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Nail Hardener vs Nail Strengthener: A Quick Guide to Stronger Nails

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Nail Hardener vs Nail Strengthener, Nail Strengthener, Nail Hardener

Damaged nails are never fun to deal with.  Having brittle, chipped and dry nails can hurt (especially if the nail bed is exposed) and also don’t look the healthiest.  Among the vast array of nail care products available in the market to help with these issues, two kinds stand out: nail hardeners and strengtheners.  Both play vital roles in the health and overall strength of your nails.  With that said however, it’s essential to understand the differences between the two so you can decide what’s best for your individual needs.  That’s why today we’re comparing nail hardener vs nail strengthener so you know what product’s best for your nails.

Nail hardeners are primarily formulated to increase the rigidity of the nail plate, making it more resistant to breakage and chipping. They usually contain protein and keratin, ingredients that fortify the nail structure. Nail hardeners can be an excellent choice for people with brittle nails or for those who want to grow their nails but struggle with continuous breakage.

On the other hand, nail strengtheners typically focus on maintaining the suppleness and flexibility of the nails. They contain ingredients like vitamins, minerals, and natural oils that nourish and hydrate, reducing the risk of splitting or peeling. Nail strengtheners are best suited for those who have weaker nails, which tend to bend, split, or peel easily.

Both nail hardeners and nail strengtheners offer unique benefits to improve nail health. Understanding the differences between the two can help you choose the product that will best meet your specific nail care needs!

Nail Hardener vs Nail Strengthener

Main Differences

Nail hardeners and nail strengtheners are both designed to improve the condition of your nails, but they target different issues. In general, nail hardeners aim to make nails less brittle and less prone to breakage, while nail strengtheners help nails grow longer and stronger.

  • Nail Hardener: These products typically contain ingredients like formaldehyde or calcium, which work to harden the nail plate by creating chemical bonds between the nail layers. This increased hardness helps reduce chipping, cracking, and brittleness.
  • Nail Strengthener: Strengtheners usually feature nourishing ingredients such as vitamins, proteins, or biotin that promote healthy nail growth. By improving the overall condition of the nails, they become more resilient and can grow longer without splitting or breaking.

Product Formulas

There is some overlap between nail hardeners and nail strengtheners in terms of ingredients and formulas. However, they are often geared toward addressing specific nail concerns. Hardeners generally have a higher concentration of hardening agents, while strengtheners focus more on nourishing and fortifying ingredients.

Nail Hardener Ingredients  Nail Strengthener Ingredients 
Formaldehyde Proteins
Calcium Biotin
Dimethyl-urea Vitamins
Ethyl acetate Keratin

Both types of products can be applied in a similar fashion, typically as a base coat before nail polish or as a standalone treatment. It’s important to read the instructions on each product to ensure you’re using it correctly and achieving the best results.

Benefits of Nail Hardener

Nail hardeners provide a protective layer to the nails, helping prevent breakage and encouraging healthy growth.

Our favourite Nail Hardener 

Our go to nail hardener is the Sally Hansen Diamond Strength Hardener.  Their micro diamond and titanium formula instantly bonds to strengthen and helps seal fragile nail layers with a nearly shatterproof, protective shield.  It helps put an end to breakage splitting and tearing of nails.

Nail Hardener vs Nail Strengthener, Nail Strengthener, Nail Hardener, Sally Hansen hardener


Who Should Use

Individuals with weak, brittle, or peeling nails may benefit from using a nail hardener.  Typically, these issues are caused by factors such as frequent exposure to water, harsh chemicals, or constant use of nail polish. Nail hardeners can help rebuild the strength and integrity of the nails to protect and defend them against these elements.

Key Ingredients

There are several common ingredients in nail hardeners that contribute to their strengthening properties. Some of these include:

  • Formaldehyde: This ingredient works by cross-linking the keratin proteins in the nail plate, making them harder and more resilient.
  • Hydrolyzed proteins: Hydrolyzed keratin, silk, or wheat protein can help strengthen the nails by providing additional proteins for rebuilding the nail plate.
  • Calcium: Calcium is an essential mineral for nail health, which can be included in nail hardeners to provide extra support and fortification.
  • Biotin: Biotin supports healthy nail growth, and its inclusion in a nail hardener can contribute to stronger, healthier nails.

By using a nail hardener with these key ingredients, individuals with weak or brittle nails can experience improvement in the overall health and appearance of their nails.


Benefits of Nail Strengthener

Nail strengtheners are formulated to help individuals maintain healthy nails by promoting stronger, more resilient natural nails. They can be an excellent addition to your nail care routine, offering numerous benefits.

Best Nail Strengtheners 

Cream based 

A cult favourite with over 60,000 positive reviews, Hard as Hoof is a wonderful product to help the health of your nails and cuticles.  With a coconut-scented cream base, this strengthener quickly absorbs, leaving no mess behind.   It helps prevent splits, chips, peels, and cracks on even the most severely damaged nails.

 It also conditions cuticles and nails with calcium, jojoba oil, shea butter, and more. All the essential ingredients needed to not only maintain healthy, strong nails but also repair damaged nails and dry, ragged cuticles.  Enhanced with nail growth ingredients of Vitamin E, A, C, D, B5, coconut oil, safflower oil, and more.  Grow nails longer and stronger than ever before while also softening cuticles.


Nail Hardener vs Nail Strengthener, Nail Strengthener, Nail Hardener


Liquid Base

This clear nail strengthening treatment with a natural pink tint, provides instant nail strength and improves resistance for less brittle nails.   The formula bonds weakened nail surfaces to provide instant nail strength and improve fragile, brittle nails; Creates a protective barrier against daily wear and tear.

To use, apply 2 coats to clean, bare nails and allow to dry. Wear for 3 days for optimal results. Wear alone in-between color. Use as often as needed. Remove with any nail polish remover.

Nail Hardener vs Nail Strengthener, Nail Strengthener, Nail Hardener 


Who Should Use

Individuals with weak, brittle, or thin nails may benefit from using a nail strengthener regularly. Additionally, people who frequently use their hands, such as those who play musical instruments, practice rock climbing, or engage in manual labor, could also see improved nail health from using a nail strengthener.

Key Ingredients

Some common ingredients found in nail strengtheners include:

  • Biotin: This B-vitamin helps promote healthy nail growth by improving the overall nail structure and increasing the thickness of the nail plate.
  • Keratin: A naturally occurring protein in nails, keratin helps strengthen the nail structure by bonding with the nail plate.
  • Calcium: This essential mineral contributes to building and maintaining strong nails.

Using a nail strengthener with these key ingredients may lead to more resilient and healthier nails. Remember to follow the product’s instructions for the best results, and consult a professional if you have any concerns about your nail health.


How to Use Nail Hardeners and Strengtheners

Application Process

To effectively use nail hardeners and strengtheners, follow these steps:

  1. Begin by cleaning your nails thoroughly, ensuring that they are free of any polish or debris.
  2. Once you have clean, bare nails, apply a single coat of the nail hardener or strengthener to each nail.
  3. Allow the product to dry completely for the recommended time stated on the packaging.
  4. If desired, you can apply a second coat for additional reinforcement.
  5. Next apply your choice of regular nail polish and a top coat to seal in the treatment and protect your nails.
  6. Finish with cuticle oil to hydrate the nails.

While using nail hardeners and strengtheners can improve the health and appearance of your nails, it’s important to consider the following precautions:

  • Be mindful of the ingredients in the products you choose. Some may contain formaldehyde, which can cause irritation or allergies in certain individuals.
  • If you experience any adverse reactions or discomfort, discontinue use immediately and consult a medical professional.
  • Do not apply nail hardeners or strengtheners to irritated or inflamed skin around your nails.
  • Avoid regular use as using these products for extended periods without breaks, may lead to brittle nails.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and do not exceed the recommended application frequency.

By incorporating nail hardeners and strengtheners into your nail care routine, you can help maintain strong and healthy nails. Just remember to take the necessary precautions and follow the application process to ensure the best results.  If any issues arise seek medical care immediately. 


Top Nail Hardener and Strengthener Brands

When looking for nail hardeners and strengtheners, several reputable brands on the market today have earned recognition for their effective products. Here are a few of these top brands:



The OPI Nail Envy line, includes a range of nail strengtheners formulated with hydrolyzed wheat protein and calcium. These ingredients work together to help fortify weak, thin or damaged nails.



 The CND RescueRXx Daily Keratin Treatment is a popular choice for its innovative formula, combining jojoba oil with keratin proteins. This treatment helps repair damaged nails while also providing an extra layer of strength.



From the Essie brand comes the Grow Stronger Base Coat, designed to nourish and strengthen nails, thanks to its vitamin E, gingko biloba, and mineral complex. The base coat also helps prevent breakage and splitting, supporting healthy nail growth.

Nail Tek


Nail Tek is known for its Intensive Therapy line, which offers products specifically tailored to address various nail concerns. The Intensive Therapy II, for example, targets peeling, soft, and weak nails with a unique protein formula, promoting strength and resilience.

Sally Hansen


 Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails range boasts the title “the original nail clinic in a bottle.” These products contain nylon and retinol, aiming to reinforce nails and prevent chipping or splitting.

Some other noteworthy brands include:

Each of these top brands offers a different approach to addressing nail concerns, so it may be worth experimenting to find the perfect match for your individual needs. Remember to always follow the product’s instructions and practice proper nail care for the best results.


So what’s better?

In the world of nail care, when comparing nail hardener vs nail strengthener comes down to the purpose of using the products.   Considering their distinct objectives, one should make an informed choice based on individual needs.

Nail hardeners primarily focus on surface protection by forming a rigid coating on the nails. They are suitable for those who have:

  • Soft or flimsy nails
  • Frequent nail exposure to water or chemicals
  • Higher susceptibility to breakage

On the other hand, nail strengtheners nourish the nails from within, promoting overall health and growth. They are ideal for individuals experiencing:

  • Brittle, peeling or splitting nails
  • Slow-growing nails
  • Difficulty retaining nail length

It is crucial to account for product ingredients, as they may impact nail health. For example, formaldehyde is sometimes present in nail hardeners, posing potential risks. A focus on the following ingredients is advised:

  • Nail hardeners: formaldehyde-free alternatives
  • Nail strengtheners: essential vitamins, proteins or oils

Ultimately, when it comes to nail hardener vs nail strengthener, understanding one’s nail type and proper use of these products contributes to achieving the desired results. If unsure, consulting a nail professional or a dermatologist for personalized guidance encourages a safe and effective approach to getting stronger nails. 


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