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

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The best part about wearing makeup of any kind? There are no rules! You can rock any color of lipstick, eyeshadow, or nail polish that your little heart desires, no matter your skin tone. But if you're curious about what shades of nail polish the experts think will work best on your skin tone, whether that means they perfectly match your undertone or provide just enough contrast to make nails pop, we have all the recommendations you need. 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 ($9), 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.

If your search for a favorite nail polish hasn't been successful, keep scrolling to see the most flattering shades for every skin tone. Ahead, nail experts share the best nail polish shades for every type of skin tone.

Deep Skin Tone

Context Nail Lacquer in Unfaithful $15.00

For deep skin tones, David Arbuthnot, founder and CEO of 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.

According to Rebecca Isa, creative director at Zoya (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 ($10) by Zoya, which is "a bright, purple-toned sangria."

Côte Nail Lacquer in No. 57 $18.00

How fun is this bright-yellow shade from Côte? It's literally the color of bottled sunshine. It comes recommended by Leah Yari, co-founder of the nail brand Côte, 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. 

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

Olive Skin Tone

Zoya Nail Polish in Karen $10.00

"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."

Yari recommends a 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. 

Medium Skin Tone

Context Nail Lacquer in Sugarland $15.00

As for medium 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. 

Kandalec recommends sticking to "juicy" and "pastel" shades for medium skin tones. First, she likes Essie's Sunday Funday ($7), 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.  

Light Skin Tone

Context Nail Lacquer in Panama $15.00

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 your thing, Arbuthnot also suggests Dream On ($15), which is cloud-white, and Ain't Love Strange ($15), which is a dusty pink. 

Fair Skin Tone

Zoya Nail Polish in Sandy $10.00

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."

Yari also suggests 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. Similarly, Côte Nail Lacquer in No. 99 ($18), which is a creamy charcoal gray, serves as the perfect statement shade. Kandelac likes using Essie's Buy Me a Cameo ($8), 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.

  • What's the best way to remove nail polish?

    The easiest and most efficient way to remove nail polish is to use a dedicated nail polish remover. If you are looking to keep your nails and skin from drying out, you can use a non-acetone remover.

  • How can you make nail polish dry faster?

    If you need a fresh mani but don't have a lot of time to wait for drying, make sure you paint your nails with very thin coats — the thinner the coat, the faster each coat will dry. Of course, you can always use a quick-dry top coat like the cult classic Seche Dry Fast Top Coat ($10).

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