The Best Nail Hardener: A Polished Review
So, your nails are in trouble. Maybe you’ve worn acrylics for awhile and now your natural nails are wiped out. Or maybe you work with chemicals or lots of water, leaving your nails soft and easily damaged. Or maybe have never been able to figure out why, but your nails are weak, soft, and peel instead of growing. If this sounds familiar, you’re probably in search of a good nail hardener. But with so many on the market, which nail hardeners are really the best? In this article I’ll describe the ways nail hardeners work, and I’ll offer reviews on some of the best products... getting you well on your way to harder, stronger nails. Shall we?
But isn’t formaldehyde bad for us?
Formaldehyde products are extremely effective for helping nails become harder; however, use of formaldehyde is a controversial subject as it has been linked to cancer risk and can cause allergic reactions in many people. However, the FDA considers formaldehyde a safe ingredient in nail hardeners as long as it makes up no more than 5% of the product, and recommends that the product be applied only to the nail tips and not the cuticles. In this type of product formaldehyde is used in a diluted solution known as formalin or methylin glycol, in case you are curious about the ingredients.
So What Is A Nail Hardener Anyway?
Nail hardener is a product that helps your nails become harder. There are generally two types of nail hardener; those that use formaldehyde as the active ingredient, and those that don’t. Formaldehyde interacts with the keratin protein that human nails are made of; it causes the keratin to cross-link its fibers, causing more strands to be built - basically making a stronger and more durable mesh within the very substance of your nails. Some people are highly sensitive to formaldehyde, and in that case may find use of these products uncomfortable; paper-thin nails may also be sensitive when using these products. However, nail hardeners containing formaldehyde are generally the best, most effective option.
Too hard can be a problem too.
One potential issue with nail hardeners is over-hardening. As a nail hardens the moisture is being drawn out, which can lead to hard but brittle nails, resulting in breakage. To avoid this problem, use a cuticle oil or moisturizer daily, massaging it into the nail plate well. Apply it at a different time of day than your hardener, so the oil doesn’t interfere with the product’s adhesion.
The other type of nail hardener does not use formaldehyde, and does not interact with the keratin in the nail. Rather, it forms a protective shield over the nail plate, creating a hard surface that allows the natural nail underneath to grow stronger and harder. These products also contain conditioners so they are less drying than formaldehyde options, and generally safer for sensitive users. Let’s take a look at a few options and compare and review the best nail hardeners!
Quimica Alemana Nail Hardener
Best Nail Hardener For Quick Growth: Quimica Alemana
Quimica Alemana is one of the very best nail hardeners out there. Made in Columbia with a German formula, it is a multi-functioning product. Containing formaldehyde, it does cause the nail’s keratin structure to strengthen; but it also forms a protective shield over the nail, decreasing chips and allowing soft nails time to grow.
Start with applying a thin coat once a week; this product is that effective. It can be used as a base coat to improve nail polish adhesion, and can be applied weekly for nail upkeep.
Mavala Scientific Original Hardener
Best Nail Hardener For Fragile Nail Tips: Mavala Scientifique
This Swiss formula has been around for decades and reviews very well. It works on nail tips that are fragile and peel or break easily. To use Mavala, you apply it carefully to nail tips only and allow it to sink in. Then wash hands and proceed as usual.
This product needs to go directly on the nail to benefit; you can’t put it on over other polish. Formaldehyde is the active ingredient so it works to make the nails physically stronger; but you do want to avoid putting this product on your skin.
If growing your nails out past nubs is a struggle for you, Mavala Scientifique may be the perfect answer.
Nail Tek Transition Care Kit
Best Hardening System For Restoring Nails After Acrylics
If you are trying to grow your natural nails after wearing acrylics, your nails will likely be extremely thin, damaged, and sensitive. In that case, a system like this by Nail Tek is your best nail hardener option.
This kit offers a two-step system designed to coax your nails back to life without discomfort. Offering a ridge-filling base coat, a protective top coat, and a rejuvenating nail oil, this system does contain formaldehyde but not in such high concentrations. It makes for a much gentler transition when building up stronger, natural nails, and promises not to disappoint.
Daby Nail Hardener
Best Non-Formaldehyde Nail Hardener
Daby contains no formaldehyde. Instead, it uses calcium and protein polymers to form a hard coating over the nail, bonding layers together and allowing the nail to grow out naturally.
Use this hardener on its own or over nail polish to give your nails the best resilience. This product has been around for a long time and many users swear by it.
DeLore Organic Hardener & Polish Dryer
Best Holistic Nail Care For Harder Nails
If you want a completely different approach to nail hardening, your best option is to try DeLore Organics Nail Hardener. This product uses purified oils that penetrate deep into the nail bed, hydrating deeply and restoring cuticle health. It works on the philosophy that the better your nail hydration, the healthier, harder and stronger your nails will be.
It’s a great option to try to has the added benefit of improving your skin and cuticles besides the nail. DeLore Organics does contain peanut and wheat germ oils, so approach with caution in case of allergies.
Exercise Caution When Trying Any New Products On Sensitive Nails
If your nails are thin and weak, they will likely be sensitive to many things - including heat and cold and some products. However, if you apply a product and experience noticeable pain, remove it immediately and wait a day before trying again. Your nails may not be ready, or you may be experiencing an allergic reaction to the product. In any case, exercise caution when trying any new product on sensitive nails.
Nail Hardener Poll
The Best Nail Hardeners: Stronger Nails Are On The Way
I hope this has been helpful in demystifying the different types of nail hardeners. Each one has its strengths (pun intended) and each will suit a different need, but all will work and do a great job of making your nails hard and strong. If you try one I’d love to hear your experiences - or perhaps you have another tip for hardening soft and fragile nails? Let’s help each other by sharing info in the comments.
Sarah (author) from Canada on August 03, 2014:
Awesome! Thanks for sharing that tip!
Jasmeet Kaur from India on August 03, 2014:
Yeah!! I always suggest my clients to use olive oil. It is the easiest thing, but the result will be visible only on regular usage and long run!!
Sarah (author) from Canada on August 02, 2014:
Thanks for sharing, Jasmeetk! So it sounds like in your experience having well-hydrated nails has made a huge difference in keeping them healthy and strong, despite lots of exposure to polish remover. Thanks for sharing your tip about using olive oil - I'm sure that will be helpful to other readers as well. It's certainly an easy thing to try at home :)
Jasmeet Kaur from India on August 01, 2014:
You have shared really informative hub for those who have weak nails. I never used nail hardener and I used to change my nail polish quite frequent because I am nailart blog writer. Whenever I change my nailart, I do massage my nails with olive oil and nothing else. This is what made my nails strong, hard and healthy :)