12 best nail treatments and strengtheners
Nails need a little extra TLC in harsh wintry weather, so try our pick of the best nail saviours
Our nails can become weak and brittle due to a variety of factors; splitting, cracking and peeling can be due to diet, cold weather, washing up without gloves and poor nail maintenance.
We’re also a nation of gel addicts – hard gels have to be filed off, and soft ones soak off in acetone. Either way there is impact on the nail.
Whatever nail problem you have, there’s a repairing, protecting, rebuilding product out there to maintain strong nourished nails.
We've tested a range of products to find the ones that really work. You need to be patient though, as you won’t see results for at least a couple of weeks, often longer.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
The Organic Pharmacy lemon & neem nail oil: £26, The Organic Pharmacy
Nail strengthening ingredient neem and nourishing jojoba and wheatgerm do the hard work, while the zesty hit of lemon makes this oil a real joy to use. You only need one drop per nail – we applied to our hands and feet every night – and nails immediately look glossy and healthy. Three weeks in and the skin around our nails felt healthier, stronger and more flexible. Massaging the oil in helps with improving circulation too, especially on your toes.
OPI nail envy nail strengthener original formula: £18.65, Amazon
Extra calcium and wheat protein in this cult classic treatment rebuilds layers of the nail and adds strength to weak, soft nails or ones damaged by enhancements. Apply two coats when you first apply and add another coat every other day. After a week, remove and start again. We found these extra layers of protection also added bulk to nails that feel thin. It’s a good one to use if you’re not wearing any colour as it dries to a high gloss finish within 60 seconds, or it can be used as a base coat. Just a couple of week’s use and we found nails were starting to feel stronger.
Nail HQ protect & repair: £7.99, Amazon
This easy to use clear treatment is the one to choose if your nails are weakened, peeling or brittle as a result of using UV gels or acrylic nails. Simply apply one coat to clean dry nails and reapply daily over existing coats. After five days, remove with a gentle nail polish remover and re-start.
We tested it for just over two weeks following this process and nails definitely felt more flexible and hydrated. The rice and soy protein add moisture and hydration to improve condition, in what we found was a relatively short time.
Nailberry little treasure cuticle oil: £17, Nailberry
Powered by concentrated sweet almond oil, renowned for its ability to protect nails and cuticles from peeling, dryness and cracking, plus vitamins A, E, B1, B2 and B6 to hydrate nails, this dropper style bottle is easy to use and delivers an uplifting zesty citrus scent. It’s also vegan, cruelty-free and gluten-free.
Nailtiques protein formula no2: £11.80, escentual.com
Splitting, peeling weak nails that won’t grow? We found they only need 2-3 weeks with this treatment to make quite a significant improvement. It’s easy to use, just apply daily without colour nail polish and remove each week with a non-acetone remover and start the process again. Nails felt stronger and seemed to be growing faster too after a month’s use. If you don’t find an improvement in six weeks, formula no2 plus will step it up a gear.
Mavala scientifique k+ nail hardener: £15.70, John Lewis & Partners
Soft nails that split and peel need a hardener and this one is the best we've used in a long time. The first ever product from Mavala, it was reformulated last year to include added keratin for nourishment to ensure nails are more resistant to breaking. You can use it two to three times a week, and once dry you can follow on with a base coat and colour. Unlike some hardeners, we found it didn’t make nails brittle, just hard and strong.
Dr Hauschka neem nail and cuticle oil: £26.50, Feel Unique
This oil provides a cuticle softening, nail strengthening blend of neem leaf extract to strengthen the keratin, apricot kernel oil to moisturise nails and increase flexibility, and chamomile to soften cuticles. It’s 100 per cent natural and organic, free from synthetic fragrances, dyes, preservatives, mineral oils and silicon, and is also vegan and cruelty-free. If you like products as natural and organic as possible, this one’s for you.
Decleor cica botanic balm: £35, Decelor
If the cuticles or the skin around your nails need some TLC, this handbag friendly multi-purpose balm is great to keep at hand, especially in winter when our skin is constantly battling the changes in temperature between central heating and the cold.
It’s also great to use if a nail oil is too oily and slippery for you to get on with the day. The healing essential oils in the balm (eucalyptus, rosemary and geranium) act like a protective bandage to repair damaged skin, while the oils also drip feed the skin 24 hours of nutrition and moisture. Perfect for ensuring nails are healthy from the nail bed up.
Nails Inc nailkale superfood base coat: £15, John Lewis & Partners
This powerhouse of nail strengthening goodies includes antioxidant kale extract, calcium, superfoods aloe vera, lemon, ginseng, pomegranate and grape, and vitamins A, C, E, F and H, to deliver high level hydration and nourishment to weakened nails – plus anti-breakage and anti-splitting protection.
We found after only a couple of weeks use – two coats applied three times a week – nails looked smoother, brighter and healthier. And if you have gel nails, then Nails Inc also do a specific recovery treatment between gels, gel rehab, to rehydrate nails in just 30 minutes.
Sally Hansen advanced hard as nails: £4.75, Boots
The nylon, omega 3 and soy in this hardener helps protect, strengthen and fill in the ridges, fortifying fragile nails to reduce peeling, chipping and splitting. Simple to use, we just applied 2-3 coats, allowing each one to dry before the next went on, and this reinforces the nail and tip. It’s clear and glossy and great if you’re on a beauty budget too.
Deborah Lippman the cure: £18, Nail Polish Direct
Celebrity manicurist to the stars and go-to nail expert for magazines including Vogue, InStyle, and Elle, Deborah knows her stuff when it comes to keeping nails healthy and gorgeous. Say goodbye to dry skin around the nails with her soothing, repairing cuticle cream. Packed with antioxidant vitamins, we found it transformed delicate skin around the nails leaving skin ultra-nourished and hydrated. The nails themselves also looked healthier and felt more resilient to breakage.
Leighton Denny renovate nail repair cream: £12, Look Fantastic
Vitamins and essential oils in this repair cream ensure flaking, cracked, dull and unhealthy nails are nourished and repaired. It’s an easily portable tube so if you forget to apply, just keep it in your bag or on your desk. We used it twice a day and after a couple of weeks we saw a good improvement in the flexibility of our nails.
The verdict: Nail treatments and strengheners
For general and long-term nail health, The Organic Pharmacy nail oil wins hands down for improving the look and flexibility of nails. Nailtiques is also great for splitting or peeling nails, while Nail HQ is best to use after UV gels or acrylics.
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