How to Choose the Best Nail Polish Color for Your Skin Tone

Skip the indecisiveness at your next appointment.


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Disclaimer: At the end of the day, there are no concrete rules when it comes to choosing a nail polish color. If you want to paint your nails a ‘70s-inspired avocado green then go for it, and if a true red hue is calling your name then by all means answer the call. 

That said, it’s helpful to have an idea of what colors work best with your complexion. It can especially make a big difference when selecting the most flattering neutral tones, like nudes or pinks. We reached out to a couple manicurists for their take on the topic, and they were happy to share guidance on which nail colors are best for every skin tone. 

RELATED: If Your Nail Polish Never Lasts, This Might Be the Reason Why

Best Nail Colors for Cool Undertones 

People with cool undertones have hints of red and blue when fair complected, and purple or red in dark skin tones. One way to tell if you have a cooler complexion is to look at your veins in your wrist. If they appear blue or purple then you likely have cool undertones.

“Nail polish colors that have cool tones—like blue, lavender, and light pink—typically complement people with cool undertones,” says celebrity manicurist Queenie Nguyen. Pastel colors, blue-based reds, and jewel tones are also very flattering. If you’re choosing brown nail polish, lean toward taupes. 

OPI Nail Lacquer: Got the Blues for Red 

This dark, blue-leaning red almost has a wine quality that makes it feels moody and classic at the same time. 

Buy on Amazon 

Orly Nail Lacquer Breathable: Do A Beryl

Inspired by the beryl stone, this green nail polish has a hint of metallic shimmer for an extra punch.

Buy on Walmart

Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Nail Color: 205 To The Taupe 

A creamy taupe is flattering on cool skin tones, and this one even has a hint of cool purple. 

Buy on Target

Best Nail Colors for Warm Undertones 

Darker complexions with warm undertones often have a hint of orange, gold, or honey to them. People with a lighter complexion and warm undertones have a peachy or golden skin quality. If you look at the veins on your wrist, they’ll appear slightly greenish in color if you’re warm-complected. 

“When choosing a color, you want to stick to the warmer side of each shade,” advises nail artist Leslie Ayala. For example, “If you’re choosing a red polish, you would want a brick red or a fire engine red.” She adds that salmon, mustard, and teals are also flattering color choices, as are bright oranges and light pinks.

Essie: Any-Fin Goes

This bright tangerine hue definitely makes a statement and complements all skin colors with warm undertones.  

Buy on Ulta 

ILNP: Stopping Traffic 

When choosing a red nail polish for warm undertones, pick one that leans orange-y, like this one, versus blue. 

Buy on Amazon

OPI Nail Lacquer: Rosy Future 

For a subtle nail polish color that flatters warm skin tones, opt for a soft, pale, warm-leaning pink.

Buy on Amazon 

Best Nail Colors for Olive Skin Tones  

Olive skin tones are unique in that they have both neutral and warm undertones. This makes it a bit easier to find complementary nail polish colors. Nguyen says, “Olive undertones work well with a wide range of colors, including shades like burgundy or vibrant pink and blue. Silver and metallic can also be fun choices for olive undertones.” 

Ayala agrees, adding that beige, black, navy, and emeralds are also very flattering nail polish colors for olive skin tones. If you opt for a warmer-leaning color, try not to go too bright. 

Lights Lacquer: I’ll Be Home 

This deep navy hue feels bold and flatters olive complexions with its neutral undertones.

Buy on Lights Lacquer 

China Glaze: The Near Fuchsia 

This statement pink nail color has subtle warm tones, which can be tricky to find in a pink polish.

Buy on Amazon

Zoya: Trixie

Metallic silver looks great on people with olive complexions. This one goes on opaquely instead of sheer, which makes for a bold mani. 

Buy on Amazon 

How to Choose the Perfect Nude Nail Polish 

Ever noticed how one nude nail polish makes your hand look lovely while another does the opposite? Even though the differences from one nude hue to the next are super subtle, the slight variation on color can make a big difference on the final result. 

No sweat. Ayala has the perfect trick for finding the perfect nude nail polish for your skin tone: “The perfect nude, I believe, is easily determined by looking at your natural nail bed and going with a color similar to it, but just going up a shade,” she says. “Sheer nudes will amp up your natural nail color without covering it completely—just perfecting it.” Think of it as a tinted moisturizer for your face! 

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