The 18 Best Nude Nail Polishes for Every Skin Tone

Find the nude nail polish that will complement your unique skin tone and undertones.

In This Article

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Best Nude Nail Polishes for Every Skin Tone

InStyle / Brian Kopinski

In a growing world of capsule wardrobes and minimalism, it's never been easier to make the case for a “boring” manicure. Nude nails dominate the “That Girl” aesthetic for a less is more attitude many of us are leaning into, and these neutral colors prove bright lacquers aren't the only fun options. Celebrity manicurists turn beiges and browns into artistic designs, and stars from Megan Thee Stallion to Laverne Cox accessorize their red-carpet looks with subtle yet glamorous nail colors.

But as the lingerie and makeup industries have come to learn, we all know nude isn’t a single swatch on the color wheel. And finding a nude nail polish isn’t as easy as getting a recommendation from your friend, since a color can look different from one person to another based on individual skin tones and undertones. So, we tapped experts for their advice on nailing the perfect polish suited for deep, dark, olive, tan, medium, and fair skin tones, as well as considerations like formula, finish, and durability.

Below, take your digits the extra mile with our picks for nude nail polishes you’ll never want to stop reapplying.

Our Top Picks

Best for Warm-Toned Deep Skin

Butter London Sheer Wisdom Nail Tinted Moisturizer - Deep

Sheer Wisdom Nail Tinted Moisturizer - Deep

butterlondon

What We Love: Butter London uses a formula with nourishing and strengthening ingredients (like vitamin E and tea tree oil) for a luxe-looking sheer nude. 

What We Don’t Love: It doesn’t have a very long wear time.

To avoid mannequin hands (think: Matching skin and nail color), deep skin with warm undertones should opt for a rich hue — like this chocolatey shade from Butter London. The luxurious dark brown prevents skin from looking dull or washed out the way lighter shades might, and its sheer finish gives nails a crisp, clean look. Similar to a tinted skin moisturizer, it evens out nail color without being too heavy for an elevated take on a basic manicure. 

This polish doesn’t just look natural, though. It also is chock full of repairing ingredients like vitamin E, tea tree oil, and arginine (a strengthening amino acid), so your nails become stronger with wear. Note that because the lacquer is thin, it is more likely to chip than other options. But since the coverage is sheer to begin with, we’re pleased to report that chips, for the most part, go unnoticed. 

Price at time of publish: $18

Finish: Glossy | Shade: Sheer chocolate with neutral tones | Size: 0.4 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Neutral-Toned Deep Skin

JINsoon Toff Nail Polish

JINsoon Toff Nail Polish

JINsoon

What We Love: The dark brown shade is long-lasting, durable, and has a high color payoff.

What We Don’t Love: It can take a long time for the polish to dry.

Inspired by your favorite way to wake up in the morning, this cocoa bean dark brown shade completes a nude mani. Its rich-looking color feels extremely grown-up, but a brilliant shine stops it from being boring. And, since this polish is chip-resistant and super durable, you can go gloveless while washing the dishes.

We love that you’ll feel peace of mind applying again and again because it’s free of chemicals (specifically 21) like formaldehyde and parabens. JINsoon also formulates its polishes with a UV filter to protect against fading and yellowing. Keep in mind that it could take around 15 minutes for the polish to dry, but once it sets it lasts for about a week.

Price at time of publish: $18

Finish: Glossy | Shade: Cocoa bean brown | Size: 0.37 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Cool-Toned Deep Skin

OPI Nail Lacquer in Shh…It’s Top Secret!

OPI Nail Lacquer in Shh…It’s Top Secret!

Amazon

What We Love: The cool-toned shade is long-lasting, and the rich color looks incredibly natural against deeper skin tones.

What We Don’t Love: It’s not fast-drying.

If you looked at this shade and thought you were reading the wrong article, hear us out: We know it has a blue-ish tint, but those who have cooler-toned deep skin are more likely to find their perfect nude by choosing darker, fruit-forward colors like plum or blueberry. When applied against deep skin, the dark brown color provides nails with a moody, neutral shade perfect for standing out just enough to get noticed while still playing the part of a subtle nude. 

We love that it only takes two coats of this polish to achieve opaque coverage, plus it has impressive longevity (on average you can go a week without experiencing any chips). We’re confident the shade will quickly become a staple in your polish collection — just make sure you’ve done the dishes and styled your hair before applying because it can take a while to dry. 

Price at time of publish: $12

Finish: Creme | Shade: Dark brown | Size: 0.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No

Best For Warm-Toned Dark Skin

Orly Nail Polish in Fresh Clove

Orly Nail Polish in Fresh Clove

Orly

What We Love: Orly formulates its polishes with nourishing ingredients, so you don’t need a top or base coat when applying this deep espresso color. 

What We Don’t Love: This can sometimes stain nails. 

White or pinkish undertones accompany so many nude nail polishes, but this warm opaque pick from Orly will complement darker skin tones much better than a sheer choice. Although it almost looks black in the bottle, the smooth espresso shade applies as a rich neutral on warm-toned dark skin. You could even repurpose the coffee-bean brown hue and incorporate it into a camo nail art design by accentuating the color with a green base.

Since Orly formulates the vegan polish with nourishing ingredients like argan oil, pro-vitamin B5, and vitamin C, it’s strong enough to withstand chipping even without a base or top coat. However, keep in mind that some dark colors tend to stain your natural nail, so you may want to apply a base coat just to be safe. 

Price at time of publish: $11

Finish: Creme | Shade: Dark espresso | Size: 0.6 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Neutral-Toned Dark Skin

People of Color Nail Polish in Brown Sugar Babe

People of Color Nail Polish in Brown Sugar Babe

People of Color

What We Love: The brown shade, made with dark skin tones in mind, applies as a glossy neutral against deeper complexions. 

What We Don’t Love: It’s not fast-drying.

Brown Sugar Babe is the nude you’ve been searching for, and once you get it on your nails, you’ll never want to take it off. According to the brand's site, Jacqueline Carrington formed the People of Color after noticing a lack of representation in dark skin tones that modeled nail polish. She has now created several lines of long-lasting lacquers specifically with BIPOC skin tones in mind, including this brown hue. The vegan formula gives your nails the glow-up they deserve, while still keeping things neutral. It takes time to dry between coats, but the results are worth the wait.

Price at time of publish: $12

Finish: Glossy | Shade: Warm brown | Size: 0.5 oz.  | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best For Cool-Toned Dark Skin

Zoya Nail Polish in Foster

Zoya Nail Polish in Foster

Zoya

What We Love: It has rosy pink undertones that result in a rich nude on cool-toned dark skin.

What We Don’t Love: It could take up to five coats if you want an opaque finish.

Celebrity Manicurist and Educator Mimi D explains since many people with dark and deep skin tones have a different color on their hand, cuticle, and very tips of fingers, finding a true nude can sometimes be a challenge. Her trick? Match the polish with your hand color, like her pick from Zoya, which has rich rosy, pink hues that will complement cool blue-purple undertones.

Described as a “decadent hot chocolate,” we’re tempted to cozy up to this shade all year long, but you can check out the entire trio for several other nudes to wear from winter to summer. One coat of this 10-Free nail polish will give your nails a lovely sheer finish, however, if you’re in the market for more opaque coverage it could take up to five swipes.

Price at time of publish: $12

Finish: Creme | Shade: Brown  | Size: 0.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best For Warm-Toned Olive Skin

Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Nail Color in Buff And Tumble

Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Nail Color in Buff And Tumble

Target

What We Love: The quick-drying, pigmented, and durable formula eliminates the need for a top or base coat. 

What We Don’t Love: Applying more than one coat may make the polish look a little clumpy.

Who knew any trend with the word potato in it would be the one to stick around through multiple cycles and seasons? The flattering brown and beige color scheme surpasses clothing to include polishes, like this brightening pick recommended by D. She tells us since most people with olive skin have warmer hues, they'll do well using a shade like this one that complements green tones. 

Feel free to swipe this on right before you run out the door because it’ll dry in 60 seconds, making it an impatient person’s best friend. Luckily the rich, pigmented formula only takes one coat because after a couple of swipes it starts to look a little clumpy. 

Price at time of publish: $7

Finish: Glossy | Shade: Beige | Size: 0.31 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Neutral-Toned Olive Skin

Dior Vernis Nail Lacquer in Grace 558

Dior Vernis Nail Lacquer in Grace 558

Dior

What We Love: Dior makes a deep rosy polish that pairs as a perfect neutral against neutral-toned olive skin.

What We Don’t Love: The polish chips around the third day of wear.

Where a shade that’s too tan may camouflage itself next to olive skin, a deep mauve, like this one from Dior, enhances the natural nail. With just one coat of this pigmented polish you have an ultra-shiny and eye-catching manicure. The lacquer doesn’t just look luxurious, though. Dior infused the formula with peony and pistachio extracts to help strengthen your nails. To protect your manicure and avoid premature chips, consider pairing it with Dior’s highly-rated Top Coat Abricot

Price at time of publish: $30

Finish: Glossy | Shade: Rosy pink | Size: 0.33 oz.  | Cruelty-Free: No

Best For Cool-Toned Olive Skin

Chanel Le Vernis Longwear Nail Colour in Organdi

Chanel Le Vernis Longwear Nail Colour in Organdi

Nordstrom

What We Love: The formula provides long-lasting color, and includes bioceramics and ceramides to strengthen nails.

What We Don’t Love: The brush is very small. 

To ensure your polish doesn’t blend into the yellow tones of olive skin, pick up something closer to pink, such as the stunning Chanel shade. Organdi is as classy as it comes when looking for a new neutral, and against olive tones, it reminds us of the barely-there shade you’d see on a ‘90s supermodel.  

Compared to other lacquers on this list, this one comes with a higher price tag. But we think it's worth it seeing how the polish protects your nails with strengthening ingredients (including bioceramics and ceramides) and has a long-lasting formula that allows you to ditch a base and top coat. Perhaps the only area where this polish lacks is the brush size, which is thinner than most standard brushes.

Price at time of publish: $30

Finish: High-shine | Shade: Neutral pink | Size: 0.4 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No

Best For Warm-Toned Tan Skin

Mented Nude Nail Polish Yes We Tan

Mented Nude Nail Polish Yes We Tan

Mented

What We Love: Its super opaque coverage stands out against tan skin.

What We Don’t Love: The polish chips easily.

If seeing Mented and nude next to each other doesn’t look totally unfamiliar, it’s because the Black woman-owned brand originally stepped onto the scene with a line of nude lipsticks targeted toward complementing every skin tone. The brand's way of thinking extends to its nail polishes and, as the name suggests, its Yes We Tan shade suits warm-toned tan skin like a dream.

Instead of chameleoning against the skin as some neutrals have a tendency to do, it accentuates warm tones so it won’t go unnoticed. The super-pigmented, vegan formula only takes one coat to provide high-shine and creamy coverage. You’ll want this color to last forever, so make sure to apply a good top coat for extra protection, as it can chips easily.

Price at time of publish: $9

Finish: High-shine | Shade: Nude | Size: 0.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Neutral-Toned Tan Skin

Cirque Colors Nail Polish in Coffee Talk

Cirque Colors Nail Polish in Coffee Talk

Amazon

What We Love: You get opaque coverage of the shade in just two coats.

What We Don’t Love: The website describes it as a milky-brown, but it also has rosy hues.

We’re no strangers to seeing coffee-color shades in every fall wardrobe, but this medium brown should become your everyday look. If it initially seems too dark for a nude, Makeup Artist Gabrielle Alvarez tells us that, “it’s always best to go at least two to three shades darker than the skin tone,” to prevent your skin from looking washed out — but there’s no chance of that happening with this warm shade. Think of it as less espresso and more of a cup of coffee with a splash of milk. The chocolatey color lasts around a week and you only need two coats for full coverage. Bear in mind it does have a slight rosy tint, which we think helps balance the blue-green tones on neutral tan skin.

Price at time of publish: $13

Finish: Glossy | Shade: Medium brown | Size: 0.37 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best For Cool-Toned Tan Skin

OPI Nail Polish in Put It In Neutral

OPI Nail Polish in Put It In Neutral

Ulta

What We Love: The light nude has a clean, shiny finish that looks like your natural nail color, but better. 

What We Don’t Love: It’s very sheer and difficult to achieve opaque coverage.

The girls that get it, get OPI. At least, that’s according to TikTok, whose users love this viral shade for how it gives nails a fresh, clean look you can take to work and out to dinner dates. The sheer, almost silvery-pink undertones will bring out the best of your cool complexion and its creamy finish gives you something similar to the milky nails sported by celebs like Lizzo and Kim Kardashian. It’s pretty sheer, so if you’re looking for something a little more eye-catching, try overlaying it with Bubble Bath, another internet favorite, for a stunning neutral that flatters everyone but shines especially bright against tan skin.

Price at time of publish: $9

Finish: Cream | Shade: Pinkish Beige | Size: 0.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No

Best For Warm-Toned Medium Skin

Essie Nail Polish in Sand Tropez

Essie Nail Polish in Sand Tropez

Walmart

What We Love: This long-lasting, chip-resistant polish looks like a lovely everyday nude next to medium skin tones. 

What We Don’t Love: The lacquer can be a little streaky.

If you have warmer-toned medium skin, you probably already know to go for gold when picking jewelry and clothing. But when it comes to your manicure, you’ll do best finding a nude nail polish with creamy beige coverage. Although we love this lacquer because it’s particularly flattering on warm-toned medium skin, many reviewers say it’s the Skims slip dress of nude polishes for how it flatters seemingly every skin tone. Since lighter lacquers tend to be a bit streakier, be sure to watch a TikTok or two in between applying shades, because you’ll want to wait for the first coat to completely dry before adding another for a smooth finish.

Price at time of publish: $16

Finish: Glossy, high-shine | Shade: Beige | Size: 0.46 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No

Best for Neutral-Toned Medium Skin

Olive and June CDJ Nail Polish

Olive and June CDJ Nail Polish

Olive and June

What We Love: The creamy lacquer uses a vegan and cruelty-free formula to deliver a flattering neutral for medium skin tones.

What We Don’t Love: It can chip after a few days of wear.

With just a smidge of warmth, this overall cool shade couldn’t be a better fit for those with neutral undertones. The near-lilac tint complements medium skin tones beautifully, and leans the color toward gray without venturing into totally chilly territory. 

All Olive + June products use a vegan and cruelty-free formula that gives you a gel-like look without hours in the salon chair, and this pick is no exception. Many customers who purchased Mani System got over a week’s worth of wear before noticing chipping, but on its own, the polish could peel after a few days.

Price at time of publish: $9

Finish: Cream | Shade: Gray beige | Size: 0.46 oz.  | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best For Cool-Toned Medium Skin

Nails.INC Coco For Real Chocolate Scented Nail Polish

Nails.INC Coco For Real Chocolate Scented Nail Polish

Target

What We Love: The super-pigmented creamy beige won’t wash out medium-toned skin, and it has a wide brush for easy application.

What We Don’t Love: It has a subtle chocolatey scent, which could be unpleasant if you’re sensitive to fragrances.

Looking for a nude nail polish that will melt into your cool-toned medium skin rather than pop out against it? Well, we found it: No Fear Chocolatier from Nails Inc. It appears a little gray right out of the bottle but stands out as a beautiful brown on medium skin. The vegan and highly pigmented formula carries the dessert-core theme right down to the scent which, although reviewers did say faded once the polish dried, could be unpleasant to some if you’re sensitive to this type of thing. 

Price at time of publish: $8

Finish: Gloss | Shade: Beige | Size: 0.46 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best For Warm-Toned Fair Skin

Essie Nail Polish in Mademoiselle

Essie Nail Polish in Mademoiselle

Target

What We Love: The streak-free sheer pink shows up against fair skin while still looking like a natural nude. 

What We Don’t Love: It takes a long time for the polish to fully set. 

For fair-skinned people who’ve felt overwhelmed staring at an endless amount of nude options at the nail salon, one easy rule will change your life: Peachy pink skin should reach for a peachy pink nail color. This sweet shade from Essie is beautifully sheer with a shiny finish that looks incredible against warmer tones. And, as long as celebs like Selena Gomez are bringing back the trend, we think it could make the perfect shade for an OG french manicure. We’d just be wary of what errands you run after applying because although the polish seems to dry quickly, we still found smudges and imprints after a couple of hours.

Price at time of publish: $10

Finish: Sheer, High-shine | Shade: Pink | Size: 0.46 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No

Best for Neutral-Toned Fair Skin

Gucci Beauty Nail Polish in Ellen Blush 413

Gucci Beauty Nail Polish in Ellen Blush 413

Net-A-Porter

What We Love: The light pink gives you opaque coverage in one coat, and color that lasts around a week.

What We Don’t Love: We wish the bottle had more product.

Nothing makes me feel expensive quite like uncapping this pear-shaped, old Hollywood-style bottle of Gucci nail polish. The delicate rosy color is an ultra-luxe neutral against those with neutral undertones.

Ok, we know it’s a splurge, but you can save by skipping your next mani because it’ll last around a week (some reviewers say even longer) and has opaque coverage in one coat. Thanks to a thick brush that makes application super easy, even your non-dominant hand will look professionally manicured. That said, we wish we would get more product out of each bottle since it’s pretty pricey.

Price at time of publish: $32

Finish: High Shine | Shade: Pink blush | Size: 0.33 oz.  | Cruelty-Free: No

Best For Cool-Toned Fair Skin

Cirque Colors Sheer Nail Polish in Chiffon

Cirque Colors Sheer Nail Polish in Chiffon

Amazon

What We Love: The almost sheer pink has a vegan, cruelty-free, and non-toxic formula that enhances the look of natural nails. 

What We Don’t Love: The brush is very thin and can make application difficult. 

Speaking from personal experience, choosing a nude that won’t clash with the blue, purplish undertones accentuated by fair skin is difficult. Chiffon from Cirque Colors is one of my favorites for how the pink subtlety settles next to my cool-toned skin and hits the sweet spot of a true nude that’s not too dark or too light. The non-toxic formula provides nails with an almost jelly-like finish that gives glazed donut glam, especially when layered with a shimmery shade like this one from Sally Hansen. We do hope the brand will consider rethinking the design of its brush, though, because it's a little thin and can make application difficult.

Price at time of publish: $13

Finish: Sheer | Shade: Ballet pink |  Size: 0.37 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes

What to Keep in Mind

Undertones

For the same reason you can’t steal your friend’s lipstick and expect similar results, undertones make all the difference when choosing nude nail polish. The first step to getting those fresh, glowy nails promised by Instagram is determining what color will enhance your skin’s undertones, which, according to Laura Malarkey, a Los-Angeles based nail artist, are either neutral, warm, or cool. Founder of JINSoon Nails, Jin Soon Choi, tags on that those with fair skin tend to have cooler undertones, olive to medium will lean toward warm, and people with darker skin often have neutral undertones.

But to know for sure, flip over your forearm and look at your veins. Malarkey tells us blueish, and purple veins have a cool undertone, green has warm, and a combination has neutral. “Once you know your skin's undertone, you can start looking for polishes in a variety of shades with tones that match your undertone,” she says. “If all of this sounds a bit daunting, go with a neutral nude polish, since it combines undertones from both ends of the spectrum.” Something such as Mented in Yes We Tan could be a good place to start.

Pre and Post-care

Just like how properly prepping skin ensures a flawless finish to your makeup, taking care of your nails before applying polish is key to a great mani. Scrub your nails with soap and wipe down beds with a polish remover (even if they’re already bare) or rubbing alcohol, so the polish applies smoothly. Choi also recommends filing your bare nails before applying polish for the proper shape. In addition to selecting a long-lasting polish, a good base and top coat lengthen the life of your color. “It prevents pesky chipping and keeps the nail polish shiny and fresh,” says Choi. 

 Formula and Finish

Two big players in determining how your manicure will look come down to the polish’s formula and finish. In the case of the former, many nudes tend to have sheer coverage, but instead of applying one too many coats (which can result in chipping, FYI) seek a more opaque polish if you want noticeable color. Don't confuse this with a thick formula, which can result in gooey, clumpy nails. A creme polish like Orly Fresh Clove will tend to provide opaque coverage and be long-lasting. Whereas sheer finishes, such as this one from Butter London, give you a natural-looking nail, but may not last as long.

 Your Questions, Answered 

How do I find a color that complements my skin tone?

You'd think it’d be as simple as looking at your skin and finding the color that most closely matches, but anyone who has cycled through foundations and concealers knows this isn’t the case. “I prefer some contrast, which serves to highlight or subtly accentuate your skin tone,” Choi explains. Ultimately, it goes back to what we talked about earlier — undertones. 

But Choi says there are still several ways to choose a shade based on your skin tone. Darker skin tones are the most versatile, Choi explains, and will have more luck choosing any nude shade. Taupe shades flatter olive skin, medium skin looks great in beigey pinks, and fair skin should look for a contrasting shade to make hands look “more lively.” She advises it’s, “not about matching the skin tone per se, it’s more about sourcing the shade that flatters [it].” 


What’s the best way to choose a color without trying it on first?

Unlike at a nail salon, you can’t typically try before you buy when searching in-store or online. Some websites have technology that allows you to match your polish with your skin tone, but if you’re already in the aisle, D recommends comparing the nude color you’re holding to a blue and green polish. 

Here’s how it goes: If you have cooler undertones (blue/purple veins) and hold a nude polish against a blue bottle that looks complementary, you’ve found a perfect match. But say it doesn’t look good with the blue polish and instead complements the green one, then you’ve found a shade more suited for those with warm undertones. She explains it's a match for neutral undertones if it flatters blue and green. 

Why Shop with Us 

Irene Richardson is a writer with over five years of experience covering fashion and beauty trends. For this story, she researched nude nail polishes, read dozens of reviews, asked for recommendations, and personally tried several on the list. She also spoke with professional makeup artist, Gabrielle Alvarez; celebrity manicurist and educator, Mimi D; Los Angeles-based nail artist, Laura Malarkey; and founder of JINSoon Nails, Jin Soon Choi for tips and tricks for finding the best color for your skin tone.

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