NAILS: How do nail strengtheners work?

Faina Ritz: A good nail strengthener greatly enhances the condition of the natural nail plate by contributing two important benefits: physical protection and the delivery of nutrients to help nails grow.  A strengthener acts like a protective coating, providing a flexible web-like film that reinforces the structure and body of the nail. Nail strengtheners with micro elemental formulations also impart healthy nutrition to the nail plate with a dose of vitamins and nutrients that promote growth. 

NAILS: What type of nails will benefit from nail strengtheners?

Faina Ritz: Nail strengtheners are the perfect treatment for weak, soft, fragile nails that are lacking in protein (the keratin strands or cross-links that provide a durable surface and make nails tough), and hence, tear and have rough edges. One should not forget that the physical makeup of each individual is different and very specific. Medical conditions, medications, and allergies all affect the condition and treatment of nails, and I suggest that those with sensitivities test products on one nail to detect negative or allergic reactions before using any treatment. 

NAILS: What is the difference between a nail hardener and a nail conditioner?

Faina Ritz: Nail hardeners are developed for weak, flimsy nails lacking in protein, while nail conditioners are best for nourishing brittle nails lacking in moisture. 

NAILS: What is the chemical makeup of nail strengtheners?

Faina Ritz: There are many different types of nail strengtheners and formulations on the market today. The chemical composition is most important, as it determines the ability of all of the ingredient molecules to actually penetrate the nail bed and work — the success of a product is rooted in its ability to penetrate and impart its key ingredients. And a good nail hardener will always include a delivery system of nourishment as part the composition. Most nail strengthener formulations include solvents and plasticizers like ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, nitrocellulose, and tosylamide formaldehyde resin. If not formulated correctly, these hardening ingredients can make the nail so hard that it becomes brittle and unable to bend. If this happens, the nail will break more easily. Also, many of the ingredients used to reinforce nails wear off quickly and need to be reapplied often to be effective.

NAILS: How exactly do nail strengtheners penetrate the nail plate?

Faina Ritz: For a nail plate to be a solid structure and in optimum condition, it needs a healthy balance of strength, hardness, flexibility, toughness, and wear-resistance. The nail plate has a structure similar to our skin and hair. Keratin (protein) plays a significant part of our natural nail and skin structure. The lower layers are the living part of the nail plate. Those layers are nourished and penetrated by micro elements and proteins that (because of their smaller size) penetrate between the nail layers and are able to penetrate and go deeper into the nail layers due to their chemical similarity with the nail’s own keratin composition.

NAILS: Do nail strengtheners benefit already-damaged nails, or do they work more as preventive maintenance?

Faina Ritz: Nail strengtheners play an integral role in nail care and maintenance. For repairing damaged nails, they can and should be used every day or every other day for 7-14 days to see ultimate results. As a preventive and maintenance remedy, I suggest using them once a week or with each new manicure as a basecoat. It’s important to be realistic with your expectations, to test products individually, and to take your overall health and the health of your nails into account when treating an issue. 


> Ethyl acetate

> Butyl acetate

 > Nitrocellulose

> Tosylamide formaldehyde resin (this is not formaldehyde)

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