After years of saying I would never use gel polish on my nails, I finally tried out a gel manicure last year. Very quickly I got hooked. What’s not to love about getting your nails done by someone else, not having to worry about the paint smudging (as soon as you move, even when you sit still for 30 minutes first) and having it stay put and chip-free for up to a month?

The reason I had been reluctant to try it, is because of how damaging to the nails gel polish has been reported to be. I told myself the risk was worth the benefit and I have learned that there are occasions when this is absolutely true. But, when it becomes an almost bi-monthly event, and you use the kind of gel that superglues to your nail beds, making removal an ordeal that requires severe soaking and scraping, it weakens and damages your nails.

After a particularly bad removal in which Zissy’s nails were left feeling soft and sore for days, and my nails constantly breaking, we both decided it was time for a break. Zissy set off in search of a product to repair the damage and picked up OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener at Sorbet.

What is the OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener?

OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener looks like a regular nail polish with a milky white transparent formula. The biggest difference is how much more it costs than your average bottle of polish. It’s a gamble first purchase when you don’t know if it works.

How does it work?

It is said to be formulated with wheat protein and calcium to repair damaged nails, leaving you with harder, longer and stronger natural nails. How exactly that works I can’t tell you. You apply it for 7 days, starting with 2 coats on day one, adding another coat every second day. At the end of the 7 days, you remove.

My experience using it

I’ve been using it for around 3 months now, for 2 weeks cycles in between a more gentle gel manicure*. Although I liked it immediately, the first two times I did experience breakages on one difficult nail. I still felt like I needed to get gel polish applied to give them extra strength which allows them to grow without breaking. 

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The magic seems to lie around month 3. After removing my last gel polish application, I’ve had the OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener on my nails for over 2 weeks. My nails have not broken, they feel hard and strong and look healthy. I love how they look so much that I haven’t even been tempted to get them painted. For the record, I haven’t changed how many house chores I do, how many dishes I wash (It’s a lot – every recipe requires every single imaginable dish and utensil and someone has to do the cleaning). I have however been conscious about not using my nails as a tool (if you’re opening something pesky, just use a knife!)

*My experience is that cheaper gel polishes are the worst when it comes to gentle removal and rubber base follows close behind. They adhere to your nail like superglue, and removal requires extended soaking and aggressive scraping which is what damages the nails.

Shellac is the most gentle and easiest to remove but its lasting power is somewhere being a paint and a gel. Biosculpture Evo gel has been the best balance for me. It lasts well but leaves my nails in good condition and comes off easily.

OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener Pros

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The formula is more liquid than sticky and is very easy to apply.

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It dries down very quickly, meaning it doesn’t smudge.

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It gives your nails a beautifully glossed natural look. Sort of like clear polish but better because there is no thickness to it.

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It doesn’t chip or crack. I don’t know if this is because of the constant re-application or because it’s so sheer you don’t notice, but your nails look good throughout the cycle.

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Adding coats doesn’t add a thickness like adding coats of nail polish would.

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If you’re consistent and patient, it really does strengthen your nails.

OPI Nail Envy Nail Strengthener Cons

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It’s not easy to find. It’s listed out of stock on all online stores. I got mine at a Sorbet Salon but they don’t hold a ton of stock. I would think most nail salons would stock it. I did find it on an OPI display at a big Dischem right after writing this so maybe it is becoming more widely available.

Get it at Dischem instore or Sorbet Salons for between R475-R499

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