35 Best Shades for Nude Nails on All Skin Tones

Don’t let 2021’s nude nails trend pass you by or find yourself wearing the wrong shade for your skin. We’ve gathered the best nude colors of nail polish for a range of skin tones in your favorite brands and little-known indie brands so you to discover the perfect shade for you.

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Why is the nude nail look so popular?

What isn't great about nude nail polish? It goes with absolutely any outfit, can be worn to the grocery store or to a wedding, and doesn't show chips as obviously as other colors. It's everything we love about a French manicure, without having to deal with creating those tricky white smile lines. 

Let's face it, we're more tired than ever these days. With burnout running rampant, who has time to match their nail polish to their outfits? 

There's something so attractive about this no nonsense, practical, utilitarian manicure that you can wear to the gym and then immediately to a black-tie dinner. 

Nude is political. 

Sure, it's just a nail polish color but the political is personal and the personal is political. What we call "nude" matters. Consider how absurd it is now that so many of us grew up with a pink-tan crayon in the color "flesh tone." 

For the longest time growing up, I thought "nude" meant peach because I'm white and was raised in an extremely white small town in New England to parents who took a "I don't see color," approach.

That was painfully wrong. Nude refers to a shade that nearly matches your skin tone and skin comes in a rainbow of gorgeous colors. 

For a long time, it was a struggle for people of color to find the right shades of cosmetics from foundation to nail polish. It's still much more of a struggle than it should be and disparities like this can't be untangled from dangerous skin-lightening products as discussed in this scholarly article

Hex codes for colors labeled as "nude" still tend to be in lighter, peachy shades while hex codes for darker colors are more likely to be named after foods like coffee or chocolate, which is considered to be patently offensive and dehumanizing.

The colors we think of as "nude" matter. 

How to find a good nude color for your nails.

Your first instinct might be to find a polish that's a match for your skin but it's going to be hard for a polish to look worse on you than one that blends right into your skin.

I swatch a lot of polish colors for my job so I've worn polish that's the exact same color as my skin--it looked like I didn't have fingernails anymore. That wasn't the effect I was going for. 

Shade.

Your natural nails tend to be slightly lighter than the surrounding skin so the standard rule of finding a good nude is to find a shade that's close to your skin tone and then go one or two shades lighter than that. 

Adding a lighter color to your nails can cause an optical illusion to elongate your fingers, in the same way that a black dress is slimming. 

Temperature.

You also want to take into account what colors look best with your skin's undertones. 

Warmer colors, like those with yellow or orange hues, look best on people with warmer skin tones.

Cooler colors, like those with a blue cast to them, look best on people with cool skin tones. 

People with a neutral skin tone can wear anything--you lucky folks. 

Not sure what your skin tone is?  

The easiest trick is to check the veins on the underside of your wrist in natural lighting. If they look green or yellow, you have a warm skin tone. If they look blue or purple, you have a cool skin tone. Can't tell? You might be neutral.

How to pull off nude nail polish.

If you're used to brightly colored or glitter nail polish, wearing something nude might make you feel naked or like you can't pull off a more subtle look. 

You can. Find a color that suits you using the tips above and you're set. Don't overthink it.

What color toes go with nude nail polish?

Unless you're curating a look for a big event, don't worry too much about matching your nails to your toes, and certainly don't try to keep your nails and toes the same color at all times. 

Nude is a classic pedicure color because it goes with everything. You still don't want it to look like you don't have toenails, so remember that the right color for your fingers might not be the same nude color that's best for your toes. 

Honestly, just go with what you like the look of.  A classic red pedicure never goes wrong. Olive green is a popular pedicure color these days as well because it's slightly less expected but still fairly neutral to go with most outfits. 

Are nude nail polish shades the same as neutral color nails?

Nude and neutral is a rectangle-square situation. All nudes are neutrals but not all neutrals are nudes. 

A neutral is a subtle tone that tends to go with everything without bold or distracting.

Nude tones are neutral but neutrals can also include mauves, washed-out greens, greyed-out purples and blues, and even earthy metallic shades. 

How to do nude ombre nails.

A trendy nude ombre is done like any ombre nail art. Two of the most popular color combinations right now are a nude to black ombre and a nude to white ombre (also known as a Baby Boomer French Manicure.)

The easiest way is to paint the two colors next to each other on a disposable makeup sponge and then dab this onto your nails until they're blended to your liking. You may want to do this over a base of white or in a couple of layers to get the brightness you want. You'll want to use liquid latex for nails for quick clean-up of any polish on your fingers.

You can also paint the top of your nail one color and the bottom the second color and then use a nail art brush to blend the two together while they're still wet.


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