Your Guide to the Best Nude Nail Polishes Ever

How to get fresh, clean, go-with-anything nails.

When it comes to manicures, I’ve got two settings: near-black or nude. There is no in between. No hot pinks, neon oranges, minty greens or pale grays. (This summer, a manicurist actually fought back when I handed her a near-black navy for my toes. “But it’s summer! Most people, they go orange or pink. No pink? How about this one?”)

I’ve found my go-to dark color (Linkin Park After Dark—I know, yawn, but you can’t beat it), but am still desperately searching for my perfect nude. I have a picture of the perfect nude manicure at home, torn from a magazine. The article isn’t even about manicures or nail polish, but the nails are what drew me to it: They blend in with the skin, and look so clean, the height of sophistication. This is my nude polish Holy Grail, and I’ve been trying to recreate it for at least two years.

Here is what to look for in nude polish, and what to avoid:

– It can’t be too pink. See this? No. You look like a bride. From the ’90s. Give Essie’s Ballet Slippers a rest.

– It also can’t be too pale, like this. The color shouldn’t pop, but instead be practically unnoticeable.

-Avoid gray or green undertones, unless you have olive-toned skin. You’ll look like you have some weird sort of disease, or like you are decomposing. Exhibit A. Think: healthy flesh-tone, like this.

-For dark skin, try matching your skin tone, not your natural nail color. The goal here is to make your nails blend in with your hand. (Sounds weird, but the finished look is quite beautiful. And—bonus—it lets your rings really sing.)

The closest I’ve come is OPI’s Bubble Bath. Though it looks too pink in the bottle, it actually blends in nicely with my skin tone and, in most lights, is perfection. Need to find yours? You’re in luck. I stumbled across this post on Rachel Zoe’s blog, and it’s got some great tips and suggestions, for whatever skin tone you have. Read it, and then get your nude on.

(Psst: Have any suggestions? Leave ’em in the comments.)