Hearing about the chemicals found in many nail care products can be alarming to say the least. Thankfully, these days, there are quality nail strengtheners that are free from formaldehyde and other harsh ingredients. Whether you’re hoping to heal damaged nails or do some preventative care, the best nail strengtheners without formaldehyde have got you covered.
While formaldehyde is the nail product ingredient that's gotten the most press, it's also worth paying attention to two other troublesome ingredients commonly found in nail hardeners and polishes, too: toluene and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). DBP is a chemical that’s made California’s Proposition 65 list because it can potentially cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. And toluene, a chemical often found in paint thinners, has also been linked to birth defects. For the most peace of mind when shopping for nail polishes and strengtheners, look for ones that are free from all three: formaldehyde, DBP, and toluene.
Additionally, since some nail options — especially acrylics — can make nails brittle, all of the nail hardeners below are infused with nourishing natural ingredients, from vitamin E to green tea to avocado oil.
Whether you’re looking for a nail strengthener that works like a hand cream, or a product that can easily be applied to your nails like a base coat, there’s an option to fit your preferences below. Plus, not only are all of the strengtheners here formaldehyde-, DBP-, and toluene-free, they're also all reasonably priced and come highly rated on Amazon.
1. The Best Overall Nail Strengthener
Barielle Nail Strengthener Cream was originally created to condition the hooves of million-dollar, thoroughbred racehorses, but the super-popular cream was reformulated to treat human nails when it proved to be an effective nail strengthener as well. It’s free from several harsh ingredients — including formaldehyde, DBP, toluene, formaldehyde resin, triphenyl phosphate, xylene, parabens, and camphor — and its key ingredients include glycerin, vitamin E, and vegetable protein.
Since this strengthener is a cream, you’ll need to massage it over your nails and cuticles. The product site recommends two to three applications each day and to apply the cream right before bed so it can work overnight. This pick promises noticeable improvement in three to four weeks, and Amazon shoppers have given it a 4-star rating and hundreds of reviews.
What fans say: “My nails split and crack easily. They are thin and weak. I never wear nail polish because it ultimately makes the nails worse. BUT, this cream truly makes a difference. I put it on while I'm typing or driving and it soaks right in. It really, really works.”
2. The Best Drugstore Nail Strengthener
Sally Hansen Hard As Nails nail strengthener is free from formaldehyde, DBP, and toluene, and it’s infused with provitamin B5 and green tea for added nail nourishment. This pick is meant to be applied to bare nails with a brush, just like regular nail polish. In addition to working as a nail strengthener, this option can be used as a strengthening base coat for your at-home manicure.
While the Sally Hansen product site doesn’t list an approximate results window for this item, some reviewers noted that their nails don’t chip, tear, or break when they’re wearing this strengthener. Others made comments like: “Incredibly magical product. Results in ten days.” And speaking of reviews, Amazon shoppers give this option an impressive 4.3-star rating.
What fans say: “I have used this product since I was 12 years old, and I swear by it. It dries quickly and clear without any hint of color. It helps to strengthen my nails, which in turn allows my nails to grow long and very strong. I use it as a bottom and top coat or just to wear it as a clear polish. It removes easily with just about any type of polish remover, but stays on my nails without chipping, even though I type, do the dishes, and garden.”
3. The Best Nail Strengthener After Acrylic Nails
Gelish Vitagel Recovery Nail Strengthener is formulated with severely damaged, very thin nails in mind. It’s free from formaldehyde, toluene, and DBP, and it’s enriched with nourishing natural ingredients like vitamins A, E, and B5. This pick is meant to be brushed on like a regular nail polish, then cured for 30 seconds in a LED light or two minutes in a UV light. It can also be used as a base coat for at-home manicures, if desired.
This strengthener doesn’t list a projected timeline for results on its product site, but some Amazon reviewers say they saw improvement in days.
What fans say: “I had initially gotten acrylic nails, and once I removed them, it left me with thin, dry, and brittle nails! I needed a miracle (or glue) to keep my nails from breaking. I purchased this item and applied the coat and cured it … and my nails look and are as strong as a rock! Definitely recommend if you have weak nails that you are trying to grow out. Makes them even more resistant than gel color alone! A must have. Will always have this handy from now on.”
4. A Cruelty-Free & Vegan Nail Strengthener
In addition to being formaldehyde-free, Karma Organic Deep Nutrition Nail Strengthener is hypoallergenic, toluene-free, DBP-free, and made in the U.S. It’s packed with amino acids and extract of selaginella lepidophylla (also known as the “resurrection plant") and it’s infused with five nourishing plant oils: coconut, passiflora, apricot, avocado, and salicornia. Karma Organic Spa lives on PETA’s list of cruelty-free and vegan brands, if animal testing and animal byproducts are deal breakers for you.
This pick is meant to be applied to bare nails with a brush, just like regular nail polish. In addition to working as a nail strengthener, this option can be used as a strengthening base coat for your at-home manicure. This product promises less fragile nails in one week, and major results in just three weeks.
What fans say: “This product is amazing! My nails are weak and constantly peel. This product strengthened my nails in one week! I love that this product has natural ingredients. This is my new go-to nail treatment!”
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