Nail hardener vs nail strengthener are two terms that are often used interchangeably. However, when it comes to nail care, you may find it difficult to know the difference and purpose of both nail hardeners and nail strengtheners.

Nail hardener is a nail care product that binds the keratin protein in your nails more tightly and also hardens the nail plates, making the nail less flexible. Meanwhile, nail strengtheners help to nourish, protect, and build the natural nail with its protein and vitamin composition.

In this article, I will look into both of them to give you insight into whether you need a nail hardener or a nail strengthener for your natural nail care, review the differences between them, and answer some relevant questions.

Nail Strengtheners vs Nail Hardeners

Nail Hardener vs Nail Strengthener: Which Works Best

Nail hardeners contain chemicals such as formaldehyde that strip the moisture out of your nails,  resulting in harder nails. However, prolonged use may cause further damage, so it is best to use hardeners with precaution. They basically make your nails more resistant to breakage.  

Nail strengtheners are designed to keep your nails tough & flexible. The formula penetrates your nails which makes them stronger. So if you have soft, uneven, dry, or damaged nails, then strengtheners will aim to fix them. 

Nail strengtheners will actually build up the nail itself. On the other hand, a nail hardener is a widespread treatment for feeble nails.

Although both nail strengtheners & hardeners are good for you, choosing between the two is dependent on the type of treatment you’re looking for. 

Differences Between Nail Hardener and Strengthener

1. There are differences in their composition

Nail hardeners typically contain ingredients like formaldehyde or other strengthening agents. These chemicals create a hardened layer on the nail surface, making them less prone to breakage but potentially causing dryness with prolonged use.

Nail strengtheners, on the other hand, focus on nourishing and fortifying the nails. They often contain ingredients like proteins, vitamins, and minerals that promote flexibility and resilience. The goal is to enhance the overall health of the nails rather than just hardening them.

2. Difference in the purpose they serve

The primary purpose of nail hardeners is to strengthen and toughen the nails, reducing susceptibility to splits and breaks. This is especially beneficial for individuals with weak, brittle nails.

Nail strengtheners aim to improve the overall condition of the nails by providing essential nutrients. They help prevent breakage and promote flexibility, making them suitable for both weak and healthy nails.

3. The application frequency differs

 Nail hardeners are often recommended for short-term use or as a treatment for specific nail issues. Continuous and excessive use of nail hardeners can lead to over-hardening and brittleness.

Nail strengtheners are designed for regular use and can be applied as a base coat under nail polish. They contribute to the long-term health and resilience of the nails.

4. Results and effects

Users may notice immediate results in terms of harder and less flexible nails. However, prolonged use without breaks may lead to negative side effects like excessive dryness and brittleness.

The effects of nail strengtheners are gradual, focusing on improving the overall health of the nails over time. Users can expect stronger, more flexible nails with continued use.

Nail Hardener vs Nail Strengthener

5. They are recommended for different users 

Nail hardeners are recommended for individuals dealing with acute nail issues, such as severe brittleness or frequent breaks. It’s advisable to follow the recommended application guidelines to avoid overuse.

Nail strengtheners are suitable for individuals looking to maintain or enhance the health of their nails. Regular use can help prevent common issues like peeling and breaking.

Are Nail Hardeners Bad for Your Nails?

Nail hardeners are not bad for your nails, but they are bad if you’re using the wrong one. If you’ve been using the same nail hardener for years, it’s probably time to switch it up a bit.

Your nails can become accustomed to the chemicals in the nail hardener and stop responding to them as well as they did when you first started using it. At this point, it might be time to try something new.

Nail hardeners are a great way to get your nails looking healthier, but it’s important to be aware of the potential side effects.

The biggest issue is that nail hardeners can make your nails more brittle and prone to cracking or breaking. This is because they dehydrate your nails and make them less flexible, which can lead to breaks. It also makes them more susceptible to peeling off the nail bed.

There’s also a risk of developing an allergic reaction if you are allergic to any of the ingredients in the product.

Are Nail Strengtheners Bad for Your Nails?

Nail Hardener vs Nail Strengthener: Which Works Best

Nail strengtheners are not bad for your nails. In fact, they’re great for them. Nail strengtheners help your nails grow by adding strength and support to the nail plate. This helps prevent them from breaking and splitting.

It’s important to note that nail strengtheners are not a substitute for taking care of your nails, whether it’s by washing them daily with soap and water, drying them thoroughly after each washing, or applying lotion regularly. You should still be taking these steps even if you’re using a nail strengthened.


While we certainly can’t tell you which one is “best,” that does depend on what you’re looking for and how your nails will be affected.

The important thing is to understand the difference between nail hardener vs nail strengthener and apply it to your routine accordingly.

This will likely entail a bit of trial and error, but once you’ve found the right product, your nails will show marked improvement in no time at all.

Disclosure: This article, other beauty and fashion tips on SheBegan are contributed by experienced fashion professionals, beauty & cosmetics experts. Read our full research and editorial process here. Also, our posts may contain affiliate links, read our full affiliate disclosure

I'm a skilled beauty writer with lots of experience. I help you understand beauty trends, skincare, and feeling confident. I mix art and knowledge to inspire your inner and outer beauty through easy-to-read articles.

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