According to celebrity nail artist Tom Bachik (whose clients include Jennifer Lopez, Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez, Kerry Washington, Kim Kardashian West 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 colour 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 colour 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 we’ve previously mentioned, one of the things we 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—whether it be nail finish, colour, 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 colour as only for a particular skin tone or shade,” he tells us. “Colour is about style, fashion preference and fun! If you love a colour, rock it—whether it’s a traditional or trendy shade for your skin tone or not.” We couldn’t agree more, so we compiled a hearty list of 18 (yes, 18) of the best nude nail colours. And, yes, we asked four of the top celebrity nail artists in the industry which ones they especially love for certain skin tones, but we 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 colours 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 colour for darker skin tones,” shares celebrity nail artist Betina Goldstein whose A-list clients include Zoë Kravitz, Salma Hayek, Issa Rae, Rosamund Pike and Issa Rae. “Other sheer nudes have pink or white undertones that don’t match well for darker skin tones. This colour balances the nail bed colour to the skin colour while still maintaining a sheer clean look.”
For more full coverage and an opaque effect, Goldstein loves this nude nail hue from Chanel. “It’s the perfect balance of deep beige and rich caramel,” she says. “It’s actually one of my all-time favourite polishes.”
A light cinnamony-brown that’s on the neutral to warm side of the spectrum, this fan favourite shade from Essie has a flattering hint of red, which Bachik especially loves for those with darker skin tones.
“For darker skin tones, I usually suggest choosing a nude-coloured 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.
Another great option for those with dark to deep skin tones who have a warmer undertone is this rich and flattering shade from OPI.
“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 colour 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.”
“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, she reaches for this bottle from Christian Louboutin. (Spendy, but gorge.)
The Best Shades for Medium Skin Tones
“For medium tones, try a nail nude nail colour with hints of pink or peach,” recommends Goldstein. ” This full-coverage opaque polish from Chanel is great for medium skin tones with pink undertones.”
“To be honest, there are a lot of nude nail colours out there, but not a lot of good nudes,” Bachik laughs. “I usually mix or layer nude tones to get the shade I’m looking for.” That said, this iconic shade from Essie is one of his favourites.
Aptly named, this flattering shade from Deborah Lippmann is another great option, according to both Gutierrez and Bachik.
Gutierrez agrees that medium skin tones often look best with nude colours that have a hint of pink. One of her top picks? This ultra-glossy iteration from the colour geniuses at Tom Ford.
“This nude nail colour from OPI is one of the most popular colours in my kit,” Hanna shares. “While it looks amazing on everyone, I think it looks the most flattering on medium-toned skin.”
If you love saturated (aka non-sheer) nail colours and have medium-toned skin with olive undertones, Goldstein loves this cool shade of beige from YSL.
The Best Shades for Light Skin Tones
“The point to a flawless nude nail manicure is to subtly showcase your nails,” says Gutierrez. For lighter skin tones, she loves this elegant shade of nude-pink from Smith & Cult.
What would a nude nail colour roundup be without this cult-favourite 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 sheer white gloss hue from Jinsoon is another one of my favourites for those with lighter skin tones,” adds Hanna. “Since this colour is on the lighter side of nude, it looks super chic on fair skin and short nails.”
“This nude nail colour is chic and elegant with a soft pink finish,” explains Goldstein. “I recommend applying two coats for more coverage.”
“If you are very fair with pink and red undertones, I recommend sticking with a nude with white or soft blush undertones,” suggests Goldstein. Bachik agrees and loves this popular shade from Chanel.
If you have a light skin tone with neutral undertones (aka not too cool and not too warm), Bachik says this pink-y nude nail colour from OPI is one of the best you can buy.