Nail Strengtheners

Tuesday, 4 November 2008 | Tags:

Strong nails immune from breaking, splitting, peeling and cracking may seem like a fantasy. Can a simple coat of polish help overcome these typical troubles? We put some strengtheners to the test to see if we could find one to fulfill a ìtough as nailsî promise.

The Basics

  • Formaldehyde and toluene in nail strengtheners work to dry out soft nails to help make them stronger, in theory. However this only works for so long because the nail will eventually dry out too much and become brittle and prone to breakage again.

  • Formaldehyde and toluene can also be the cause of an allergic reaction. And don’t expect the reaction to be on or around the nails. Around the eyes is a likely place for it to hit and will appear in the form of a rash.

Other Considerations

  • If you choose to use a nail strengthener, we recommend taking a one-week on, one-week off approach.

  • Keeping your cuticles moisturized does much more for your nails than anything. Cuticles protect the living nail growing under the skin. Moisturize with lanolin or bag balm used to keep cows udders from cracking. Cuticle moisturizers are available at your local drugstore.

Be Aware

  • Applying strengtheners topically to the nail doesn’t improve growth or strength. Instead, it acts as a protective coating for the nail.


We asked some Ultimate Frisbee players to help us test these products over several months.

Our test products:  
  • Revlon: $4.30/10 ml
  • Sally Hansen: $7.99/10 ml
Well.ca Drugstore.com
  • Witchcraft:$8.99
  • OPI Nail Envy: $21.95
A local salon Drugstore.com
  • CoverGirl (regular nail polish): $3.99
Well.ca Drugstore.com

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)


Strength & Hardness Test

  • OPI was a big favourite. Its thinner consistency made it easier to apply and quicker to dry. But the price tag certainly wasn’t a hit and, given the science behind nail strengtheners, we don’t think it’s worth spending $22.

  • The Revlon was the next favourite, especially because of the price.

  • One of our testers with genetically strong nails preferred the plain old nail polish from Covergirl.


Overall, if your nails aren’t naturally strong and you want to try a strengthener, we recommend the Witchcraft nail strengthener.



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