The Best Nude Nail Polish for Every Skin Tone

Strut up to the salon's polish wall with confidence.

nail polishes
(Image credit: Design by Betsy Farrell)

On a scale of one to horrendous, walking into a salon, choosing a nude shade, and realizing it looks god-awful on you is pretty high up there. But while your brain equates "nude" with "hard to screw up," apparently it's not that easy. "Picking a nude is really hard, it's a lot easier to pick a color," says nail artist Miss Pop. "How many times do you try to wear a shirt with a color that blends in with your skin? We're not used to picking these kind of shades."

Even though selecting the *correct* shade can be quite the challenge, nude nails are only becoming more popular. The good news is that as more and more people request these types of colors, beauty brands are taking note and making a variety of options. "Nude has begun to mean a lot of different things," says Miss Pop. "We're not just talking opacity anymore, or tone, it's also a variety of neutrals. It goes everywhere from beige to gray, to even a pale apricot or peach. Depending on your skin tone and personality, there's more than one option for you."

"Nude has begun to mean a lot of different things. We're not just talking opacity anymore. It's also a variety of neutrals."

Below, we have Miss Pop's polish choices for each skin tone (as well as some of our own), but if you are still a bit worried about going nude, here are her top tips for choosing the right color:

1. A lot of people hold the bottle to their wrists to evaluate the color, but hold the bottle as close to your nail bed as possible. That's where people often get pink or have redness, which will effect how the color looks.

2. Broaden your horizons of what you would normally consider a nude, because sometimes the best nude is a neutral. That could mean everything from pale pinks and lilacs or peaches, or a light chocolate-y brown.

3. If you want a sheer finish, match a light neutral against your skin tone and find a similar sheer. It's easy to tell if an opaque will look good on you from the bottle, but a sheer can look very different painted on.

nail polishes

(Image credit: Design by Betsy Farrell)

For pale skin tones, à la Julianne Moore, try:

1.Dior Vernis Gel Shine and Long Wear Nail Lacquer in Tra-La-La, $27;

2. Pure Color Nail Lacquer in Ballerina Pink, $21;

3. Yves Saint Laurent La Laque Couture in Rose Romantique, $27;

nail polishes

(Image credit: Design by Betsy Farrell)

For tan skin tones, à la Jennifer Aniston, try:

1. Nail Polish in Nostalgia, $18;

2. Nail Color in Pure Porcelain, $9;

3. Nail Lacquer in Toasted Sugar, $35;

nail polishes

(Image credit: Design by Betsy Farrell)

For medium skin tones, à la Jennifer Lopez, try:

1. Nails Inc. Gel Effect Nail Polish, $15;

2. Context Nail Lacquer in Take it Off, $15;

3. Chanel le Vernis Longwear Nail Color in GARÇONNE, $28;

nail polishes

(Image credit: Design by Betsy Farrell)

For dark skin tones, à la Kerry Washington, try:

1. Naked Manicure in Nude Perfector, $10;

2. Christian Louboutin Nail Colour in Cappuccino, $50;

3. Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro Nail Polish in Peaches and Cream, $20;

nail polishes

(Image credit: Design by Betsy Farrell)

For dark skin tones à la Naomi Campbell, try:

1. Revlon Nail Enamel in Serene, $3;

2. Nail Polish in Marshmallow, $9;

3. OPI Nail Polish in Ice Bergers & Fries, $9;

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Alanna Greco

I'm a writer and editor based in New York City. I love a good coat, a well-articulated feminist rant, and face masking (yes, that’s a verb) like it’s nobody’s business.