Nail strengtheners for me, have only been a product I have used in the last 5 years or so. I have dabbled with different brands and got varying results, depending on state of my own nails and how long I used the strengtheners for.
I have had pretty much every type of nail complaint over the years, brittle, bendy, flaking and peeling and purchased prescriptive nail polishes to hopefully help eradicate my nail concerns. The consensus being some success over short periods of time, but never longer term.
With that in mind it got me thinking are these products ever intended to be used in this manner? I also thought some of the claims from these strengthening polishes are possibly a little descriptive and too hopeful with end results.
After looking at research, looking behind the marketing and the hype surrounding certain strengthening products, we have to look to the facts and see how nails grow to determine what is myth and what is fact.
I hope in this post I can help you see what is achievable with a nail strengthener and what is down to good genes and other contributing factors.
THE FIVE FEATURES OF HEALTHY NAILS
For healthy nails we need to have 5 important properties together combined – strength, hardness, flexibility, toughness and wear resistance.
Any strengthener we use needs to contribute to all of these properties not to just one or two, as this would be detrimental to the nail.
So when choosing a nail strengthener look at the description of the product, how it works and whether or not any of these key properties are addressed in the formula.
Ideally we need to incorporate all five properties within our strengthening formula.
ARE LONGER NAILS, STRONGER NAILS?
When we use a nail strengthener with repeated applications on our short nails – they grow, and over time we get results and continue to use it. As our nails get longer, thinking that longer and stronger nails are better healthy nails. Yet longer nails that become strong are more likely to snap at the weakest point.
Any knocks or hits they have taken over our lifetime are the cause of our weak points. Have you ever noticed your nails always break when they get to a certain point or same place on your nail bed? If your nails catch at certain places on your nails? This is why.
Having longer nails is directly related to not breaking them. Yet down the line and at some point they more than likely will eventually break.
Look at your nail shape, how it grows and determine what would be causing this.
BUILDING A HEALTHY NAIL WITH STRENGTHENERS
A healthy nail foundation can only be made by the nail matrix, this is directly behind your cuticle line, where all forming nail cells are produced.
The quality of those nail cells is directly related to your health and diet. No external nail product can build a healthy nail foundation. So if a nail strengthener claims to contribute to building a healthy nail, I would suggest this is definitely not the case.
I feel eating food containing key nutrients or taking them in supplement form contributes more to your nails health and optimal cell production than any nail strengthener.
If you want to find out more about key nutrients and vitamins for nails, see my blog post on Vitamins & Supplements for your Nails for more info.
HYDRATING NAIL FORMULAS, DO THEY WORK?
Within your nail you have approximately 50 to 100 layers of nail keratin, which are kept healthy by the nail bed pushing natural body oils up into the nail plate, rehydrating the nail bed.
Healthy nails contain 18% moisture and 5% oil. Our nails tend to pep up when you apply natural oils which are similar in makeup to our own natural skin oils. If our nails would keep this level of hydration this would be enough for them to be relatively healthy.
However, due to our modern way of life, we wash our hands on a regular basis which strips them of these levels of moisture. So ensuring nail hydration is key to nail health.
Applying a layer of polish, be it base coat or a nail strengthener, is good for your nails.
Having a barrier on the nail plate blocks water absorption, which is the main culprit for peeling nails. If this concern affects you, remember natural nails and water are a big no no, so pop something on your nails.
Polish also stops soapy detergents and water stripping the oils from your nail plate, so even if you apply something to your nails it will keep hydration in.
No nail strengthener will actually contribute to hydration, it will just seal in moisture levels that are already there to begin with.
ENRICHING, INFUSING AND PENETRATING FORMULAS
Any nail strengthener describing itself as enriched or infused with an ingredient which will to penetrate the nail plate is definately a claim.
A product maybe infused with a host of ingredients, but unless they contain a natural nail like oil, would they actually penetrate the nail bed.
After using the product and you have removed the polish barrier, the likelihood is your nail will be removed of armour and strength provided by the polish and will be ultimately just as weak as before underneath.
Regardless of what claims your nail strengthener might have, your nails will not generally grow faster.
Your nails are always growing at a consistent pace unless you are pregnant, move somewhere warm with more sunshine gaining essential vitamin D or you have damaged your nails which then kickstarts growth.
Growing nails stronger and healthier can only be attributed to your bodies own individual growth function.
You can only eat a wide and varied diet to contribute to your own bodies functions in this case, to ensure optimal cell reproduction, essential for healthy nails.
YOUR NAIL TYPE
If you are considering using a nail strengthening product, I think it is best to consider your own nail type, your own nail needs. How is your nail currently functioning with your current regime? What are your concerns? Ridging? Flaking? Peeling? Brittleness? Bendy Nails?
Look at ingredients, their purposes and what the strengthener claims to do on the whole.
Consider what has been said in my post and re-evaluate if the product you are contemplating buying is for you. Think how will the product will lend itself to your concern, would it help?
For example lets say you are considering using a hardening nail product and your nails are on the brittle side. Using a hardener would make them likely to crack and break. This is due to the nail underneath the hardener still being brittle, and most nail strengthening products do not address brittleness. Ideally you need a matching product for your needs, a formula which adds suppleness and flexibility.
Think of your nail concern through diet, what could address that concern through a missing key nutrient or something you may possibly have a deficiency in. Taking a supplement to help nourish your nails from the inside out, especially if you have specifc nail concerns. Target your nail concern through diet and specific prescriptive nail supplements which help with your particular nail symptom.
If you have several nail issues, tailor products as much as you can for your needs, try and find a formula for you. But do keep in mind the 5 healthy nails properties before addressing them with your prescriptive nail choices.
MY 2 CENTS
I feel strengtheners overall are not intended for long term use but for short bursts and topped up occasionally work well for general strength.
I will continue to use them along with upping my nail nutrition through diet and supplements.
I would recommend using a strengthener in conjunction with other methods to encourage your overall nail health.
Consider diet, how you use your hands and nails, and anything you do which might contribute to your own nail health.
There was the truth on nail strengtheners, warts and all!
What are your thoughts on nail strengtheners, do you use them? Do you consider you nail needs before making a purchase?
Let me know in the comments.