Photo: Matthew Donaldson/Trunk Archive
Like a plain white t-shirt or dark pair of jeans, nude nail polish is universally flattering—if you find the right one. “Nudes vary in depth and tone, some more pink, others more beige," says Michelle Saunders, Essie’s celebrity manicurist. The wrong shade can be totally unappealing and make your fingertips look like mannequin hands if it’s not a good match. Brands from Clinique to Marc Jacobs have recently issued a spectrum of flesh-toned lacquers, so how do you find the right one? Follow these tips:
1. Know your nudes
There are two types of nude polish: sheer and opaque. The former work best when they mimic the color of your nail bed, so look closely at the skin underneath your nail to pick up pinks, peach, or even purple undertones. Opaque nudes are skin tone inspired, and the darker your skin tone, the warmer your polish should be. That doesn’t mean it should be the exact same color as your skin, try one shade off to keep it from appearing too yellow.
2. Buy for your skin tone instead of your personal taste—and consider your tan
Saunders says choosing the best polish is a process of trial and error—like selecting your foundation—and your best shade may fluctuate throughout the year. (Test on a clean nail bed.) She prefers a semi-sheer, pinky shade for fair to medium skin tones. “For olive or deeper skin, try a creamy beige with a gold or sandy undertone,” says Saunders. “The warmth highlights the nail bed which in turn elongates the hands.”
3. Application is key
Saunders always applies a ridge-filling base coat before painting on the lacquer to diminish any bumps or discoloration. She says nudes are easier to apply than dark or bright colors—and chips are less noticeable. “But to make the nude manicure last, be sure to use a base coat, two coats of color, and a top coat.”
4. Experiment with layering and opacity
“Anything goes with nudes!” says Saunders. “Go sheer or opaque. You can even layer a sheer over an opaque—one of my favorite things to do.”
5. Change up the vibe with the texture and finish
“A matte top coat gives a nude polish a very modern feel, like at Alexander Wang’s fall fashion show,” says Saunders. She believes a shiny nude leans toward elegant, while one with a subtle shimmer feels more festive.