If plowing through endless books and articles on embodying a French aesthetic has taught me anything, it’s this: there are only two worthy nail colors. A bright red polish or a simple nude nail. I’ll admit, I’ve flirted with pastels here and there, and even fell prey to the trend of dark, vampire-esque nails. At the end of the day though, I’ll reach for nude nail colors that perfectly match my undertone. But the journey to finding just the right shade? It took a while to get there.

The biggest mistake when shopping for nude polishes is not knowing your undertone. After years of getting it wrong, I finally (finally!) got it right. Instead of reaching for nude colors with peachy or pink undertones, I now know to opt for colors that have a warm undertone to seamlessly match my skin.

Below, I’m wearing said perfect nude on my wedding day. Two coats of Essie’s Of Corset with a glossy long-wearing top coat.

Featured image of Babba Rivera by Belathée Photography.

Image by Whit Mcguire

How to Find Your Undertone

If you really want to find the perfect nude shades for you, it’s critical that you don’t skip this step. There are four skin undertones. Cool, neutral, warm, and olive, with olive being the trickiest to identify. And know that there’s a difference between skin tone and undertone. Common misconceptions abound that even well-meaning beauty experts might unknowingly support.

For example, not all Asians have warm or “yellow” undertones and darker skin tones don’t automatically fall in the warm or olive category. It’s a complex topic, but it’s well worth the effort if you really want to nail the perfect hue. This is one of the best tutorials I’ve seen on the subject if you want to want an in-depth breakdown.

How to Find the Perfect Nude Polish

In the hunt for personal best polish, people often make the mistake of looking for a lacquer that’s the exact same match of their skin color. It’s not a foundation, advises celebrity nail color stylist Tom Bachik. “The current trend for a chic, sophisticated nude nail color is to either go a shade lighter or a shade darker than your actual skin tone, which gives a subtle yet intentional vibe to your manicure.”

Image by Michelle Nash

The Perfect Sheer Nude Nail Colors for Every Skin Tone

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Essie Of Corset

Celebrity nail artist, Betina Goldstein, recommends this sheer beige to complement dark skin tones.


Essie Ballet Slippers

This best-seller is rumored to be what Megan Markle wore on her wedding day. If it’s good enough for Megan…


China Glaze Innocence

A key player in any nail artist’s arsenal. Add just one coat of this pinky sheer polish for that your-nails-but-better look.


pH7 pH004

Follow Selena Gomez’s lead and wear this to your next red carpet-appearance—or at least to drinks with the girls.


Image by Belathée Photography

Nude Nail Colors for Deep Skin Tones

Cuccio Caramel Kisses

A toasted caramel crème—doesn’t that sounds luxurious?


Lights Lacquer Olivia

A rich espresso brown with a hint of red undertones. If you’re looking for your Valentine’s Day color, this is it.


Zoya Nyssa

A milk chocolate brown in the flawless, full-coverage cream formula. An ideal shade for cool undertones.


Image by Belathée Photography

Nude Nail Colors for Medium-Deep Skin Tones

Orly Coffee Break

One reviewer says, “love this neutral beige color… just like coffee with extra cream.” Who doesn’t love that?


Olive and June M.G.

A desert-inspired terracotta makes for an unexpected neutral.


Lights Lacquer Emma

A warm tan hue with orange undertones.


Image by Michelle Nash

Nude Nail Colors for Medium Skin Tones

Zoya Kinsley

This creamy nude is perfect for olive skin tones with yellow undertones.


Lights Lacquer Lyla

The perfect neutral with an understated hint of personality. Proof that when it comes to nude nail colors, you can have the best of both worlds.


OPI Dulce de Leche

Meet the new Millennial Pink.


Image by Belathée Photography

Nude Nail Colors For Light-Medium Skin Tones

Deborah Lippmann Naked

This lighter shade makes for the perfect nude manicure—and one that will garner you all the compliments.


Olive and June Coffee Milk

A warm beige that’s perfect for a wide range of skin tones.


Lights Lacquer Matilda

An all-season neutral for girlies who love a year-round polish.


Image by Teal Thomsen

Nude Nail Colors For Light Skin Tones

Zoya Jane

A pinky-beige that’s guaranteed to be the favorite in your rotation.


OPI Tiramisu for Two

A classic that never goes out of style.


Zoya Sabrina

Perfect for pink undertones, this light, almost-effervescent neutral delivers.


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Nihel Ayari Instagram