Nude nail polish can make your fingers look long and graceful, and your skin glow—if you find the right shade, that is. We find that our nude manicures often end in disappointment (too pink, too brown, too chalky, too just-wrong), because we’ve used a shade that does not truly complement our skintone. There’s more to it than just light, medium or dark: Nude tones are particularly challenging to match because, like your skin, they’re imbued with subtle undertones that can range from pink to yellow to olive.
Don’t leave your natural manicures to chance—try these tips from manicure superstars Deborah Lippmann and Jin Soon Choi for the best nude nail polish for your skintone.
1Nude Nail Polish for Fair Cool Skin
Lippmann says to look for sheer-finish shades with a hint of pink—nothing even remotely yellow—if your skin has blue or cool undertones. Choi suggests adding a little boost with some clear pink or purple shimmer on top of your base color.
2Nude Nail Polish for Fair Warm Skin
An opaque beige with yellow undertones works well for warm skin tones. Lippmann’s advice for nailing your nude is to try it first; she claims your skin will tell you if it’s the right shade. “If it’s not,” she says, “it can make your cuticles look wrong, like they’re yellowish or dirty, or reddish and irritated.” She also says you can use one coat of opaque topped with one coat of a matching sheer.
3Nude Nail Polish for Medium Cool Skin
Choi likes to use a slightly lighter-colored sheer cream, saying that will provide a fair amount of contrast and complement your skin tone. Lippmann adds that shimmery finishes (not chunky glitter!) can be a really beautiful way to do nude nails, plus it masks damage and chipping.
4Nude Nail Polish for Medium Golden Skin
Choi says to avoid colors with noticeable yellow undertones, since they can make your skintone appear sallow. When she does nude nails, she likes going slightly lighter or darker than the natural skin tone.
5Nude Nail Polish for Olive Skin
A slightly lighter shade with cool undertones makes your skintone look vibrant, not washed out. Lippmann likes that nude nails work on any nail length, from really long and pointy (think Lady Gaga) to short and natural. “The key is to make it seem that you did it on purpose, like it’s a definite look,” she says, “not like you’re wearing clear polish.”
6Nude Nail Polish for Dark Cool Skin
Since your skin is easily complemented by most undertones, you have the perfect opportunity to try what Choi calls the mannequin look—where it matches your skin exactly and appears to elongate your fingers. You’ll want to find the exact color of your skin, much like you would with foundation.
7Nude Nail Polish for Dark Warm Skin
Accentuate your warm-based skin with a bronze tone. Lippmann says that with any nude nail color, it’s absolutely necessary to try before you buy (colors can look quite different in the bottle compared to on the nails), and take the time to apply two thin coats instead of one thick one. Don’t rush it, since the color changes as it dries.