Published on February 16, 2018

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Illustration by Phuong Nguyen

It’s today’s modern Catch-22—you want a fun, long-lasting manicure, but also strong healthy nails. But one doesn’t usually exist with the other. If your nails look shiny and polished, usually thanks to a gel manicure, the nail beds are most likely fragile and brittle.

But there is such a thing as nail rehab, and it involves one little bottle of specialized polish: specifically strengthening treatments. They can do a number, in a good way, on your nails, making them stronger and healthier in as little as a few weeks.

Walk this way for a few of our very favorites to try out.

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Courtesy of Deborah Lippmann

The Hard-As-A-Rock One

Hard Rock

Deborah Lippmann, 

$20

Packed full of proteins, this treatment is solely dedicated to healing weak nails due to gel manicures and artificial nails by encouraging major nail growth. You can use this alone, or as a base or top coat. But the brand does recommend that if you’re using Hard Rock specifically to strengthen nails, you should apply a new coat of the clear treatment every day until you remove the polish—ideally every few days.

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Courtesy of Zoya

The Tinted Moisturizer One

Naked Manicure Lavender Perfector, Zoya, $10

Discolored nails got you feeling down? This is the treatment for those that need a touch of illuminated color correcting. Lavender is perfect for this because it’s the opposite of yellow on the color spectrum, so it neutralizes unwanted tones, while still being ultra subtle and sheer. It brightens nails, while red algae improves circulation and Vitamin B5 decreases brittleness.

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Photography by Nails Inc.

The Superfood One

Nails Inc. Nailkale Superfood Base Coat, Sephora, $15

Kale has jumped off the salad plate and is making its way into your skin and nail care now—for good reason. In this treatment, kale and keratin activate some serious nail hydration, growth, and breakage protection. Nails will not only look brighter, but healthier after a few coats.

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Photography by Quimica Alemana

The Crazy, Amazon-Beloved One

Quimica Alemana, Amazon, $8

This one has a cult following amongst seasoned nail pros, and just a quick glance at its Amazon page tells you that the word is out for us non-pros, too (1,670 customer reviews and counting). Word of warning: Perhaps nothing will strengthen at the level that this one will, but it is intense.

The polish is from Colombia, and it’s recommended that you use it only once a week, more than that could be too intense for nails and leave a burning feeling. But don’t let that scare you off, if you are in need of major nail TLC, nothing will deliver the strengthening and hardening like this polish. 

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Photography by Julep

The Oxygen One

Take A Breather, Julep, $18

My personal favorite, for so many reasons. It’s a gorgeous, pale pink shade on nails, so it looks great. Plus it’s a powerful treatment, base, color, and top coat with just two coats of polish. But most importantly, it also has a specialized oxygen technology that encourages strong, healthy growth with less breakage and splitting.

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Photography by Perfect Formula

The ‘Perfect’ One

Perfect Formula Pink Gel Coat, Amazon, $29.99

This sheer polish brightens nails with a rosy glow, while being filled with a protein-rich coating that strengthens and protects. A quick swipe across nails gives kind of a French manicure, all while drying in less than a minute. It’s a fan favorite, and without parabens, sulfates and phthalates.

More nail salon intel:


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This Tiki-Inspired Nail Salon Is Pure Instagram Bait

How to DIY a Manicure That Will Actually Last

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