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

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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!

ibx-system

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:

IBX-before-after

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.

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:

hpma

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.

Application

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

image-of-fast-track-instructions

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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25 thoughts on “Fact-check: How does IBX Nail Strengthening Treatment Work?”

    • Couple questions. Do you do this every day? every week? Should I file and remove former application before I dry nails and start over? I just have the IBX, not the nail repair, as mine were only ‘lifting’. I also do not use polish or anything else on top of the IBX.

      Reply
      • No need to try and remove IBX since it’s working inside your nail. You can use the treatment weekly until you are seeing healthy, stronger nails. Then use it every 3-4 weeks. Just manicure and file nails as usual. Cleanse the nail plate. Apply the IBX as directed. Cleanse. You’re done!

        Reply
  1. I’ m very impressed with your blog. It’s refreshing to see factual info and not marketing mumbo jumbo or scare tactics. Bravo. I subscribed!!
    PS. I’m a nail tech who uses IBX and I must say that IBX really does what it claims to do. A rare thing in the industry.

    Reply
  2. Hi Michelle,

    Fantastic blog and so clear and precise! I am a salon owner in Sydney in newtown an have just added this treatment to our range and results and true benefits live up to the hype! Im sharing this now on our page!
    Any one looking for this treatment in Sydney check us out Mani Factorie on Facebook or Instagram!
    Happy Friday xx

    Reply
  3. AMAZING PRODUCT – We have been using IBX for over 18 months in our Salon and have seen the amazing results with our own eyes. We no longer have any clients who have acrylic extensions – we have all converted all to gel polish only with regular IBX as they can now grow and keep their own nails to the length they want!
    Ps. We were trained by Linda Nordstrum and Elise Scoles-Pilkington in the UK.
    Helen & Alison – Pink Nail Salon Shifnal

    Reply
  4. How safe is this? From this blog in a different post about mentality “Methacrylates are small monomers in gel polish that join together to form a polymer after UV light irradiation. If not polymerised, they can cause sensitivity, and if they’re mistakenly included in a normal polish, the unreacted monomers would be in contact with skin and nails for far longer than usual.”

    Reply
    • It’s safe in this case because they purposely polymerise it with a UV lamp – it’s only unsafe if you assume it’s normal polish and skip the UV step.

      Reply
      • I am unable to locate any salon in my area that uses this product. I have been aware of IBX for a while now and still have no salons that use product. I finally purchased IBX repair and strengthened and a UV light. What I wish to know, as a non nail professional, how can I be sure this product is being cured long enough with my UV light? It’s rather invisible and I while I followed the directions (even watched a number of videos on YouTube) I have no idea if I am applying correctly. Thank you. Dawn

        Reply
  5. Amazing review! When it says to heat the ibx can this be done under the uv light or does it have to be a different source of heat?. Thanks!

    Reply
  6. Please can you advise if its ok to use on nails that are lifting from the nail bed? Oncholysis I believe its called. Thanks Lesley

    Reply
  7. Can you apply shellac or OPI on top of this product – or would this be counter productive to strengthening the nail (when you have to take it off)?

    Reply
  8. Hi Michele. I’m a little concerned about the safety of IBX repair. Ingredients in nail polishes and gels are not ! “cosmetics” like those found in creams, lotions and eye-shadow, for example. They are industrial chemicals used in coatings and adhesives. Yes, the very dangerous ingredients are seldom used but even the “safe” products like those in IBX are still completely unsuitable for ingestion and absorption into the bloodstream and skin. A simple fact of UV cure products is that they do not cure completely..ever! Some formulators manage to get higher degrees of conversion than others but there is always unreacted monomer and ingredients left on the nail. This is why the notoriously impenetrable Keratin layer of the nail is our best friend. It hinders the uncured products from passing through the nail and entering the bloodstream. UV cure chemistry used in IBX is also purely light cure. Some products can cure without light (called “dark-cure”) but this product will not cure at all without the correct light. It is an undisputed fact that the light from Salon lamps cannot penetrate the nail and therefore any and all monomers and other ingredients that have been heated and coaxed deep into the nail will remain in their dangerous uncured industrial-chemical form. I do not doubt that IBX strengthens the nail but it is my personal opinion ( as a specialist in UV cure chemistry) that the product is a safety time-bomb. it is possible to strengthen the nail with proper care and products that adhere to the surface and any adhesion is aided only by penetration into surface irregularities or “keys”. I have also noted that IBX literature mentions that none of “The Big Five”are in the formulation. In reality The Big Five refers only to animals. Unfortunately the list of dangerous and even deadly ingredients that could find their way into nail products is more like the big five-hundred!. Telling us which five of those is not! in the product is irrelevant and suggests that the product has no hazardous chemicals in it which is untrue and misleading. Especially if the makers have deliberately instructed their clients to break a cardinal rule of cosmetic nail safety and leave uncured monomers deep inside the nail. Thanks John

    Reply

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