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I’ve always loved nail polish, but I went to a Catholic school growing up and wasn’t allowed to wear it (there’s a lot to unpack in that female-specific dress code, but we’ll put a pin in that for now). The rule was enforced so strictly that a teacher once mistook my polish-free nails for an “inappropriate French manicure” and tried to send me to the principal’s office to be reprimanded.
All of that is to say that my nails are a point of pride for me. I spent my summers out of school painting my nails all the time, mixing colors and practicing nail art on anyone willing to lend me their hands. By the time I had made it to Catholic high school, the rules allowed female students to wear nail polish (we still couldn’t wear shiny shoes, though, because if there’s anything worse than glitter nails, it’s patent leather). That’s when I started painting my nails all of the time.
I discovered gel manicures ― among other things that would make my Catholic school teachers shudder ― in college. I started making monthly appointments to get my nails done at the salon because I loved how long gel manicures lasted and how put-together they made me feel. But then I discovered it was possible to have too much of a good thing. After a year of revolving-door gel manicures, my nails were thin and brittle and would break even if I so much as looked at them the wrong way.
I needed a quick recovery solution, so I turned to an expert: my mom.
When I spoke to my mom about my weak nail woes, she immediately suggested Nailtiques, a nail protein polish that she’d been using for years. She said I would need to apply it every night for a week without fail, so on my next trip to the drugstore I scanned the nail polish aisle for a bottle of Nailtiques Formula 2, her go-to. I almost missed the small white box in among the rainbow of colorful polishes. Nailtiques has a range of nail protein polishes for a variety of nail issues, ranging from Formula 1 (for “healthy, flexible nails”) and Formula 2 (for “soft, peeling, bitten, weak or thin nails”), to Formula 2 Plus (for “excessive, problem nails”) and Formula 3 (for “naturally hard nails”). There’s even an Nailtiques After Artificial Kit if you’re recovering from acrylics, gels or wraps.
The Formula 2 instructions say to apply once daily and decrease application as nails improve, with the option of downgrading to Formula 1 once you’ve achieved your desired results. It can be worn alone, as a base coat before color polish and on top of color polish. I committed to wearing it a week (without nail polish, for good measure), so I applied a coat of Nailtiques to my nails every night before bed. It glides on as a thin, transparent polish that takes a couple of strokes to apply because the brush is tiny, but that means it’s slim enough to swipe a little underneath the nail, too. It dries quickly and has a clear, shiny finish.
By the end of the week, I could feel my nails were stronger because they didn’t bend or break as easily. I decided to maintain the ritual for a second week, and then a third. By the end of the month, my nails looked normal ― actually, even better than normal. They had hardened and were growing. I continued using Nailtiques a few times a week for a few months with the hopes that I could restore my nails to their former glory. It worked. For a while, it became a somewhat regular part of my nail routine.
Flash forward about three years, after I’d sidelined my Nailtiques habit. I found myself lusting after the long, almond-shaped nails trend, but my nails would only grow so long before they would break. I was happy with my nails — they were healthy, strong and a somewhat decent length — but I wanted more. (During one momentary lapse of judgment, I thought about getting acrylics before immediately kicking myself for considering it after the damage gel manicures had done to my nails.) Per the advice of a colleague, I filed my nails into a rounder shape so the edges wouldn’t break as easily and took my multivitamins, both of which helped a little, but not considerably.
That’s when I remembered Nailtiques’ other formulas. Surely one could solve my stubby nail situation.
In May 2019 I leveled up to Nailtiques Formula 2 Plus (for “excessive, problem nails”), which is intended for people who have used the original Formula 2 for at least six weeks without color polish and have excessive problem nails (I didn’t necessarily have “problem nails” anymore but it was a problem to me!). I repeated the same process I had done in the past — a two-week sprint of no polish, daily reapplication and now regular filing into a round shape — and the results were fabulous. My nails had grown at least 1 to 2 centimeters, were rock hard and no longer in danger of breaking with every movement.
Despite these results, however, it’s worth noting one major downside to Nailtiques: It’s made with some questionable ingredients, including Tosylamide/Formaldehyde Resin, which is used in nail enamel products to form durable, shiny films on nails. The FDA has deemed it safe as a cosmetic ingredient, but its most common side effect is allergic reaction around the nail area and skin sensitivity. (If you have skin sensitivities or prefer a more natural nail-growth solution, we recommend ella + mila First Aid Kiss or Deborah Lippmann Hard Rock ― two nail-strengthening polishes with great reviews that aren’t formulated with those ingredients.)
Still, I’ve continued to incorporate Formula 2 Plus into my nail routine as a base coat before I paint my nails, and to this day my nails are long and strong. If you don’t believe me, check out the 1,000 reviews and counting on Amazon for Nailtiques 2 Plus.