I can't count the number of times I've tried on
"nude" shoes, lipsticks, or lingerie that were meant for someone at least five skin tones lighter than me. Not all nudes are equal, and that goes for nail polish, too. Luckily, there are a lot more options in that department — which actually makes narrowing down the right one a bit of a challenge.
Manicurist Gina Viviano likes to take the "
mannequin-hand" approach. "I choose the shade that blends in the most with the skin tone," says Viviano. "It feels a bit rudimentary, but there really isn't a shortcut to finding the best shade." She recommends holding up the bottle to the back of your hand before testing it on your nails.
Ahead, Viviano breaks down her go-tos for every skin tone, so you can save yourself all that extra swatching.
If You're Fair... Pick up a sheer nude with a tinge of pink; it will flatter your undertones rather than washing you out. "Look for formulations that don't have an opaqueness to them," Viviano advises. Burberry Nail Polish in Nude Pink No.101, $23, available at Burberry.
This popular nude-pink elongates hands, says creator Jin Soon Choi.
Jin Soon Nail Polish in Nostalgia, $18, available at Jin Soon.
If You're Medium... Finding a nude with a touch of purple, mauve, or lilac will flatter those with medium skin, says Viviano. "The color you're looking for should actually blend with the tone of skin surrounding your nail, which is slightly darker than the back of your hand," she says. OPI Nail Lacquer in Tickle My France-y, $8.79, available at Amazon.
This sugary nude also hits a sweet note for those with warm undertones.
Tom Ford Nail Lacquer in Toasted Sugar, $36, available at Sephora.
If You're Olive... "You want to look for for colors that remind you of coffee with cream," Viviano says. So, beige is your best bet. Deborah Lippmann Nail Polish in Naked, $18, available in Deborah Lippmann.
"Go for very warm undertones," Viviano says. "This where you can find formulations with a little more opaqueness to them." This cinnamon color hits the sweet spot.
Essie Nail Polish in At The Barre, $11.50, available at Essie.
If You're Dark... "As a general rule, the darker the skin tone, the more opaque the color [should be]," Viviano says. "This just helps to disguise the whitish free edge of the nail." This shade looks like rich caramel on nails. Smith & Cult Nail Polish in Feathers & Flesh, $18, available at Smith & Cult.
This brand does no wrong when it comes to finding bases that work for all skin tones. Their polishes, which range from Nude Beige to Chocolate, are no exceptions. This particular one has a warm golden undertone — making it the perfect choice for medium skin.
Black Up Nail Lacquer in Nude Light Brown, $12,50, available at Sephora.
If You're Deep... "Again, look for a shade closely matching the slightly darker tone of the skin surrounding the nail," Viviano says. Rich espresso-colored hues always work wonders. OPI Infinite Shine 2 in Linger Over Coffee, $11.88, available at Amazon.
"I would describe this color tint as a dark nude with a warm hints," Viviano says. Plus, it goes on sheer if you're looking for something more natural.
HIPP x RGB Nail Tint in T4, $4.50, available at RGB Cosmetics.
Here's another brand that really knows its neutrals. Brown and Bougie looks rich in-bottle, but it's quite build-able while painting on. Try one coat for a sheer effect, two or three to make a statement.
Mented Nail Lacquer in Brown and Bougie, $8, available at Mented Cosmetics.
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