We Found the Best Neutral Nail Colors for Every Skin Tone

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neutral-nail-colors
Photo: Lights Lacquer

I have a confession to make: I'm not sure I've ever actually gotten a manicure with a neutral nail color. A true sucker for all things colorful and bold, I always find myself gravitating towards sparkly, fun shades over nude nails. Plus, I never really know which neutral shade will actually look good on my skin tone—I'm always afraid of my hands and/or nails looking washed out or dull.

If you suffer from a fear of neutral nails, fret not—celebrity manicurist, Julie Kandalec, founder of JK Nail Artelier in New York City, is here to put our anxiety at ease with her top tips on how to find the best neutral nail colors for fair skin, dark skin, and everything in between.

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How to Find the Best Nude Nail Polish

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According to Kandalec, if you're looking for an opaque shade, don't try to match it to your skin. "That will make you look like a mannequin," she says. "Instead, look for a shade that is visibly lighter or darker than your skin tone."

On the other hand, if you're on the hunt for a sheer shade, it's best if the shade more closely matches your skin tone. "Use the web to search for an on-hand swatch of shades," suggests Kandalec. "Search the 'brand name + shade name + swatch' ( '+ dupe' works well too) to see it on different skin tones, then take your pick."

Some common mistakes to avoid when choosing the best neutral nail color for your skin tone is picking a shade that's too ashy or overly taupe. "I generally prefer tones that have a bit more of a peachy, warmer undertone, as they're easier to wear and are universally flattering," says Kandalec. Another mistake? Forgetting to incorporate a light glimmer or shimmer from time to time.

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Best nude nail polish for fair skin: Essie Nail Polish Glossy Shine Finish in Mademoiselle

neutral-nail-colors-essie Nail Polish Glossy Shine Finish in Mademoiselle

Sip your tea with prim and polished tips with this semi-sheer pink nude that's mademoiselle chic.

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Best nude nail polish for fair skin: Chanel Le Vernis Longwear Nail Colour in Organdi

neutral-nail-colors-Chanel Le Vernis Longwear Nail Colour in Organdi

"This is a beautiful dusty mauve," says Kandalec. "I use it on my client, Jessica Chastain, very frequently."

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Best nude nail polish for fair skin: Nails.INC 45 Second Speedy Gloss in Fly By At Victoria

neutral-nail-colors-Nails.INC 45 Second Speedy Gloss in Fly By At Victoria

Another great, opaque pinky shade that'll flatter fair skin tones—without looking washed out.

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Best nude nail color for olive skin: KBShimmer Nail Polish in A Hint of Manila

neutral-nail-colors-KBShimmer Nail Polish in A Hint of Manila

For a little shimmer in your life, use this iridescent hue. This adult version of glitter lacquer won't take you back to grade school, but instead adds a little pizzazz to your fingertips. "This is a soft, tan creme color with a fine, holographic sparkle," says Kandalec.

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Best nude nail color for olive skin: Lights Lacquer in Like One of Your French Girls

neutral-nail-colors-Lights Lacquer in Like One of Your French Girls

"This is a sheer, buildable shade that has just a touch of opalescence," says Kandalec. "It's perfect for a quick swipe to look polished before heading out the door."

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Best nude nail color for olive skin: Sally Hansen Good, Kind, Pure Vegan Nail Polish in Almond Tan

neutral-nail-colors-Sally Hansen Good, Kind, Pure Vegan Nail Polish in Almond Tan

For those of you that usually gravitate towards pale pinks, try this almond taupe that is a neutral version of your standard pastel. A tan shade that stuns on olive skin tones, it's also plant-based, 16 free, and 100 percent vegan.

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Best nude nail color for olive skin: Zoya Nail Polish in Avery

neutral-nail-colors-Zoya Nail Polish in Avery

"This truly works for everyone, especially medium and olive skin, though, with its cool-based neutral tones," says Kandalec.

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Best nude nail polish for tan/medium skin: MiniLuxe Nail Polish in Tuscan Tan

neutral-nail-colors-MiniLuxe Nail Polish in Tuscan Tan

The name doesn't lie—this barely-there hue is the perfect nude for tan skin tones. "It's a timeless, earthy classic shade for dark skin tones," agrees Kandalec. When you don't want to fully commit to a bold shade, sweep this one on for an instant pick-me-up.

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Best nude nail polish for tan/medium skin: Morgan Taylor in Tan My Hide

neutral-nail-colors-Morgan Taylor in Tan My Hide

If you love wearing muted colors in your clothes, this delicate pale purple is the perfect complement. "This is a warm, opaque shade for medium skin tones," says Kandalec.

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Best nude nail polish for dark skin: essie Nail Polish Glossy Shine Finish in Mink Muffs

neutral-nail-colors-essie Nail Polish Glossy Shine Finish in Mink Muffs

"This is the shade that I used on Viola Davis as she accepted her Oscar for Fences," says Kandalec.

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Best nude nail polish for dark skin: KBShimmer Nail Polish in Caught on Tape

neutral-nail-colors-KBShimmer Nail Polish in Caught on Tape

Stark white may not be your thing, but this pinky nude creme color is a happy medium that looks great on dark skin tones.

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Best nude nail polish for dark skin: Sinful Colors Professional Nail Polish in Hot Toffee

neutral-nail-colors-Sinful Colors Professional Nail Polish in Hot Toffee

This warm toffee shade is just as satisfying as its drink counterpart.

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Best nude nail polish for dark skin: Orly Nail Polish in Canyon Clay

neutral-nail-colors-Orly Nail Polish in Canyon Clay

This is a deliciously rich chocolate brown shade that will look stunning on darker skin tones.

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Best shimmer nude nail polish for all skin tones: OPI Nature Strong Nail Lacquer in Intentions are Rose Gold

If you're on the hunt for a neutral nail shade with a hint of shimmer, this pick is ideal for any skin tone.

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Best nude pink nail polish for all skin tones: OPI Nature Strong Nail Lacquer in For What It's Earth

For a stronger mauve shade for fair skin tones, reach for the OPI Nature Strong Nail Lacquer in For What It's Earth. We love that this polish is vegan, cruelty-free, and 9-free, too.

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