Five Formaldehyde-Free Treatments For Stronger Cuticles & Nails

If you're prone to weak or brittle nails, there's plenty you can do to make them stronger. Aside from some simple lifestyle changes (more on those in a minute), applying certain nail-strengthening products can help, too. According to Dr. Latanya Benjamin, M.D., the best nail strengtheners and hardeners will be free of formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate, three chemical ingredients commonly known as the "big three," which are often found in nail polishes, nail hardeners, and nail strengtheners. All of the products featured ahead meet these criteria.

Keep in mind that caring for your nails doesn't stop at the nail itself. It also means caring for your cuticles, because “Keeping cuticles well-moisturized is one of the best ways to promote stronger, healthier nails," says Dr. Benjamin. She also suggests taking intermittent breaks from gel manicures and avoiding aggressive buffing, filing, and scraping, which can exacerbate nail brittleness and breakage.

When it comes to nail polish removers, choose one without acetone to avoid further drying out your nails. Lastly, wear gloves when working in hot water to protect your hands, and immediately follow up with moisturizer. And though most nail weakness is due to external factors, if over-the-counter and lifestyle fixes don't help, talk with your doctor to see if something else is going on.

Scroll on for five of the best nail strengtheners and hardeners you can buy on Amazon, all of which are big three-free.

We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was written by our Commerce team.

A 16-Free Nail Hardener From A Classic Drugstore Brand

You can't do much better than this Sally Hansen Nail Hardener, which is not only vegan and big three-free, but 16-free as well (that means it doesn't contain 16 of the most common chemical ingredients that might be damaging or toxic). The plant-based formula works to strengthen nails and fill in ridges for a smoother, more even appearance — and it only costs $7.

The Best Cuticle Oil & Nail Strengthener In One

As Dr. Benjamin points out, keeping your cuticles moisturized is key when it comes to maintaining strong nails, and this fast-absorbing, highly moisturizing blend of jojoba oil, vitamin E, and sweet almond oil is perfect for that. Use it to condition your nails, cuticles, and the surrounding skin as often as you'd like.

A Base Coat That Promotes Smoother, Stronger Nails

Make your manicure's first layer count with this two-in-one Mineral Fusion Nail Polish Base Coat. This fast-drying, clear base allows polish to go on smoother and strengthens your nails at the same time. The formula is vegan and cruelty-free, in addition to being big three-free, of course.

A Natural Treatment That Strengthens Nails In Four Weeks

This ella+mila First Aid Kiss Nail Strengthener is designed to make thin, peeling nails appear stronger and healthier in just four weeks. The PETA-certified brand gets bonus points for its cute packaging and clean formulas that are always vegan and cruelty-free (this particular nail product is seven-free).

Another Great Natural Nail Strengthener To Consider

Another great, natural nail strengthener and cuticle hydrator from a reputable clean beauty brand, this "nail saver" from JĀSÖN contains tea tree oil, an antifungal ingredient, and nourishers like sesame seed oil, safflower seed oil, and vitamin E. Reapply as often as you'd like for softer, stronger cuticles and nails. Amazon reviewers note that it helps treat nail yellowing, too (likely a benefit of the tea tree oil).


Latanya Benjamin, M.D., a board member with the Society for Pediatric Dermatology, based in Miami, FL.