We tested 15 of the best nail strengtheners | The Sun

IF painting your nails is a favourite Sunday night ritual, then you’ll know that there are few things as frustrating as weak, brittle nails that refuse to grow past a certain length, so it's worth taking a look at the best nail strengtheners.

Just like skin, nails can become dry and dehydrated, which results in our talons splitting and peeling, which makes our weekly home manicure sessions considerably less fun. 

There are various contributing factors to this. According to Marion Yau, a celebrity Harley Street podiatrist and YouTuber, the main culprits for nails that peel and break can be a lack of calcium or vitamin D (a hormone that regulates calcium concentration in the body), which can ultimately lead to weak nails that break easily. 

Alongside this, excessive exposure to water and chemicals and inevitable factors such as ageing and genetics can cause nails to become brittle. Improper removal of acrylics (i.e., DIY home removal – never a great idea!) and gel treatments can also contribute to poor nail health. 

Yao recommends nail supplements containing calcium, vitamin D and zinc. Adding a topical oil or cream to absorb into the nails and cuticles can also provide instant hydration. 

However, arguably, the easiest (and the quickest way) to nurse flakey, broken nails back to optimum health would be to incorporate a nail-strengthening base coat into your routine that can reinforce repair and growth, leading to strong, hard, flexible nails that you’ll want to put out on display.

In terms of the hero ingredients to look out for in your strengthening product, Yao says that vitamin C and retinol are ingredients to look out for. While both of these ingredients may commonly be associated with skincare benefits, they may also be the key to nail growth, as Yao explains that they increase collagen – which is one of the main proteins in the nail bed. 

As a self-proclaimed anxious, compulsive nail polish picker and occasional biter, It’s my quest to find the ultimate nail strengthener – one that will withstand the less-than-great treatment I inflict on my poor nails. 

Best nail strengtheners at a glance

  • Best overall: Protein Formula for Nails 4
  • Best for brightening: Orly – Nutrition
  • Best eco-friendly option: Earthy – Nail Strengthener
  • Best for ridges: Mii – Strong and stable base coat
  • Best serum formula: OPI – Repair Mode

Sally Hansen

  • Miracle Cure 13.3ml – £7.49 at Amazon – buy here

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Pros: Only one coat needed 
Cons: Slightly watery formula compared to others 
Rating: 8/10

With over 70 years of expertise, it’s safe to say that the brand Sally Hansen are masters of nail care.  With this in mind, I was intrigued to see how the brand’s Miracle Cure shaped up. With a patented ‘Micro Mineral’ formula exclusive to the brand, Miracle Cure promises to fill in cracks and instantly reinforce nails, great news for anyone with nails that tend to peel easily alongside breaking.

Upon application, one single thin coat with this formula seems to be sufficient, which also means that it’ll last longer. I’d recommend giving this a good 2-3 minutes to fully dry. Giving a nice, healthy sheen while also working as a protective base coat makes this a good all-rounder. My nails felt smooth and shielded while wearing this. 

The generous 13.3ml bottle also makes this great value for money.


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Margaret Dabbs

  • Pure Nails Strengthening Treatment 9ml, £12.99 at Amazon – buy here

Pros: Nails looked great, works as a standalone product as well as a strengthened
Cons: Pricey for the 9ml size 
Rating: 8/10

My initial thoughts upon the first application were how gorgeous this looked alone. Not normally one for a soft, ballet slipper satin pink, but I have indeed been swayed by the subtle pink sheen. 

Podiatrist-turned-businesswoman Margaret Dabbs’s eponymous line is one to keep on your radar for effective luxury.

Containing a key skin conditioning ingredient, neonyca, alongside argan oil, Pure Nails promises to harden nails and smooth ridges, and I can attest to this. 

Upon two coats, my unsightly horizontal nail ridges were camouflaged and looked akin to a fresh manicure, although if you’re not one for a soft delicate pink, this works fantastic as a base coat – polish applies evenly over this super smoothing nail foundation. The formula also includes smart micro-bonding particles which claim to seal the nail and prevent discolouration. 

After a week of three applications, my nails felt rejuvenated and strong and looked a treat. I even found myself a fan of wearing a pretty pink soft hue, something I never thought would happen.


  • Bend Don’t Break Nail Treatment 14.8ml, £21.00 at Nail Polish Direct – buy here

Pros: Quick drying, 7-free
Cons: Strong odor, pricey
Rating: 8/10

Formulated with polymers that work to increase flexibility, Bend Don’t Break promises to turn weak nails into resilient ones, but does it hold up to these claims?

For starters, the quick-drying formula is a plus. With two coats put to the test three times a week, my nails felt pretty rock solid. I can also report back that, impressively, they survived a brutal kitchen drawer incident in which only my nail polish chipped, but the nail itself stayed in one piece. Impressive.

Wearing this alone, my nails felt smooth, protected, and even brighter. 

My only gripe would be the price, at £21.00, this isn’t the most affordable option out there, however, with all being said – it’s reliable and does the job well. 

The formula is also vegan and 7 free (free of 7 of the toxic chemicals that can sometimes be found in nail products) However, it is worth noting that more brands are removing harmful ingredients from their formulas these days, so 7 free products are not as rare as they were a decade ago. However, for such an intensive and powerful strengthening product, this is great news.

Palette London

  • Strengthening Base Coat 11ml – £9 at Anthrologie – buy here

Pros: 21-free, vegan, halal accredited
Cons: Growth results may take longer, but promising!
Rating: 7/10

Firstly, can we take a second to admire this adorable packaging? However, it’s not just an aesthetically pleasing bottle we’re after here; Palette products are pretty impressive regardless.

Not only is this 70% plant-based and fully recyclable (even the brush is made from castor bean oil!) With a 21-free, vegan formula, and some pretty impressive clinical studies, I was excited to get painting. The application was speedy, and even with minimal drying time required; great for those of us on the go. 

I added this to my routine three times a week and found that it worked fantastic as a priming base coat.  All Palette products contain The Super 3, a concentration consisting of arginine, tea tree oil, and vitamin E These ingredients work together to fight against brittleness, flaking, and breakage. 

Leighton Denny

  • Leighton Denny Renovate Shield 12ml, £13.05 at Amazon – buy here

Pros: 73% Plant-based, contains Panthenol and vitamin E
Cons: None
Rating: 8/10

Touted as a ‘nourishing, smoothing, rejuvenating facial for nails’ and with ingredients such as nourishing avocado oil, rice bran oil and vitamin E, Leighton Denny Renovate Shield might appear to be more of an oily treatment than a strengthening base coat, but this targeted treatment base works hard to rebuild and protect, whilst including a cocktail of nutritive ingredients to turn around the flakiest of nails. 

I initially wore two coats under my nail colour and then another coat was applied each other day to provide an extra protective shield. This resulted in no breakages, and nails that looked and felt healthy. To get the full “nail facial” experience, the brand has an accompanying Renovate Cream and Duplex Buffer to help seal the nail surface for the treatment to adhere to. 

Protein Formula for Nails

  • Protein Formula 4 – Strengthen 15ml £14.95 – buy here

Pros: An impressive range of active ingredients
Cons: Invisible formula – although this could be a plus for many
Rating: 9/10

With a range of four unique formulas, specific to your nail needs, Protein Formula really does have all bases covered (no pun). As someone with thin, cracking nails, I opted for the most intense base of the bunch: number 4.

With an impressive range of hardworking ingredients (biotin, panthenol, AHAS, hexanal to name a few)  the formula works to build upon the existing keratin found in nails, which can be lost by a lack of nutrients in our diet.

The generous 15ml bottle instructs that one coat is applied daily for best results. Upon application, I found that this dried quickly and noticed that it didn’t have the same glossy effect as some of the other strengtheners tested. Not a dealbreaker by any means, but worth pointing out. 

After a week of usage, my nails definitely felt more resilient and less brittle, which may be from the daily reapplication. Within two weeks, there was a noticeable difference, and I found myself (much to the annoyance of my work colleagues) satisfyingly tapping my nails at my desk. 

The brand notes that it’s important to avoid over usage which can cause over-strengthening (no, I was not aware of this either) which can result in dryness. Once nails have been nursed back to optimal health, you can replace your Number 4 formula with Number 1, formulated to maintain the nail strength that has now been built up. 

Barry M

  • Mani Hero Strengthen 10ml, £4.49 at Boots – buy here

Pros: Inexpensive with a great selection of ingredients
Cons: Less intensive than others 
Rating: 7/10

Inexpensive, great quality, and coming in an array of vivid shades, Barry M’s nail paints are a staple product in any nail aficionado's stash, but you may not be aware that the homegrown brand has also recently added a nail treatment range to their ever-expanding line and it’s pretty impressive for the price. 

Containing PHA’s and AHA’s to restructure, the strengthening treatment is not just great for the price, but great in general, rivaling many pricier options on the market. Easy to use on a regular basis, the violet-hued base goes on clear and dries semi-shiny, with a slight tack, allowing polish to glide on top evenly.

I used two coats and applied on a daily basis to give my nails an extra protective layer (at such a great price, why not?) This didn’t feel as intensive as some of the others but still includes a selection of beneficial ingredients; definitely a great one to go for, but if your nails are in a dire state, it may be better to opt for something stronger. 


  • Strengthen & Breathe 15ml, £18.50 – buy here

Pros: Breathable, halal, gluten-free, 12 free
Cons: Expensive 
Rating: 8/10

Multi-award-winning brand, Nailberry is committed to clean, toxin-free luxury nail products. We also equally adore the attention to detail and chic box that the bottle comes packaged in, but in terms of nail strengthening, do they deliver? 

Strengthen & Breathe is recommended to be used once or twice a week as a stand-alone reparative treatment, or to replace your usual base coat. The milky white base dries clear, and instantly forms a smooth, protective layer on my nails, drying in a minute or so without any pesky streaks.

After one application, my nails even looked like they were in perfect condition immediately 

After two weeks of wear, I did notice that, underneath the polish, my nails did indeed look brighter and felt smoother. 

Impressively, this is also free of alcohol as well as being vegan, cruelty-free and halal-approved.  At £18.50, it may be on the slightly higher end of affordability, but for a luxury option, this is a nice pick. 


  • Nailtrition 18ml, £15.99 – buy here

Pros: Subtle pink shimmer, easy-to-grip cap on bottle ensures foolproof application
Cons: Slightly tacky when dry
Rating: 9/10

Designed to stimulate growth within two weeks, Orly’s Nailtrition contains a number of hero ingredients, such as calcium, hydrolyzed keratin and wheat protein, all working together to speed up growth on nails that continuously split and peel. 

The wide brush evenly distributed to the nail, and bonded nicely to it. I also loved the subtle pink shimmer that it gave. Orly says that this helps disguise nail imperfections (which is great news, as I have many!) Using two coats per application was sufficient, to begin with – although I did apply an extra sneaky coat on top of my polish throughout the week to top up on protection. 

Usage over two weeks definitely resulted in my nails feeling thicker and stronger and overall, more healthy. With this in mind, I’d say that Orly lives up to its promises. 

As an incredibly clumsy nail painter, I also appreciated the smart easy grip cap on the bottle to avoid any mishaps, or in my case, sofa drips.

Nail Hardener

  • Nail Hardener 14ml, £10.95 at Lena Nail Polish – buy here

Pros: 14ml size, quick drying 
Cons: None
Rating: 9/10 

Award-winning, independent UK nail brand Lena sparked my attention instantly with their array of gorgeous jewel-toned and holographic glitter shades, which are also breathable and follow the criteria to be approved as Halal products. However, it is important to note that the brand’s signature nail hardener is not breathable or water permeable, due to being a treatment product. This information is very clearly detailed on the brand’s website though. 

Claiming to repair the nail bed from repeated manicures (something I am very guilty of), I was impressed by the quick drying glossy base, which seemed sufficient as one single layer. The brand recommends using 2-3 times a week for a period of 30 days, in which results should begin to show. In addition, this also works as a fantastic base coat, combining strengthening benefits along with a great base for colour. 

After a week of usage, the tips of my nails are thicker and more resilient. 

If you’re tempted, the brand also has an ongoing buy 2 get one free offer, so you can combine your new treatment with some new seasonal hues. 


  • Rapid Growth 15ml, £3.95 – buy here

Pros: Cheap
Cons: Took slightly longer to dry than others
Rating: 8/10

If you’re looking for a generously sized treatment polish on a lower budget, W7’s rapid growth formula is the one to be on your radar. At the price of a latte, this reparative base coat provides a shiny, protective layer, like many of the others, but at a much cheaper price point. 

The cruelty-free, vegan formula uses a nice, particularly thick brush which evenly coats the nails. Slightly more liquidy than others and taking a little longer to dry, I’d recommend applying two thin coats, so as to not over-coat the nail. 

With the usage of two coats three times a week, my nails maintained their length and felt healthy. Although no rapid growth was witnessed, we all know that we good things take time, so with constant usage over a longer period, I’ll continue to trial this.

Nails Inc 

  • Gimme Strength 14ml, 9.00 – buy here

Pros: Infused with vegan collagen, slightly luminescent finish 
Cons: Formula may thicken quicker than others
Rating:  8/10

Infused with a cocktail of rich, nourishing ingredients, Nails Inn’s Gimme Strength is somewhat of a smoothie for the growth of strong, long nails.

Vegan collagen, and rich active oils (such as apricot, avocado, rose canina oil – amongst others) provide support and nutrients to damaged, weak nails – especially those that have perhaps had one too many gel manicures.

The slightly luminous creamy-hued formula gives nails a slight tint with a very subtle glimmer; think of it as a highlighter for bare nails. Alongside the appearance, my nails felt smooth and less dehydrated instantly, thanks to the great range of nutritive ingredients. I’d advise being careful with application and ensuring that each coat is fully dry before reapplying to avoid streakiness and uneven layers. 

Mii Cosmetics

  • Strong & Stable Base Coat 9ml £13.00 at Mii Cosmetics – buy here

Pros: Comes in two sizes, ethically sourced and sustainable ingredients. Good for ridges. 
Cons: None 
Rating: 9/10

Coming in a handy option of two sizes, Mii’s Strong & Stable base coat is formulated to bring thin and peeling nails back to life. With the addition of pistacia resin oil (which promotes keratin growth and also contains healing properties), this dual-purpose strengthening treatment dries down to a glossy finish and also helps to maintain maximum wear out of your polish.

I can report back very minimal edge wear of my colour on the week I applied this product.

The medium-sized brush was great, as it ensured an even distribution of product with no overloading. Two swipes of polish work best with this product. 

Mii’s directions recommend applying this every other day whilst using this specifically as a treatment. 

After 8/9 days of continuously using this, the nasty ridge on my index finger had considerably improved after using this product – pretty impressive. 


  • Repair Mode Bond Building Nail Serum 9ml, £25.42 – buy here

Pros: Easy to apply formulation, absorbs into nails instantly. Can be worn under a base coat. Invisible
Cons: Pricey 
Rating: 9/10

The first of its kind, OPI’s Repair Mode isn’t a strengthening base coat like the others, but a bond-building nail serum, think of it as Olaplex treatment but for nails. Using a specialist patented ‘Ulti-Plex’ technology, Repair Mode not only rebuilds keratin but also creates new bonds in nails, this little black glass bottle claims to be the only nail-strengthening product you’ll need. 

Intrigued by the claims of OPI’s newest strengthening offering, I followed the instructions to apply twice a day for a period of 6 days. 

Advertised as a serum, I expedited this to have an oily consistency, but this was not the case at all, and it was absorbed immediately. Although this isn’t technically a base coat, my nails still felt as though there was a protective, albeit, invisible layer on them. Within a couple of days of usage, my nails felt less flaky at the tips, and ridges felt much smoother to the touch. 

I’ll be looking forward to incorporating this into my nail care routine and using it in tandem with a restorative base coat. 


  • Nail Strengthener 11ml, £8.99 – buy here

Pros: Affordable clean pick, 21 free, 80% bio-sourced, UK-based 
Cons: None 
Rating: 8/10

Promising to harden and restore nails whilst still being a 21-free formula, I was intrigued to see how Earthy’s strengthening polish compared to the others tested, With sustainable bamboo caps, and ingredients derived from corn, sugar cane, and plants, this is no doubt, the cleanest pick of the bunch. 

The wide brush delivered a smooth gloss to my nails and was touch dry within a minute and a half – enabling a clean slick of polish to be painted on top.

While Earthy recommends using this twice a week, I found myself using it more often on top of my colour to add an extra shield of protection. 

One of the key ingredients in this formula is bamboo extract – known to be a great source of collagen and silka, which contributes to nail growth. 

With such impressive green credentials, this is definitely our number one clean beauty pick. 

Where to buy nail strengtheners 

The good news is, you’ll be able to find nail strengtheners easily. Some of our top picks, such as Sally Hansen, Barry M and Nails Inc can be found at the majority of high street chemists, such as Boots and Superdrug, both of which offer click-and-collect options as well as speedy home delivery if you’re not able to get to the high street.

Alongside the high street, Amazon, Sephora, Nail Polish Direct and Cult Beauty stock a number of our top picks 

What to eat to strengthen nails 

Yao recommends a diet rich in iron, zinc and calcium to help support nail growth. She notes that spinach contains the most calcium out of all leafy greens. Alongside this, another key ingredient for nail growth is biotin, found in milk and eggs. This is also commonly known for its positive effects on hair growth as well as our nails.

What is the best nail strengthener?

As with most treatment products, results can vary with individuals — your natural nail condition will play a big part in how effective each product is. 

For those in need of more intense treatment, Protein Formula I Strengthen  and Jessica Bend Don’t Break seem to be the best options for heavily damaged nails.

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Suffer from ridges and peeling? You might want to opt for Mii Strong and Stable, which worked wonders for me.

If you’re looking for a purse-friendly all-rounder before investing in any of the pricier options on our list, W7 and Barry M are a great place to start.

Sun Vouchers is your one-stop shop for every deal and discount code currently available from your favourite online retailers. Don’t click ‘buy’ until you’ve checked Sun Vouchers for a discount code to apply to your basket.

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