Help! How Can I Make My Nails Stronger?

June 01, 2020
Samantha Holender
By: Samantha Holender | Makeup.com by L'Oréal
stronger nails

I’ve had soft nails all my life. The second my nail grows a smidge beyond than short-and-stubby status, it breaks down the center (like, ouch). Any time I get a gel manicure or apply fresh polish, my mani inevitably chips within an hour. And on the rare occasion I can get some length on my thumb nail, it’s so weak that I can literally fold it in half. Are strong, healthy, non-peeling, chip-free nails just not in the cards for me? Is there any way to strengthen my fingernails? To get the answers I was looking for — and some great tips — I turned to Essie global lead educator and manicurist Rita Remark

What Makes My Nails So Weak? 

Weak nails come in a few different forms. “Your nails can be thin and soft or hard and brittle,” says Remark. “For nails, strength is defined by an ability to withstand pressure without folding over or breaking.” She explains that strong nails are defined by theirs density, not their thickness. 

While your weak nails may simply be the result of genetics, that’s not always the case. “Weak nails can be the result of surface damage, like improper application or removal of gels and acrylics, age, poor health or strong medication,” she explains. That said, if your nails are typically sturdy, but weaken once they reach a certain length, the problem may actually be your nail bed, not the nail itself. “Some nail beds aren’t long enough to withstand extra length. You can have very strong and healthy nails, but short nail beds that prevent them from being able to grow long.” 

How to Strengthen Weak Nails

Tip #1: File Your Nails Properly 

Depending on the strength of your nail, keeping them short is likely your best bet. We also recommend filing your nails in one direction rather than quick, back-and-forth motions. If you opt to let your nails grow longer, though, Remark recommends mimicking the natural shape of your cuticle when filing the tip of your nails. “This keeps the nail balanced, so the pressure and weight is evenly distributed across the surface of the nail and it’s less likely to chip or break.” 

Tip #2: Use Strengthening Polish

Letting your nails breathe from acrylics or gels can prevent dehydration, but giving your nails a break won’t strengthen them if you don’t use a treatment at the same time. “I love to use Essie’s Treat Love & Color polishes in between gel appointments or when my nails could use a little boost,” says Remark. “It’s clinically proven to strengthen and hydrate nails. There are plenty of shades to choose from, so you don’t compromise on color.” If you can’t part with your favorite polish color, though, just make sure to use a strengthening base coat, like the Essie Strong Start Base Coat. “Base coasts are the first nail-care step of every manicure, so choose one to suit your natural nail needs.” Not only will this help strengthen your nail, but it will also prevent the nail polish from staining your nail. 


Tip #3: Don’t Pick or Pull Your Polish 

We know it can be tempting to pick off your polish (guilty!), but do your best to resist temptation — especially when it comes to gel polishes. “Picking off your gel polish, or even regular nail polish, can dent or strip your natural nails,” says Remark. Instead, use nail polish remover and a cotton ball to soak off your polish. 

Tip #4: Hydrate Your Nails 

The most important thing you can do to strengthen your nails is apply cuticle oil every day (we like TK) to hydrate and moisturize your nails. Remark explains that having weak nails should be treated similarly to having weak hair. “If you over bleach or damage your hair with heat styling, you wouldn’t forgo using product, you’d utilize a mask, a moisturizing treatment or a deep conditioner to help regain your hair’s strength,” she says. “Our nails and our hair are made of the same proteins, so if your nails are weak, use cuticle oil, use a strengthening treatment, and choose a hydrating base coat.”