According to celebrity nail artist Tom Bachik (whose clients include Jennifer Lopez, Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez, Kerry Washington, Kim Kardashian, and Shay Mitchell), there's some artistic strategy to choosing the most flattering shade of nude nail polish for your skin tone—but it's probably not what you think. Personally, I've always assumed that the best shade of nude would mirror the color of my fingertips to a tee, but as Bachik and other celebrity manicurists promptly informed me, that's not exactly the most strategic shopping plan if you're hunting for your personal perfect hue of nude. Oops.
"The current trend for a chic, sophisticated nude nail color is to either go a shade lighter or a shade darker than your actual skin tone, which gives a subtle yet intentional vibe to your manicure," Bachik explains to me. That said, and as I've previously mentioned, one of the things I love most about the beauty industry right now is that there are no rules, and you should never feel limited when it comes to your beauty aesthetic—be it nail finish, color, or shade pairings—your options extend to infinity and beyond.
Bachik agrees. "The thing I don't want to happen is for someone to look at a particular color as only for a particular skin tone or shade," he tells me. "Color is about style, fashion preference, and fun! If you love a color, rock it—whether it's a traditional or trendy shade for your skin tone or not." I couldn't agree more, so I compiled a hearty list of 26 (yes, 26) of the best nude nail colors. And, yes, I asked four of the top celebrity nail artists in the industry which ones they especially love for certain skin tones, but I invite you to use the below as a very loose guide and more of a large smattering of shade inspiration instead. Curious to see which nude nail colors celebrity manicurists hoard to suit clients of all skin tones? Keep scrolling.
The Best Shades for Dark Skin Tones
"I love this sheer beige nude nail color for darker skin tones," shares celebrity nail artist Betina Goldstein, whose A-list clients include Zoë Kravitz, Salma Hayek, Issa Rae, and Rosamund Pike. "Other sheer nudes have pink or white undertones that don’t match well for darker skin tones. This color balances the nail-bed color to the skin color while still maintaining a sheer clean look."
"For darker skin tones, I usually suggest choosing a nude-colored polish that has a slightly orange undertone, and I recommend going one to two shades lighter or darker than your actual skin," explains celebrity nail artist Karen Gutierrez, who works with celebrities like Gina Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara, Zoe Saldaña, Eva Mendez, and Gabrielle Union.
She loves this precise shade from Zoya, which is described by the brand as a "warm milky light brown nude creme with soft orangey undertones."
Another great option for those with dark to deep skin tones who have a warmer undertone, this rich and flattering shade from OPI should be one of your go-tos.
"Just like a foundation for your face, there are nail polishes with different undertones," explains Goldstein. "Unlike foundation, however, your nail polish doesn't have to exactly match your skin tone, but it should enhance it.
"With that in mind, you want to choose a nail color that will complement your skin tone, and for dark to deep skin tones, I personally lean toward polishes with caramels and deep creamy beige tones like this one from Patricia Yankee."
"As crazy as it might sound, matching a nude nail polish to your skin tone can sometimes be a mistake," Gutierrez warns, echoing Bachik. "I've noticed that when I've done this in the past, it has a tendency to wash out my hands and make my nude manicure look gray and muddy, which is why I like going either a little darker or lighter.
"It's possible that you may need to layer two different shades of nude nail polish to find the perfect shade, starting with the darkest nude at the base and layering it with the lighter nude."
For a shade slightly deeper, reach for for this bottle from Christian Louboutin. (Spendy, but gorge.)
The Best Shades for Medium Skin Tones
The Best Shades for Light Skin Tones
What would a nude nail color roundup be without this cult-favorite polish from Essie? According to Hanna, it's one of her consistent go-to shades when working with clients who have fair and light skin tones, although she says it actually looks great on most skin tones and is a staple in anyone's polish arsenal.
"This shade from Essie is sheer with a hint of light pink," Goldstein says. "It brightens up and evens out the nail bed and is great for medium to dark skin tones, too! I love using this polish on myself and clients because it doesn’t change colors or turn yellow."
This article was published at an earlier date and has since been updated.