Nail Concealer, Nail Primer, Nail Brightener: What's The Deal With All The Manicure Extras?

Makeup for your manicure? Well, something like that. New manicure add-ons are taking over nail routines everywhere, and we're curious, are they worth the extra steps? While we know what products such as concealer, primer, and brightener might do for our makeup and skincare routines, do the same rules apply for our nails? Funny enough, they do tend to follow the same general principles. These add-ons might sound like an insider's secret, but you do not need to be a nail expert — or a makeup lover — to get in on their benefits. 

It seems to us that for all of the work we put into our makeup, skincare, and haircare routines, our nails tend to get a bit left behind. But ensuring the health of our nails can have lasting effects, where our nails can even signal to us that we might be missing something in our diet, or other health concerns. For this reason, and of course, for grooming purposes, it could be worth giving your nails some extra love and attention. 

Nail concealer

Much like the concealer we might use on our face, nail concealer is also used to cover up 'blemishes' on your nails. Think of nail concealer as a super, super light coat of nude nail polish that both evens out the color of your natural nails and provides benefits similar to a tinted moisturizer. Some nail concealers contain vitamins, extracts, and peptides meant to address discoloration and nourish the nails when cracked or otherwise thin. Others promise to strengthen nails with ingredients such as keratin and pentavitin (a plant-derived moisturizer).

But equally as important as what we put on our nails, is what is left out of the ingredients list in our nail products. This includes strong chemicals. Although harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde are typical ingredients in nail polish, they are often excluded from nail concealer. In other words, by using nail concealer, you can generally feel confident your nails are quite literally in good hands. Nail concealer can work for anybody's nails, but if your nails are particularly prone to damage, for example, or if you receive frequent gel or acrylic manicures, nail concealer might be especially suited for you. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that repeat gel manicures without proper care can cause natural nail damage.

Nail primer

Just as the use of makeup primer has been frequently debated, nail primer is another nail add-on that is often overlooked. Technically you do not need to prime your nails with this treatment, but if you want flawless polish coverage and some added benefits, nail primer could be worth your consideration.

First, know that there are two kinds of nail primers: acid primers, and acid-free primers, where acid primers tend better suited for those with pre-existing nail issues. Before you put on your polish, first swipe a nail primer over your nails, and allow it to set. Unlike makeup primers, where the product lays on your face, nail primers strip your nail of any surface oils, creating a more even surface on which to place the polish. And because nail primers help polish stick to the nail, this product might also prolong your manicure so you get the most out of it, just like your face foundation. 

Nail brightener

Now, nail brightener is a product that you might scratch your head about, should you be unfamiliar. Why would anybody need to brighten their nails, you may ask. Well, if you would never be caught without nail polish on, your nails might start to develop an unseemly tinge of yellow when you change your polish. This is because the pigments in nail polish can stain your nails, and it can take some time to go away. (That formaldehyde we mentioned earlier? Yeah, it can cause discoloration, too.)

This is where a nail brightener comes in. Similar to how you might use vitamin C on your face to brighten dark spots, nail brightener can help restore the natural tone of the nail. Brightening actives such as citric acid, which is not the same thing as vitamin C, serve to lift discoloration from the nail over time and with consistent use. While it can be good for your nails to take a break from polish on occasion, using a base coat, or even a nail primer, before you paint your nails can assist in staving away this yellowing effect. Just keep in mind that nail brighteners work solely for superficial purposes; when nail discoloration is symptomatic of another health problem, seek care from a medical professional.