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Here Are the 12 Most Flattering Shades of Nail Polish for Every Skin Tone

woman with red nail polish and red lipstick


Nail polish is pretty universal, but there are certain shades that happen to be especially flattering on certain skin tones, whether that means they perfectly match the undertone complexions or they provide just enough contrast to make nails pop. I, for one, swear by Revlon Wild Card Nail Polish ($9), since the bold cobalt blue never fails to complement the slight summer tan I sport each July and August. As for the winter months, when my skin is a tad paler, I reach for OPI Lincoln Park After Dark ($11), which is a unique combination of red, purple, and black that looks striking against my skin. Seriously, it's been my go-to for years.

I happily stumbled upon these hues, and they've become my favorites because they're flattering to my complexion. If your search hasn't been as successful and you have yet to find your nail polish soul-mate, keep scrolling to see the most flattering shades for every skin tone. 

Dark/Deep Skin Tones

Context Nail Lacquer in Unfaithful $15

For deep skin tones, David Arbuthnot, founder of chic beauty brand Context Skin, recommends vivid and floral shades of red and pink. These colors are classics, which means they never go out of season or style. Along with this shade called Unfaithful, he also suggests Don't Cry ($15), which is a mauve pink, and Showstopper ($15), which is a fiery red-orange.

Zoya Nail Polish in Donnie $10

According to Rebecca Isa, creative director at Zoya, which is one of Byrdie's favorite nail brands, "dark skin tones work well with a bold color choice due to cooler undertones." She like's the shade Donnie by Zoya, which is "a bright, purple-toned sangria cream."

Côte Nail Lacquer in No. 57 $18

How fun is this bright-yellow shade from Côte? It's literally the color of bottled sunshine. It comes recommended by Leah Yari, the brand's co-founder, who calls it the perfect "statement color" for people with deep skin tones. Also try Côte's Nail Lacquer in No. 50 ($18), which is a striking orange-red, and the brand's Nail Lacquer in No. 49 ($18), which is an earthy clay color. 

Nail Color, Neutrals, Grays & Browns, Mink Muffs
Essie Nail Color in Mink Muffs $8

Essie celebrity manicurist Julie Kandalec also recommends bright hues for deep skin tones. She like's Essie's Forever Yummy ($9), a vibrant, classic red that looks absolutely stunning (if you haven't seen for yourself, please click on it immediately). However, if super-bright shades aren't your thing, have no fear. She also recommends "mocha nudes," like this shade, called Mink Muffs (7). "I used this on Viola Davis when she won her Oscar for Fences," Kandalec says. 

Medium/Olive Skin Tones

Context Nail Lacquer in Sugarland $15

As for medium and/or olive skin tones, Arbuthnot says a variety of nail polish shades are particularly flattering, like this bubblegum-pink called Sugarland. He also loves Slow Down ($15), which is a rosy mauve, and Nightrain ($15), which is a moody and dark plum color. 

Zoya Nail Polish in Karen $10

"Medium-to-olive can wear a wide range of colors, Isa says. "All will work great with your skin tone,but it's best to stick with shades that truly complement. For example, if your skin is warmer, go for shades that have red and orange undertones like Zoya's Karen, a poppy red cream."

Côte Nail Lacquer in No. 65 $18

Remember how we said a wide range of shades are especially flattering to medium/olive skin? Yari backs that up again by recommending this bright teal blue shade for a statement color. She also loves Côte Nail Lacquer in No. 38 ($18), which is wine red, and No. 7 ($18), which is a creamy pink. 

Essie Nail Color in Imported Bubbly $7

Kandalec recommends sticking to "juicy" and "pastel" shades for medium skin tones. First, she likes Essie's Sunday Funday ($5), which is a bright coral polish. Then, she suggests Baguette Me Not ($9), which is a "mod pastel" lilac. She mixes it up, though, by recommending a sheer, slightly sparkly shade, called Imported Champagne (9). Use this polish and your nails will sparkle and glint, without being ostentatious.  

Fair/Light Skin Tones

Context Nail Lacquer in Panama $15

If you have light skin, use a shade that's light and ethereal, like this sandy beige shade that looks so fresh and airy it's almost transparent. These hues, along with light pastels, will prove particularly flattering. If beige isn't you're thing, Arbuthnot also suggests Dream On ($15), which is cloud-white, and Ain't Love Strange ($15), which is a dusty pink. 

Zoya Nail Polish in Sandy $10

According to Isa, "Fair skin tones are typically cooler with a blue undertone, so go for shades that are similar to Sandy by Zoya. Sandy is a blue-toned, flamingo-pink cream."

Côte Nail Lacquer No. 77 $18

Yari also suggest light shades, like Côte No. 10 Nail Lacquer ($18), which is a soft and sheer pink. However, if you're looking for something a little bolder, she says you can't go wrong with this strong midnight-blue shade called No.77. Similarly, Côte Nail Lacquer in No. 99 ($18), which is a creamy charcoal gray, serves as the perfect statement shade.

Essie High Class Affair $9

Aside from this gorgeous peachy-nude shade, Kandelac likes using Buy Me a Cameo ($10), which is a warm gold with a chrome finish, for fair skin. She also loves using a fire-engine red, like the brand's Really Red ($9), for a truly striking finish.

Now that you have some gorgeous new polishes to test, check out a small collection of the best nail polish brands, according to Byrdie editors.

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