ASK ANA: Nail Strengtheners? OPI Nail Envy, Nailtiques, Duri Rejuvacote

Posted by Ana on Apr 8th 2014

ASK ANAAsk Ana: Nail Strengtheners, OPI Nail Envy, Duri Rejuvacote, and Nailtiques.

“Hi Ana, have you heard of Nailtiques Formula 2 Plus? I’ve been using it for two months to help my nails from peeling massively. I’m thinking now I don’t need it since I’m using nail oil. Thanks for any info.” ~Amanda


Before I dive into my answer, I need to remind you that I am not a scientist or a doctor.

I’m a writer, a researcher, and a serious nail geek.

I rely heavily on my two favorite scientists; my Mom (many of you know her as Mrs. Chemist) and Doug Schoon, author of Nail Structure and Product Chemistry.

Nailtiques is a standard “nail strengthener” which contains some ingredients that can dry out some people’s nails and cause them to peel.

Ladies who can’t stop their nails from breaking and are trying so hard to grow them longer, usually turn to a “nail strengthener“.

Most of the time, is fine while their nails are short, because short nails don’t have to bend.

I’ll explain this in more detail farther down the article.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at the three most popular nail strengtheners on the market; OPI Nail Envy™, Nailtiques™, and Duri Rejuvacote™.

Let me start of by saying that there are hundreds of positive reviews about these nail strengtheners.

There are also many women experiencing less than positive results, and this is what I want to bring to your attention.

This way you can make an educated decision based on research and accurate data.

When Harder Isn’t Better

There are 5 important properties that must be understood for any solid substance, including nail plates—Strength, Hardness, Flexibility, Toughness and Wear Resistance.

Healthy nails have a nice combination of all 5 properties.

Strength is the ability to resist breaking under a heavy load. Nail plates need to be strong because we use them like tools. All the bending, picking, prying, scratching, and clawing we do with our nails this proof of their strength. Strength isn’t the only property that nails must possess. Steel is very strong, but we don’t want our nails to be like steel! They would be too hard and inflexible. We would have to be careful not to poke our own eyes. Besides, it is possible for nail plates to be too strong. Nail plates are designed to break rather than let more serious damage occur. If the nail did not break, the matrix might be damaged or even destroyed by a hard blow.

Hardness measures a surface’s resistance to being scratched or dented. Often times it is incorrectly used when people really mean strength. When nail plates are softer than normal, they are more easily scratched or stained. Softer plates have a tendency to peel or become pitted. Healthy nails plates need to be hard, but not too hard. When nail plates become too hard, they are more susceptible to shattering and splitting. For example, overuse of nail hardening products may cause nail plates to become excessively hard. Some people want their nails to be as hard as possible, but they really wouldn’t be happy if they got their wish. If you have the choice, which would you rather your nails be like—hard as rubber or hard as glass? Rubber is not nearly as hard as glass, but most people would rather have their nails be more flexible, like rubber. Harder isn’t always better!

Flexibility allows a substance to bend. Substances that resist bending will often suffer damaging cracks or breaks when impacted, or when they bear a heavy load. In nails, sudden breaking, cracking, or fracturing is a sign of brittleness. Normally, nail plates are highly flexible and will usually bend before reaching a breaking point. Age, diet, health, and many other factors can influence nail plate flexibility and brittleness. Repeated or long-term exposure to harsh cleaners and solvents can also make nail plates brittle and less flexible. Factors in the environment—heat, cold, sunlight, moisture, and wear—can also affect flexibility.

Toughness is a balance of strength and flexibility. When these two important properties are in balance, the result is a tough material with durability. Hair and nail plates are very tough materials. This is their most important property! What goes wrong when nails become brittle, snap, or split too easily? If either strength or flexibility gets out of balance, then toughness is lost! Nail plates that are too flexible will lose strength. The reverse holds true. Nail plates can become too strong and lose flexibility. Either way the nail plate will lose its inherent toughness and resistance to breakage. These two properties are closely linked. You must have both! Tough, healthy nails have the best of both worlds.

Wear Resistance
Wear resistance is the ability to resist abrasion or rubbing. This is an important property for the nail plate. Abrasive files can quickly wear away the nail plate, scratching away the surface keratin cells. Under normal conditions the tough nail plate has very good wear resistance. The free edge can be worn down, but not very easily. [source: Nail Structure and Product Chemistry, Doug Schoon.]

The Dangerous Lure of Strengtheners

Making thin, weak, or brittle nails “harder” is not the solution.

Here’s where we get back to the ladies with short nails. Since the strengthener worked so well early on, they continue to use it as their nails get longer, thinking that “harder is better.”

Longer nails that are “hard” are more likely to snap at the weakest point, which is right at the quick.

This is why we will see photos on Instagram of ladies with beautiful, long nails showing a photo of a snapped nail that makes you cringe.

It’s literally a bloody mess.

It’s a Hard Knock Life

Oil “glues” our 50 to 100 nail layers together, increasing their overall strength.

It lubricates in between the cells, increasing their flexibility. Which in turn results in toughness (the combination of strength and flexibility.)

If you want long nails, they must be flexible, but not overly soft. Living life means bumping into things.

Almost everything we do requires our hands. They are destined to bang into cabinets, door handles, drawer pulls, etc.

Longer nails must be able to bend when meeting external forces.

It’s All in The Description

If you have read any of my other articles, you know I like to separate the marketing hype from the truth.

Since looking at a polish ingredient list is like reading Latin, let’s take a look at the product description compared to the purpose of each of the ingredients.

The product description is carefully crafted by well funded marketing departments with the sole purpose of getting you to purchase the product.

Are they telling the truth or stretching it a bit?

While all 3 of these products have specific purposes which can help people with overly soft nails, I always like to take a look at the paragraph describing the product to entice you to buy—in other words—marketing.

Nailtiques Formula 2 Nail Strengthener $17.50/.5 oznailtiques

Product Description
Treatment for soft, peeling, bitten, weak or thin nails. Nailtiques nail protein was created to treat different nail conditions. The salon-tested formulations offer special combinations of ingredients, including hydrolyzed keratin and protein in combination with gelatin and calcium to build a healthy nail foundation. The protein formulas bond the nail layers together building a strong nail foundation resistant to peeling, chipping and splitting.

1. [Ingredients] to build a healthy nail foundation – A healthy nail foundation can only be built by the matrix … right behind your cuticle line. This is where baby nail cells are born.

The quality of those nail cells is directly related to your health and diet.

No external product can build a healthy nail foundation.

2. The protein formulas bond the nail layers together – No they don’t!

You have approximately 50 to 100 layers of nail keratin that are kept healthy by the nail bed pushing moisture and body oil up into the nail plate. Healthy nails contain 18% moisture and 5% oil.

If we didn’t wash our hands on average 20 times per day, this would be enough.

I don’t care if you put chicken in it—ok, that’s a little gross—adding a bunch of proteins, etc., isn’t going to bond your nail layers together.

Duri Rejuvacote Nail Growth System $8.50/.61 ozduri rejuvacote

Product Description
Rejuvacote “the nail doctor” will heal and cure your split, cracked and acrylic eaten nails. In a matter of weeks you will enjoy the look and feel of strong, vital, natural nails. It’s not a promise, It’s a guarantee. It takes only 2-3 weeks to see dramatic improvement on your nails when you use Rejuvacote. It will force your nails to grow stronger, healthier and longer. Apply Rejuvacote daily over bare natural nails or over nail polish. It is designed to be used as a base coat and a top coat. [source:]

My first issue is right in the name: Nail Growth System. The use of this phrase implies that the product changes the way your nails grow—that in some way the product improves nail growth.

Your body is completely in charge of nail growth and there isn’t a product on the planet that can change this.

1. Acrylic Eaten Nails – Ok, this one just makes me mad, and I’m sure Doug Schoon, author of Nail Structure and Product Chemistry, would agree.

Acrylic nail enhancements do not eat nails! The drill bits and heavy-handed filing from improperly trained nail techs is what “eats nails”.

The technology of nail enhancements has significantly improved over the last 10 years. Roughing up the nail plate with a coarse file is no longer required.

The problem is that about 80% of the nail techs are not staying abreast of new education, so they don’t know this.

They’re operating on old practices with new and improved products.

2. Will heal and cure your split, cracked nails – These are some pretty steep and false claims.

Healing and curing is usually left to your miraculous body with the possible assistance of medical technology.

Once your nails have split, cracked or peeled, the damage is done. The only cure is to cut the damaged portion off, or baby it with a silk or fiberglass wrap.

3. Two to three weeks to see dramatic improvement – that’s debatable based on my #2 answer.

4. It will force your nails to grow – No product can force your nails to grow.

Your nails are always growing at a consistent pace.

There are only three ways that have been scientifically proven to grow nails faster; get pregnant, move somewhere warm, or damage your nails.

And inversely, there are only a few things that cause your nails to temporarily stop growing; massive stress, serious health issues, or death. This will show up as a deep, horizontal groove in your nail called Beau’s Lines.

This has happened to me twice. When my first child died of SIDS and when my husband lost his job in 2012.

5. Grow stronger, healthier and longer – Growing nails stronger and healthier can only be attributed to your miraculous body. It’s completely in charge of the growing department.

Having longer nails is directly related to not breaking them.

It cracks me up when people claim a product makes their nails grow longer. It’s just not true. If you have longer nails, it is so because they aren’t breaking.

6. Designed to be used as a base coat and a top coat – according to Doug Schoon, base coats have ingredients to help with adhesion to the nail plate, while topcoats are formulated to bond to polish with a tough, high gloss shine.

The two products are not interchangeable. Any product that claims to do both, will do neither very well.

OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener $16.95/.5 ozopi-nail-envy-original-formula-d-20131017125142167~297445

Product Description
Nail Envy Nail Strengthener Original Formula by OPI provides maximum strengthening with hydrolyzed wheat protein and calcium for harder, stronger, natural nails! Ideal for weak, damaged nails.

OPI has written the least misleading description and I think you’ll most likely know how to interpret it by now.

1. Maximum strengthening with hydrolyzed wheat protein and calcium for harder, stronger, natural nails – This is true, but only temporarily while you are wearing the product.

The protein and calcium are long chain amino acids which create a tight web, thereby making the product stronger than normal polish.

Once you remove the product, your nails are in the same condition as before.

Do These Products Work?

Yes. They have ingredients beyond the standard nail polish formulations that do create a harder product.

But are they the right product for you? Read on…

Getting to the Core

All polishes have certain types of ingredients.

1. Polymers:

Tosylamide/Formaldehyde Resin (TAF Resin) – a copolymer resin created by linking short molecules together to create longer ones. It improves adhesion and toughens the polish coating. TAF resin sticks strongly to the nail plate, but it is too soft and has a dull appearance. Although there is a great deal of unfounded fear about TAF, it is currently the best nail polish resin on the market.

Toluene Sulfonamide Formaldehyde Resin (TSF Resin) – A polymer produced from each of the chemicals in it’s name.

Toluene Sulfonamide Epoxy Resin – a replacement for TAF or TSF. Polishes that contain this resin suffer from poor shelf life and it doesn’t compare to TAF or TSF resins for strength and durability.

These products should not be confused with Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a clear colorless gas that is not used in nail polish. Formaldehyde is never listed as a nail polish ingredient, but you will find it in some “nail hardeners”.

2. Film Formers – Nitrocellulose is the primary film former. Film formers are responsible for creating the continuous coating on the nail plate. Nitrocellulose is fantastic at creating a shiny surface but is extremely brittle when used on its own. It doesn’t stick to the nail plate. TAF resin and nitrocellulose make a great pair.

3. Solvents – Are used to improve application and flow. Solvents keep the polymer and additives dissolved, as well as helping adjust the product’s thickness. They are important to proper application.

4. Plasticisers – They increase flexibility of the coating which allows it to give or bend when stressed. This improves the wear of the product. Nail polish polymers on their own are too brittle and quickly crack or chip.corset

Make Me Stronger Baby!

Polish based nail strengtheners have added ingredients to make the product harder.

1. Cross Chain Links – Amino Acids – long chain compounds that link together like a web to make the product harder and less flexible. The amino acids work like a corset around a woman’s waist. They hold the other ingredients tightly so your nail can’t flex.

In the following table, I’ve included all of the ingredients with their purpose so you can decide if they are for you. They are not listed in the same order as they are on the bottles.



Nail Envy


Ethyl Acetate Ethyl Acetate Ethyl Acetate A solvent, used to improve application and smooth product flow.
Butyl Acetate Butyl Acetate Butyl Acetate A solvent, used to improve application and smooth product flow.
Nitrocellulose Nitrocellulose Nitrocellulose A film former to make the product hard and shiny when it dries
Tosylamide Formaldehyde Resin Tosylamide Formaldehyde Resin Tosylamide Formaldehyde Resin A resin, to make the polish tough and resilient
Isopropyl Alcohol Isopropyl Alcohol Isopropyl Alcohol A solvent, used to improve application and smooth product flow.
Acrylates Copolymer A film former which helps with adhesion to the nail plate
Epoxidized Soybean Oil A plasticizer typically used in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics.
Wheat Amino Acids Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein A blend of amino acids from wheat protein.
Calcium Pantothenate Calcium Pantothenate Vitamin B5 (a B vitamin), is a water-soluble vitamin
Hydrolyzed Keratin A film former
Gelatin A psychological ingredient—based on old wives tales—people THINK it makes nails stronger, because they’ve heard it so much
Benzophenone-1 Benzophenone-1 Ultraviolet light absorber. Avoids having to use dark colored glass packaging.
Etocrylene Ultraviolet light absorber
Violet 2 Violet 2 Color
Dimethicone Dimethicone A silicone, to make polish spread smoothly.
n-Butyl Alcohol n-Butyl Alcohol A solvent for paints, coatings, natural resins, gums, synthetic resins, dyes, alkaloids, and camphor.
Trymethyl Penthanyl Diisobutyrate A plasticizer
Camphor Camphor A plasticizer
Hydrolyzed Soy Protein A long chain amino acid
Propyl Acetate A solvent, used to improve application and smooth product flow.
Triphenyl Phosphate A plasticizer
Trimethyl Pentanyl Diisobutyrate A plasticizer
Stearalkonium Bentonite A thickening agent used to control viscosity, or flow, during application. It helps prevent rapid setting of pigments.
Diacetone Alcohol A solvent
Ethyl Tosylamide A plasticizer
Citric Acid A stabilizing agent used to control the color of the pigment
Titanium Dioxide used to increase the opacity or “coverage” of polish; often used as a white pigment.
Formaldehyde An inaccurate label. Formaldehyde is a gas. (The ingredient they are using is a compound created by mixing formaldehyde gas and water, resulting in methylene glycol, also called Formalin)

Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction

Burning, itching, pain, redness, discoloration, peeling and breaking nails.

Any product that causes you pain should be immediately removed and discontinued!

What amazes me is how many people will knowingly order a product that has dozens, or hundreds, of reviews of painful reactions, yet they order it hoping they will be one of the lucky with a positive result.

This reminds me of when women used to have their lower ribs removed so they could have a smaller waist.

With today’s scientific advances, beauty shouldn’t be painful.

In Conclusion

I think this is the longest article I’ve written at almost 3,000 words. I’m proud of you if you made it to the bottom!

The main differences I could find between the 3 products is that Nailtiques™ has 3 solvents and 1 plasticiser. Rejuvacote™ has 4 solvents, 2 plasticisers, and an additional amino acid. Nail Envy™, with the longest ingredient list has 6 solvents, 4 plasticisers and an added thickening agent.

I find that curious, but since I’m not a scientist, I can’t make any conclusions about why.

As you’ve probably read in several of my other articles, oil is the glue that holds nail layers together while water is constantly trying to pull them apart.

If your nails are weak, brittle, peeling, or cracking, the first solution is to use a high quality, jojoba wax ester based nail oil.

Jojoba must be listed as the first ingredient to penetrate the nail plate, making it stronger and more flexible. After you’ve applied nail oil for 3 days, your nails will be completely different.

Once your nails have absorbed 3 days of oil, it’s very important to seal it in with polish!

Yep, you heard me correctly—polish is good for your nails.

It blocks water absorption—which damages nail plates and causes peeling. It also prevents soap and water from stripping the oils from your nail plate.

While your nails are polished, your pink nail bed will continue to pump the moisture and body oil into your nail plate.

The best technique I discovered for sealing your nails is covered in the Fab Five Polish Wrap Technique.

It makes no sense to apply a hardening product to brittle nails, and expecting them to improve.

It would be the same as painting an autumn leaf with a Shellac wood finisher.

The leaf is still brittle under the tough, shiny shell. It’s only destined to crack and break.

If you still feel that your nails are still too soft and overly flexible, then a nail strengthener product may be right for you for a short period of time.

What Do You Think?

Did this article change your thoughts in any way?

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