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We asked a derm how to treat brittle, damaged nails — plus, 18 treatments to shop

From drugstore to Dior, these nail strengtheners could help you say bye bye to brittle nails.
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Kara Birnbaum / TODAY / Talya Ozbelli / TODAY

Having your nails look and feel good isn't just important for aesthetic reasons. Their condition could also be tell-tale signs that something is amiss with your overall health. If you’re suffering from thin, breaking or brittle nails, there are simple steps you can take to understand and gain control over them.

To find out why your nails weaken and how to strengthen them, Shop TODAY called in Dr. Angela Lamb, a certified dermatologist and associate professor of Westside Mount Sinai Dermatology, to explain more.

What causes brittle nails?

According to Lamb, damaged nails can signify different things in different people. "Nails often manifest vitamin deficiencies or can be a normal sign of aging," she said. "Eczema or psoriasis can be found in the nails, too. Often when a patient has been diagnosed with psoriasis, the first place I look is their nails."

However, our nail thickness, hardness and growth is often determined by our genes. Lamb compared this to the way our hair grows since they're made up of a similar type of protein. "For the same reason some people have curly [or straight] hair, [and] some people grow long [or] short [hair], it's all dependent on genes," she quipped. "But there can also be pathology problems with your nails: paronychia, fungus, yeast [or] eczema."

Be cautious not to misinterpret nail health with nail diversity, though. "Sometimes there are just normal changes," said Lamb. "For example, I have fast-growing thin nails, [while] some people have thick, durable nails [that] grow slow." If you're concerned about the growth or texture of your nails, a dermatologist can help steer you in the right direction.

What can help strengthen your nails?

First things first, Lamb said to make sure you're not vitamin deficient. A diet that lacks key nutrients like biotin, iron or magnesium can result in brittle, thinning nails.

Additionally, Lamb advised ensuring that your nail technicians are keeping their equipment sanitized and clean. She also mentioned that lacquers and nail hardeners are great for daily use. "Nail polish doesn't always thin your nails; it can act as a very good protectant."

Based on Lamb's advice, we’ve selected some highly rated products for brittle and thin nails that you can incorporate into your routine starting today. Take back the health of your nails once and for all!

Best nail strengtheners and products for brittle nails

Olive and June Nail Strengthener

Before going in with Olive & June's popular (and stunning) polishes, you can prep your nails with the brand's strengthener, which is said to improve durability by 77 percent. The brand says it also acts as a primer and works to keep your manicure intact for an additional 2 to 3 days.

Butter London Horse Power Nail Rescue Base Coat

Biotin, vitamin B, calcium — these are just a few of the nail-loving ingredients included in this Butter London base coat, which is designed to fortify, restore and rescue weaker nails.

Nails Inc Nailkale Superfood Base Coat

This keratin hardening treatment might be your ticket to achieving healthier-looking nails. The formula is infused with antioxidants and kale extract, which are said to be key components when it comes to preventing nail splitting and adding more hydration.

Hard As Hoof Nail Strengthener Cream

Boasting over 40,000 perfect five-star ratings, this conditioning cream is currently Amazon's No. 1 bestseller in Nail Strengtheners. In addition to delivering results, this restorative cream is said to have a pleasant coconut scent, which is a welcome change from the strong chemical smell that often accompanies nail products.

Duri Rejuvacote 1 Nail Growth System

If you can't bear the thought of naked nails, try swapping out your standard base and top coat with this multitasking product. According to the brand, it creates a protective layer over your manicure to keep it from chipping or peeling, while also sealing in under your polish to strengthen the natural nail.

Nail-Aid Keratin 3 Day Growth Nail Treatment & Strengthener

With more than 21,000 five-star ratings, shoppers clearly love and trust this bestselling nail treatment. Claiming to improve the state of your nails in just three days, this strengthener contains a keratin amino acid treatment that absorbs right into your nails.

OPI Natural Nail Strengthener

OPI is a trusted brand on the nail scene, and its nail strengthener does not disappoint, according to many Amazon reviewers. This is a two-in-one nail polish base coat and nail strengthener, so it's like you're getting two products for the price of one.

Ella+Mila Nail Care Nail Strengthener

Formulated for weak, thin and splitting nails, this vegan, vitamin E-equipped nail strengthener has proven to strengthen and improve the health of a lot of shoppers' nails.

"This stuff is magic for my nails. It makes them looks shiny, healthy and also makes them feel stronger while they are healing post-acrylics. It’s Iike having a pretty & natural shield on your nails," wrote one verified Target shopper, who gave it a perfect five stars.

Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Clear Nail Strengthener

This Sally Hansen nail strengthener comes highly recommended by Lamb. It contains hydrolyzed protein actives, along with vitamins A, C and E to help reinforce and resist damage to your nails.

Essie Strong Start Nail Treatment Base Coat

If you frequent the nail salon or love painting your own nails, add this base coat to your collection to protect them! With over 12,000 five-star ratings on Amazon, we're sure you'll love this product as much as other shoppers do. (And make sure to click on the coupon before checkout to shave even more off the already discounted price.)

Orly Nail Defense Nail Strengthener

If you suffer from peeling or splitting nails, this is the reparative nail strengthener for you. It's a protein-enriched product that can be used as a base coat or as the only coat on your nails.

Barielle Nail Strengthener Cream

If you prefer a cream over a liquid-based nail saver, try this strengthener from Barielle. This cream was originally formulated for the hooves of million-dollar racehorses, but was then reimagined for the jockeys — and is now available for everyone.

Beauty Secrets Nail Hardener & Thickener

Free of formaldehyde and toluene, this high gloss treatment is designed to strengthen nails by "cross-coupling proteins with your nail fibers."

Mavala Scientifique K+ Keratin Hardener Strengthener

Lamb highly recommended Mavala's products, including this keratin nail hardener. Promising to harden the nail plate by reinforcing them with crystal resin tears, this is a great product if you suffer from breaking nails. Amazon shoppers love it, too — it currently has nearly 4,000 five-star ratings.

Dior Huile Abricot Daily Nutritive Serum

If you want to add some opulence to your nail routine, consider this active oil serum from Dior that protects and hardens keratin in your nails. It's jam-packed with active ingredients like argan oil, camellia and apricot oils.

Isdin Si-Nails Nail Strengthener

People claimed to have harder, more hydrated, less brittle nails within just 28 days of using this product from Isdin. It includes silanediol salicylate (which promotes silicon growth in your nails), pistacia lentiscus oil (which promotes keratin growth) and cationic hyaluronic acid (which helps moisturize your surrounding cuticles).

Barefoot Scientist Inner Strength Nail And Cuticle Renewal Drops

Made with various amazing ingredients including celery seed extract and rosemary leaf extract, this nail and cuticle serum has it all. One reviewer mentioned how much this product helped her nails, saying, "My nails began feeling smoother and frayed less within three days. Now, I use it twice a day and my nails look and feel healthy for the first time in 40 years. I bought another bottle the next week just to make sure I don’t run out."