Fact-check: How does IBX Nail Strengthening Treatment Work?

If you’re in the nail world, you’d have heard of IBX, the nail strengthening treatment that’s been saving nails everywhere. How does it work, you ask? Here’s the science!

Is ibx nail treatment safe

What is IBX?

IBX is a nail strengthening treatment described as “a penetrative, curable monomer system”, developed by Famous Name, a company headed by the ex-CEO of CND and his wife. It consists of two bottles of liquid containing monomers, small molecules that can join together, as well as a photoinitiator which starts their joining when the right type of light is used. First, IBX Repair is applied to the visibly damaged parts of the nail and cured, then regular IBX is applied to the nail and cured. The results look pretty amazing:

Is ibx nail treatment safe

As well as healing splits and peels, it also fills in grooves and adds a protective layer to your natural nail so it can grow out further without breaking, and shields it from further abuse, like gel polish removal. Pretty awesome, right? Turns out that the way it works is pretty nifty too! (I’m not getting paid to write this by the way – just sayin’.)

How does IBX work?

So far, IBX sounds like another gel or acrylic product, but here’s the cool bit – instead of simply sitting on the surface of the nail like the other treatments, it’s designed to actually sink into the nail and cure under the nail’s surface as well. Since it’s below the surface of the nail, it lasts between polish or gel removals.

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It’s like the lovechild of formaldehyde-based nail strengtheners and gel polish, except formaldehyde just links together the protein already in the nail, and gel adds a layer of plastic on top of the nail. IBX adds extra plastic reinforcement within the top layers of the nail – it’s like pouring concrete into a cup of pebbles and letting it solidify, gluing the pebbles together into one big strong mass. They call this an “interpenetrating polymer network”.

(Or so it claims, anyway – like with a lot of beauty science, robust independent studies don’t really exist and probably will never exist, because the government doesn’t think we need nice nails. But the explanation and results are pretty convincing.).

Even so, it’s a bit persnickety and requires specific conditions before it penetrates into the nail – the nail needs to be dry, heated with gentle heat only (41-43 °C), blotted and then cured with UV light.

How does IBX work differently from other gel products?

How does IBX sink into the nail instead of sitting on top, unlike other curable nail products? Unfortunately the patent is still pending, but I’m going to guess it’s a mixture of chemical composition and how it’s applied.

Chemical composition

The ingredients in IBX are:

IBX: Hydroxypropyl Methacrylate, Isobornyl Methacrylate, Ethyl Acetate, Glyceryl Dimethacrylate Pyromellitate, Cellulose Acetate Butyrate, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, CI 60725 (Violet 2)

IBX Repair: Hydroxypropyl Methacrylate, Glyceryl Dimethacrylate Pyromellitate, Triethyleneglycol Dimethacrylate, Photoinitiator Blend.

The main monomer is hydroxypropyl methacrylate (HPMA), which looks like this:

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Is ibx nail treatment safe

It appears in regular gel polishes to increase adhesion to the natural nail – that is, how well gel sticks to the nail. I’m guessing it’s the OH on the right that does that. Since it has an attraction for the nail, it makes sense that it would sink into the nail more easily than the other more common monomers in regular gel polishes, like ethyl methacrylate.


In terms of application, the heating and blotting steps are what really differentiate IBX.

Is ibx nail treatment safe

Now, heat is good at making things melty – like how honey gets runnier when it’s heated, the gloopy IBX gets runnier and sinks more easily in between the gaps in the nail. The blotting step is probably mostly to make sure the layer is pleasantly thin, but it might also remove some of the excess product that could be blocking the UV light from penetrating and curing the IBX that’s under the nail’s surface.

The Lowdown

IBX is a new nail strengthening treatment that works like nothing else on the market so far – it sinks into tiny gaps in the nail, then cures to form a tough network that strengthens within the nail. This can repair your nail and reinforce them so you can grow them out much more easily!


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About the Author: Tung Chi