If your nails are looking less-than-stellar recently, it might be time to turn to a barely-there shade until your next manicure appointment rolls around. Too often, though, certain tans and browns don't swipe right — they're either too light or blend into your complexion too much. But with a little trial and error (plus advice from the experts), it’s not hard to find the best nude nail polishes for every skin tone — and they're ready for their rightful time in the sun.
Picking out a nude nail polish isn’t as easy as it might seem. You can't just go by the shade you see in a bottle sitting on the salon shelf. (Sometimes it's too sheer, or worse, too yellow.) Instead, try testing the polish with your skin undertone in mind to ensure that the nude will be visible once applied. If your complexion is fair, stick to sheer, opaque shades. Medium tones work well with taupe and salmon-based colors. Darker and deep skin tones soak up peachy and beige tones, so so go for chocolate nudes with a hint of berry in them.
“If you want a nude, that can be tricky since you don’t want to wind up with the dreaded mannequin hands — where your skin and nail color are the same,” Miss Pop, a New York City-based nail artist whose clients include Ariana Grande and Janelle Monae, tells TZR. To avoid the aforementioned mannequin hands, Miss Pop suggests snagging something with a touch of light-catching shimmer. “Or even go for a shade that matches your hair color — you know that looks fabulous on you!” she says. “And it will all connect your whole beauty look.”
Los Angeles-based editorial and campaign nail artist Amy Le says that while there are no hard-and-fast rules, there are a few tricks that may help you decide on a shade. “Don't try to match your nail polish to your hand the same way you try to match your foundation to your face,” she tells TZR. This can also lead to those “mannequin hands” with nails looking like an extension of your fingers. Instead, “try matching the color of your nail beds,” Le says. “There's a good chance that it will match your skin tone.”
Determining your undertone is a great way to figure out the best neutral nail color for you. Le recommends pink bases for cool undertones, yellow bases for warm undertones, cool bases for fair skin with pink undertones, and nude or warm shades for olive undertones. It also depends on what kind of look you’re going for. “A sheer polish has a very clean end finish,” says Le. “An opaque polish has a very trendy, stylish finish. A matte polish over any nude polish is just a level up in the trendy [and] stylish category.” She also notes that many of her clients will choose gold as a “glammed-up nude.”
In case you don't feel like swatching, TZR asked Miss Pop and other top manicurists for the best neutral polishes in their kits: Betina R. Goldstein whose clients are Zoe Kravitz, Rebel Wilson, and Dakota Johnson; Maki Sakamoto, a manicurist who creates nails for Bella Hadid, Jessica Alba, and Rita Ora; and Casey Herman, also a New York City-based manicurist, who works with Scarlett Johansson, Paris Jackson, and Rachel McAdams. See their best neutral nail colors below.
We only include products that have been independently selected by TZR's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
Best Nude Nail Polish For Fair Skin
Best Nude Nail Polish For Medium Skin
Best Nude Nail Polish For Dark Skin
Best Nude Nail Polish For Deep Skin
Miss Pop, celebrity and editorial nail artist
Betina R. Goldstein, celebrity nail artist
Maki Sakamoto, celebrity and editorial manicurist
Casey Herman, celebrity manicurist
Amy Le, editorial and campaign nail artist
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