Monday, April 18, 2011

Nail Hardeners - Dimethyl Urea based treatments

Okay enough laughing people, lets get back to business!  Today's post is a continuation of the Nail Hardener series.  This series is miles long and the other posts are linked below:

Categories of Hardeners and Formaldehyde Based Treatments
Are Formaldehyde Hardeners right for you?
Protein Based Hardeners
Formaldehyde + Protein Based Hardeners
Formaldehyde or Protein Based Hardeners + Moisturizers
Fluoride Based Nail Treatments Part I  
Fluoride Based Nail Treatments Part II
Nail Conditioning Treatments and DermaNail Video Review

If you are too lazy to read the other posts (tisk tisk) here is a short summery to make this post make sense.

The goal of healthy strong nails is a balance between nail hardness and flexibility. Hard nails are great, but there is such a thing as over hardening the nail plate. The harder that your nails get the more brittle they become. The nail plate must balance both characteristics, hardness and flexibility, to retain health, stability, and length. We can balance the hardness with nail flexibility by moisturizing and taking a break from nail hardeners intermittently if needed.

Your nail bed is comprised of a protein called keratin. This protein has naturally occurring cross linkages in the filaments which give nails their hardness.  However, not enough cross-links and the nail is very flexible and lacks strength.  One way to create more cross-links in keratin is with the use of formaldehyde (see links above). However, formaldehyde is not for everyone for several reasons (again see links).  A good replacement for formaldehyde based nail hardeners is Dimethyl Urea (DMU) based treatments.

Dimethyl Urea works exactly like formaldehyde in that it creates more cross linkages in the keratin, but has two main advantages:
1. Does not excessively create cross linkages
2. Is not likely to irritate skin

Apparently the cross linkage mechanism is much more controlled and fine tuned and therefore does not excessively harden the nail plate.  You do not need to take intermittent breaks like with formaldehyde (but you be the judge of that).  Always evaluate and re-evaluate your nail situation periodically.

Products containing Dimethyl Urea (DMU):
1. Creative Nail Design (CND):
   Toughen Up

2. Dr. Lewinn's:
   Revitanail Apricot Nail Strengthener
   Renunail Sensitive Pink Nail Strengthener 

I am sure there are smaller brand name companies out there containing Dimethyl Urea as the active ingredient, but I have not come across them easily.  Please feel free to comment if you know of another.

Who should use Dimethyl Urea based treatments? 
People who want an alternative to formaldehyde. Click here to find out if you would be a good candidate for formaldehyde based treatments, hence DMU based treatments.

And I'm going to leave you with a few words of wisdom ... 

... moisturize your nails like it's your job <------another moisturizing post ... with VIDEO :D

Next Up: Nail Conditioning Treatments DermaNail


  1. Your nails are hot.

    I'm in desperate need of a nail treatment, as it stands. I'm guilty of rarely moisturising my hands (I never neglect the rest of my body. Just my hands :/) and I do lots of washing up so yeah, they're all peely and VERY soft. As in, when I've worn a manicure for more than two days, the polish starts cracking because of the flexibilty of my nail. So yeah, your series is helpful :P

  2. Hey Loodie, can you look at this product and tell me if fits in any of your categories?

  3. I "think" its a protein plus moisturizer....

  4. jbrobs, dermelect is a keratin based protein strengthener ;) I did a beauty school breakdown of dermelect when I started using it lol. I love loodie's blog cuz she's like my old beauty school textbook =)

  5. @The Student's Guide To Nail Polish - Are you hitting on me lol. Thanks! Now go buy some rubber gloves, your choice of nail hardener and slather on some grease on your nails like there is no tomorrow! :D

    @Jbrobeck - Yes your right! Here is the full list: Ethyl Acetate, Butyl Acetate, Isopropyl Alcohol, Adipic Acid/Neopentyl Glycol/Trimellitic Anhydride Copolymer, Nitrocellulose, Triphenyl Phosphate, Trimethyl Pentanyl Diisobutyrate, Stearalkonium Bentonite, Ehtyl Tosylamide, Tosylamide / Epoxy Resin, Stearalkonium Hectorite, Sucrose Acetate Isobutyrate, Benzophenone -1, Citric Acid, Diacetone Alcohol, Dimethicone, Aqua (and) Hydrolyzed Keratin, Titanium Dioxide, Ferric Ammonium Ferrocyanide, Red 7 Lake

    DIMETHICONE and WATER are you moisturizers and the Keratin is the protein.

  6. @Scandalous - HAI!!! Thanks girlie :)

    P.S. Miss you <3

  7. Loving your series and have linked it in the sidebar of my blog and have also provided your link to several others. Excellent information. Keep it up. Grace and Peace.

  8. @For Me, It Works - omg, omg, omg, you are so sweet!!! Thank you soooooo much. You are making me so happy!!!

  9. Aah, where would we be without your awesome informative posts..? Thanks for sharing! =)

  10. @AmyGrace - yay! I don't know were you all would be, but I would be sad and alone, yay for blogging about nails!! :D

  11. Thanks Ange! Thanks love! Your blog makes me feel smart - I love it!

  12. Fantastic! ... and who doesn't love an ego boost!! Thanks <3

  13. Yes m'am, I moisturize my nails and use cuticle remover religiously after your posts. I look up to you "Nail Guru who likes tater tots"

  14. Waahoooo! LOL, don't tell everyone sheeeesh ... P.S. I want to raid your stash of brushes. You have brushes like I have polish :p

  15. Hee hee hee urea. n___n

    And I love your nails. They're so pretty.

  16. I'm enjoying learning from you, oh wise one

  17. I dont have the courage to show my naked nails like you =( your nails are so clean and perfect!

  18. Thanks for another informative article! You rock! :D
    I've wishlisted CND Toughen Up, I think I'll try it when I've finished my Trind Nail Repair (with formaldehyde).

  19. @ChaosButterfly - Thank you :D Just don't pee on your nails its not the same, lol.

    @GothamPolish - I make it up as I go ... jk. Thanks! <3

    @Silence is Loud - awww thanks. But, don't worry mine get yellow and poopy looking too. Using two layers of base coat helps as does a bit of buffing (which is not for everyone though). I will do a tutorial, k? Even if you don't love your nails I freaking do!!! So there take that.

    @Solveig - Thank you! Cool cool. Has Trind been working well for you? You may not want to fix something that is not broken; if it's working for you just stick with it (intermittently that is because it formaldehyde-y). Otherwise Toughen Up is a good base coat. It's like Sticky but the DMU.

  20. I love these kind of posts. Thanks loodie for helpful informations ;)

  21. I am so happy you said that, thank you!!

  22. Love this!
    Every time one of my friends asks about my quick recovery from my post-acrylic nail apocalypse, I send them to your blog. I have learned SO MUCH from you. In 8 weeks, I've gone 3/4 of the way through a bottle of Solar Oil that was previously untouched for about a year. Oh, and that Blue Cross cuticle remover is magic, too!

    I can't believe my nails look so good after 6 years of acrylic abuse. Maybe one day they'll even look as good as yours. (Well, a girl can dream.)

  23. Thanks Sinead! <3

    Everyone can have awesome nails, IF you take care of them. You are proof :D I am so happy you are loving your real nails and no dreaming necessary!!! I still want (can't wait) to see them btw :D

  24. I've only used Trind for about 2 weeks yet, but I think I have fewer peelies now, so I hope it's working! :)

  25. Your such a little nail smarty

  26. My nails are better because of you. :B

    And I'm one of those rare people allergic to formaldehyde! :( I didn't even make the connection because I don't do my nails every day but I was breaking out in really bad hives every time I changed my polish. Luckily I figured it out and I'm better now. x.x

  27. @Solveig - nice! be careful not to over use it cause it maybe a big old spiral downwords 0.o

    @Antoszewskia - :D

    @purplegreenjoy - oh ... no ... you ... didnt! lol aww thanks!

    Interesting ... I am glad you found out the culprit, there is nothing worse than getting hives and not knowing what the hell it's from! I had that problem for like 10 years. I wonder how you would do with DMU. Ever tried CND's Toughen UP?

  28. THANK YOU for explaing this. If you've ever wondered why I never talk or show pictures of my nails it's because they're terrible. (well, I guess they're okay, really.) But they break or crack all the time. I'm trying your tips...I promise


  29. Keep at! You should totally do a NOTD!! :D

  30. Thanks for another great post! I think I posted a while back about my peeling nails, which I believed were due to buffing over ridges. I haven't buffed my nails in a month or so, and I do see a distinct line where my nails are growing back healthier. (I also realized that peeling polish off of peeling nails is a HUGE no-no, and I will never do it again!)

    My question is this: If cuticle removing creams/gels contain acids that remove dead skin, is it possible that I am thinning or otherwise damaging my nails every time I treat my cuticles? I'm worried that the buffing was just ONE of the things that I was doing to destroy my nails. Previously, I always had very strong, very hard (possibly too hard) nails that seemed to thrive on neglect - I've never had this trouble before.

    Do any of these things raise a red flag in your opinion? I've upgraded my remover (to Zoya Remove+, which is very expensive nail heaven) and I've started using something like Orly Nailtrition or the Nicole by OPI version of Nail Envy as a base every time (under a ridge filler). I'm keeping my nails as short as possible to discourage peeling (clipping, because they're too "peely" to file), I'm getting better at application so I don't require a two-liter of acetone to clean up stray polish, and I'm changing polish less often. I'm moisturizing my cuticles a lot more but the skin is still very tough around the top of the fingernail - I don't feel like it really penetrates to the "good" skin even though I've been aggressively filing or clipping the tough, dead skin. Is there any hope for me, lol?

    Okay, I have gone on too long. Time to take it up with my diary... Thanks again for your wonderful articles!

  31. Awww, that gave me some courage to do it now!! >.< cant wait cant wait!

  32. Hi Courtney! Yes I remember you :)

    Yay I'm glad your nails are improving! I will do a separate post about what you asked (yes a post dedicated to you lol), but will give you the short version to your answers NOW :)

    Considering your nail condition I think you are asking a pretty reasonable question. Cuticle removers are either a base (KOH - potassium hydroxide)or an acids(AHA - alpha-hydroxy-acid). The strengths of each can vary, so you have to read the bottle and follow directions. Although any acid or base has the potential to "etch" the surface, IF you are using it properly (only on the cuticle and within reasonable removal time) then you probably have nothing to worry about. Something like buffing has a much larger affect on your nail bed then using a chemical cuticle remover. That is UNLESS you have an allergy to that particular cuticle remover, in which case the cuticle remover could be doing more damange then it should :/

    Instead of Zoya Remove+ you can try adding some glycerine and water to your regular acetone. It will be less efficient at removing polish, but more moisturizing :) Glycerine is a skin conditioner and can be found in Walmart and alike. These things take time lol, THERE IS HOPE :D With the warmer weather coming perhaps this will be good for your skin. :) Eventually try and see if you can curb clipping the skin and see if just moisturizing will do the trick. This will take time because the skin has to re-grow and might be ragged looking for a while. Keep in touch!

    @Silence is Loud - hellz to the yes! :D

  33. Thank you so much for your response! I think I may experiment with using the cuticle remover before I remove my old polish, in the hope that the layer of polish will help protect (what's left of) my nails from the remover. I only want to discontinue using cuticle removers as a last resort, because for me it is better for hangnail prevention than anything I've ever tried. I look forward to reading your post!

  34. Someone linked to your post today (I forgot who. Sorry!) and I just spent the beginning of my afternoon reading every single post thoroughly. THANK YOU FOR DOING THIS. So informative and I realized what type of hardener I need for my nails.

    Amazing series. And thank you again. :)

  35. @BMR - YAY!!!!! I am so excited!! High fives all around! :D Come visit any time I love hearing from you!

  36. Have you ever tried a product called Quimica? It's from Columbia. It's a nail strengthener with formaldahyde. I found it when I googled nail strengtheners. Reviews I read were mostly positive, so I bought a bottle on Ebay. Although most reviewers said they noticed results right away, it took several weeks before I noticed anything. My nails have always been good, but now they are great! I used it for about a month, and am going to take a few weeks to a month off. I don't want to dry out my nails. I use 2 coats as a base if I am using color, or just 2coats alone. This stuff really gives your nails a smooth, glassy look. Has anyone else tried it?

  37. Hi Loodie,

    Your nail hardener series is very thorough but I'm unsure as to which category the product I use falls into (i.e. how it works...)

    It is "Diamond Strength" Instant Nail Hardener by Sally Hansen, the ingredients are stated as:


    I can't see any reference to flouride, formaldehyde or proteins so wondered if you could figure out how this one works?

    Great blog by the way!!

  38. I know this is old but have you tried anything else? I have Orly Nailtrition and Nail Magic. I started on Orly for a week now (on left hand) and on my right I started the Nail Magic today. I am going to see which works better since everyone has diff chemistry. After 5-6 weeks I will see what works best as a base coat as well. I use all zoya products so whatever I stick with has to work with 3-5 Free. Any tips??

  39. I know this is old but have you tried anything else? I have Orly Nailtrition and Nail Magic. I started on Orly for a week now (on left hand) and on my right I started the Nail Magic today. I am going to see which works better since everyone has diff chemistry. After 5-6 weeks I will see what works best as a base coat as well. I use all zoya products so whatever I stick with has to work with 3-5 Free. Any tips??

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