Nude nail polish is my personal arch nemesis. Every time I decide I'm going to go for a subtle, sheer nail, I end up with a chalky, pasty polish that was clearly not formulated with dark skin in mind. Will this battle between me and all iterations of Ballet Slippers ever end? It’s so hard to get your hands on what I like to call "Black-girl nudes," which range between rich shades of sand, caramel, and brown.
Celebrity manicurist Eri Ishizu, who works with Issa Rae, understands the struggle. “Honestly, it’s been a little difficult to find the perfect nude," says Ishizu. She recommends finding a shade that matches the color of your nail beds rather than your skin tone, which can look like you have no nails. "This is why I like to use a little lighter color that matches the color of the nail bed," she says.
To get you started on your hunt for the perfect minimal manicure, we’ve done some major celebrity stalking to find out the nude shades that they love. The time we spent zooming in on hands on Instagram is well worth eliminating the wasted minutes staring at a wall of polishes in the nail salon.
Find out the exact nude shades the pros used on their celebrity clients, ahead.
There is a lot of product out there — some would say too much. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team, but if you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.
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For the 2018 Diamond Ball, an annual event held by Rihanna for her Clara Lionel Foundation, the singer and beauty mogul complemented her regal white lace dress with a delicate nude manicure.
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This polish is a favorite of Rihanna’s longtime nail artist Maria Salandra, who loves how universally flattering it is. “I use this shade all the time and is a staple in my travel nail lacquer kit,” she tells Refinery29. “It’s a little milky with a pinky fleshy tone that kind of melts away into the skin color no matter what tone it is. And the bonus is that it dries super quick.”
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“Samoan Sand has been my go-to nude color with any skin tone. It has enough coverage that’s not chalky or opaque," says Ishizu, who chose this exact shade for Kehlani. "It has a little pink tone in it, but not too much. It really matches with any skin tone.”
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We spotted Issa Rae wearing the perfect caramel on The Today Show during her promotional tour for season three of Insecure.
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Hadish's manicurist Gina Edwards smoothed on Deborah Lippmann polish in Fashion (the perfect pick for a night at the Met Gala). If you’re trying to find a nude color in the salon, take the time to swipe it onto your nails before you commit. “The color you see in the bottle doesn’t define what it looks like on the actual nail,” says Ishizu.
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One of Viola Davis' go-to makeup looks is a nude lip, and she has a similar affinity to nude nail polish. At the Golden Globes, she wore a shade just a touch darker than her skin. "As a general rule, the darker the skin tone, the more opaque the color [should be]," manicurist Gina Viviano previously told Refinery29. "Look for a shade closely matching the slightly darker tone of the skin surrounding the nail."