ask the strategist

Ask the Strategist: What’s the Best Nail Strengthener?

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In our new advice column, Ask the Strategist, we take your most burning shopping questions and scour friends, call up experts, and draw from personal experience to answer them. As always, please comment with one of your own — we’re here to help.

Question: What are the best products to strengthen nails?

Actually, we’ve somewhat addressed this question before, with posts about Healthy Hoof nail cream that’s originally meant for horses, but also helps strengthen and grow human fingernails, and Dior’s Nail Glow, which is a “nail enhancer” that looks like an instant French manicure (we’ve also written about polishes that just don’t chip). Still, to expand on this, I spoke with three experts whose answers are below.

Nina Werman, the founder of Valley Nails, a salon that’s given manicures to Willow Smith and Chrissy Teigen, first recommends keeping your nails moisturized because “they become brittle and dry in the winter,” she says. Her favorite nail oil is CND’s nail-and-cuticle conditioner, which has jojoba oil and vitamin E, “those are really important in terms of peeling nails and brittle nails that are drying out.”

It’s also important to be diligent about trimming your nails, which is like “trimming dead ends of hair; they split if you don’t,” Werman says. Plus, “it stimulates growth. It stimulates circulation.” Here at the Strategist, we’ve previously written about our favorite nail clipper, the Japanese Green Bell Clipper.

Werman also suggests a couple of clear polishes that stimulate growth and strengthening. There’s Hard Rock by Deborah Lippmann, which is toxin-free and great for in between polishes, especially gel polishes. Werman says, “It’s really good as recovery. The oil that the nails aren’t receiving during gels makes them brittle.”

There’s also Kur by Londontown, which is the nail hardener and base coat Werman uses at Valley. “The Kur is a cute bottle,” she says.

Next, I spoke with Kathleen Hou, the Cut’s beauty editor, who immediately directed me to a post she wrote four years ago that she still stands behind. It was about Perfect Formula’s Gel Coat Color, “This made my nails strong like oxen,” she told me. The thing to note about Perfect Formula is that wearing it also makes it look like you got a manicure — Hou compared the powder-pink color to Essie’s Mademoiselle — which is a great twofer of pretty nails and strong nails.

Hou also recommended Biotin gummy vitamins, which strengthen nails and promote hair growth, and are also a tasty gummy. A threefer. I actually take Biotin, but in pill form, and can confirm that my nails have become rock solid.

Lastly, I reached out to Ruth Kallens, founder of Van Court Nail Salon, who had one favorite strengthener, “I love Maxus Nail Strengthening Base and Top Coats. They’re great for anyone coming off gels or for folks who just need stronger nails.” Maxus’s straight-up strengthener is sold out on both the Maxus website and Amazon, but the strengthening base coat with amino acids and tea-tree oil is still available and should work just as well.

We’d love to hear from you. If you have any burning questions, please leave them for us in the comments.

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Ask the Strategist: What’s the Best Nail Strengthener?