Nails can chip and break for all sorts of reasons, ranging from run-of-the-mill wear and tear to medical conditions and vitamin deficiencies, but certain products can help heal that damage and strengthen your nails so they’re able to grow stronger (and longer) over time. Dr. Dana Stern, a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in nails, tells Bustle that when shopping for the best nail growth serums, you should look for “natural ingredients that are based upon science,” such as urea, sunflower oil, brazil nut oil, pistacia lentiscus, and AHAs. She also suggests avoiding formaldehyde or formalin, which can be damaging to our nails. “Because a healthy cuticle is one of the key aspects to a healthy, beautiful nail,” Stern says, it’s best to look for serums that offer benefits for your cuticles as well (and keep it mind that cuticle oils typically fall under the nail-serum umbrella). Bustle also spoke with Elin Dannerstedt, the co-founder of NCLA Beauty, for this article, and she’s a fan of ingredients like vitamin E, coconut oil, and almond oil, which help moisturize and strengthen nails and cuticles, too.
Though topical products won’t actually speed up nail growth, using them consistently will help strengthen your nails so they’re less prone to breakage, splitting, or becoming weak and bendy. Dr. Stern calls cuticles our “nails’ natural protective seal,” so if stronger, longer nails are your goal, she once again stresses the importance of preventing cuticle damage. Otherwise, water and moisture will be able to enter the nail unit, and your nail may grow in weaker and with surface irregularities.
Pair one of the best nail serums or cuticle oils with lifestyle habits like keeping your nails short to avoid breakage, and not biting your nails, which Dannerstedt says is the biggest nail care-related mistake she sees people make. Dr. Stern advises wearing rubber gloves when doing the dishes and using cleaning products, taking breaks from manicures when possible, and only opting for nail enhancements (like gels, soak offs, acrylics, and dips) on special occasions.
With those tips in mind, scroll on to shop five of the best nail growth products, plus a couple of other must-haves for taking care of your nails.
1. The Overall Best Nail Growth Serum
Thanks to its precision tip applicator, this fragrance-free conditioning serum can be easily dabbed onto your nails and cuticles, then massaged in with your finger. It’s loaded with nourishing ingredients like rice bran oil, Japanese seaweed, vitamin E, shea butter, cocoa butter, and hot spring minerals, which have been combined to create the ultimate moisturizing and strengthening treat for your cuticles (and therefore your nails). Other highlights: It doesn’t leave behind a sticky residue, and the small tube is easy to travel with or keep in your bag. Over 1,000 Amazon shoppers left this a perfect five-star rating after trying it.
2. Runner Up
Another travel-friendly, easy-to-apply treatment to promote stronger nails, ISDIN’s brush on nail serum contains pistacia lentiscus, which Dr. Stern says stimulates the synthesis of hard keratins and keratin-associated proteins, which can help increase nail thickness and strength. In other words, if you have weak nails, this can really help. The formula also contains hyaluronic acid and castor oil, a combo that helps promote both immediate and long-term hydration. That said, it costs about double the price of the first serum on this list, why is why it’s been awarded runner-up status.
3. Our Expert’s Own Nail Serum
Made by Dannerstedt’s award-winning beauty brand NCLA, their So Rich cuticle oil is made with heavy-duty nourishing ingredients like safflower seed oil and vitamin E to keep your nails and cuticles moisturized. Though it’s rich (hence the name), it does soak in quickly, so you won’t spend the day with oily fingers. The best part about this oil is that it comes in eight fun “flavors,” including Horchata, Watermelon, Birthday Cake, and Peach Vanilla, which all smell exactly like their respective names. Mermaid Tears, shown here, has a particularly delightful honeysuckle and ocean-inspired scent.
Here are some other great products to help take care of your nails:
Remember, though no topical product will miraculously make your nails grow overnight, treating your nails gently and taking good care of your cuticles will make it easy for longer, stronger nails to grow in over time. Here are some products that can help with that.
The Best 2-Step Treatment For Damaged Cuticles
From Deborah Lippmann, a leading celebrity manicurist, comes her two-step cuticle treatment. First is a cuticle “remover,” which is great if your cuticles are ragged — you shouldn’t actually remove your cuticles, though, and this pen doesn’t do that; it simply exfoliates and softens them. Then, there’s the moisturizing cuticle oil (a blend of jojoba, coconut, and mineral oils) to help condition and heal dry, cracked cuticles and nails. Together, this duo should help make way for stronger, longer nails to grow in.
The Best Polish To Prevent Nail Biting
If you’re one of the people Dannerstedt mentioned whose nail biting habit is preventing you from growing your nails to the length of your dreams, try applying a coat of ella+mila No More Biting. The vegan and cruelty-free brand is known for their eco-friendly line of nail polishes and treatments, which includes this clear polish that delivers a bitter taste so you won’t be as tempted to nibble at your nails. It may not be a treatment serum, but using this should definitely help you achieve your goal of longer nails.
The Best Nail Polish Remover
“When using polish remover, look for formulas that contain moisturizing ingredients,” Dr. Stern says. She suggests this nail polish remover in particular, which comes from Karma Naturals, a brand that makes nice, soy-based formulas with hydrating ingredients. (She also likes the Ella+Mila Soy Nail Polish Remover for the same reasons.) She prefers to avoid polish removers that contain acetone, as that ingredient can dehydrate and weaken your nails.
The Best Nail File
Finally, Dr. Stern suggests buying yourself an OPI Crystal Nail File, because not all files are created equal. “Use a glass file instead of a cardboard emery board as glass files don’t cause microscopic tears at the nail tip; instead, they create a perfectly smooth edge. Microscopic tears can turn into splits and breakage,” Dr. Stern explains. This will last you a long time, too, so it’s worth the one-time $10 purchase.
Elin Dannerstedt, co-founder, NCLA Beauty