastic to discover the sensations of the nail polish world.  

Sally Hansen Good Nail Hardener

Sally Hansen

Good Nail Hardener

  • Clear base coat glue to the nails for 14 days
  • thick gel coat with long lasting finish
  • Get salon like hard and strong nails
  • No UV light required, fast drying

Sally Hanson brand has crafted this nail hardener with a cutting-edge pure mineral protein hydrolysis formula to revolutionize your nail game. So, say goodbye to fragile, brittle nails and hello to fresh, strong, and resilient nails. Sally Hansen’s Good Nail Hardener works magically, fortifying your nails and providing vital nutrients to prevent chipping on the free edge. This fast-drying polis can strengthen the nail bed with its unique formulation; it also adds a touch of texture, roughing up the surface for enhanced grip.

Delore for Nails Hardener

Delore Nails Hardener

Nails Hardener and Nail Polish Dryer

  • natural blend of vitamin-enriched oils for nails and cuticles
  • helps your nail polish dry faster
  • clear and vibrant finish
  • complete package for home nail care

Talking about Delore – Versatility is the name of this brand. Delore Nails Hardener is the first choice for every manicure and pedicure enthusiast for use on natural nails, acrylics, and gel nails; no more frequent touch-ups are required using Delore; you can extend durability, ensuring your gorgeous manicure stands the test of time. Delore Nail hardener’s ingredients include Triticum Vulgare (Wheat Germ) Oil, Corn Oil, Peanut Oil, Tocopherol (Natural Vitamin E), Retinol and Vitamin D2 that can easily handle premature aging of nails and chipping.

Final verdict: who wins the battle: nail strengthener vs. Nail Hardener?

Nail hardeners and nail strengtheners both serve a purpose in nail care, but which one you choose will depend on your specific situation. Let me explain it to you so you can make a wise choice.

You can think of nail hardeners as shields for your nails. They produce a sturdy top layer, perfect for when you have:

  1. Soft or weak nails.
  2. Nails that often get wet or exposed to chemicals
  3. Nails that break easily.

On the other hand, nail strengtheners improve nail health and growth from the inside out. They work wonderfully if you have to deal with:

  1. Nails that are brittle, peel, or split.
  2. Nails that grow slowly.
  3. Trouble keeping your nails long.

Some nail hardeners contain a potentially harmful ingredient called formaldehyde, so it’s important to read labels carefully. What you should search for is:

  1. For nail hardener: Choose products without formaldehyde
  2. For Nail strengthener: Try to find a nail strengthener that includes protein, oil, or a vitamin.

In the nail hardener vs. nail strengthener battle, understanding your nail type and how to use these products properly is the key to getting the desired results. If you’re unsure, it’s always a good idea to talk to a nail expert or a dermatologist for personalized advice to help you get stronger, healthier nails safely.

References and Citation

Do and Don’t for Healthy nails – Mayo Clinic

Keratin based strengthening compound

Nail Hardening cosmetic composition

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