Nail Color 101: How to Choose the Best Match for Your Skin Tone

How to match nail polish colors to your skin tone 2

The right nail polish color can take your manicure from meh to magic. In this post, I’m gonna show you how to match nail polish colors to your skin tone.

Here are two handy skin tone nail polish color matching charts I made.

nail polish skintone color matching chart
skin tone nail polish color matching chart

Ready to find your perfect match?

Let’s dive in.

Table of contents:

Why should you match nail polish to your skin tone?

How do I know what my skin tone is?

How can I find my skin’s undertone?  – 10 simple tests to try.

How to match nail polish colors to your skin tone:

Final thoughts: tips for choosing the best polish for your skin tone.

Why should you match nail polish to your skin tone?


Before we learn how to match nail polish colors to your skin tone, let’s talk about what the perfect shade of polish can do for you.

The right shade can make your hands look younger, make your skin look more tanned, make your nails look longer, or even make your fingers look slimmer!

Choose a polish color that doesn’t work for your skin tone and you could end up with a washed-out or dull mani that contrasts too much or too little with your complexion.

It might look ok, but it won’t have that wow factor that gets the compliments rollin’ in.

dont put me in a box

Before we get too deep into it, I also wanna say that I don’t want to put anyone in a box!

This is a guide.

Yes, you should totally find the colors that compliment your skin tone well, but I wanna encourage you to also test the boundaries and experiment with whatever works for your personal style.

There are no rules people, only guidance, you do you!

How do I know what my skin tone is?

how do i know what my skin tone is

You can’t find the perfect polish for your skin tone if you don’t know what skin tone you’re rocking!

If you already know your skin tone, skip this section, if you don’t – here’s how to figure it out.

Nailing your skin tone might seem complicated, but it’s actually really simple once you break it down.

There are basically 2 parts to it:

  1. How light or dark your skin is.
  2. What undertones you have.

For the first part, you need to know which of these 4 main categories you fall into.

So check out the descriptions below and see which one best fits you:

Fair skin.

fair skin tone

Do you often complain about looking like a ghost? Do you burn easily but find it hard to tan?

If so, you might be a fair-skinned beauty.

Fair or pale skin is the lightest category of the 4.

If you have fair skin, you may also have freckles, be prone to redness or have sensitive skin.

Celebrities with fair skin:

4 ladies
  • Nicole Kidman
  • Liv Tyler
  • Cate Blanchett
  • Christina Hendricks
  • Dita Von Teese
  • Amanda Seyfried
  • Emma Stone
  • Gwen Stefani
  • Elle Fanning

Medium skin.

If your skin isn’t super-light or dark/tanned then you’re probably a medium.

Medium-skinned beauties tan better than their fair-skinned friends but they can still burn easily.

Sometimes olive skin and medium skin get lumped together – meaning you might find fashion or make-up articles that give the same tip for both skin types.

This is because medium skin and olive skin can look very similar in terms of how light or dark they are.

There is definitely some overlap between medium and olive-toned skin.

But olive skin is distinct from medium because olive skin has strong warm (green, yellow, or golden) undertones (more on those soon).

Celebrities with medium skin:

celebs 2
  • Jessica Alba
  • Victoria Justice
  • Kourtney Kardashian
  • Priyanka Chopra
  • Shay Mitchell
  • Meghan Markle
  • Vanessa Hudgens
  • Adriana Lima
  • Hannah Simone
  • Chrissy Teigan

Olive skin.

If you have that year-round mediterranean glow and your skin tans like a dream, then chances are that you are an olive-skinned beauty.

Olive skin can be anywhere between light to moderate brown.

It usually tans really easily and has strong golden, green, or yellowish undertones.

If you’re not sure whether you are a medium or an olive, don’t worry, I’ll show you how to check your undertones in the next section.

Celebrities with olive skin:

olive celebs
  • Penelope Cruz
  • Lily Allen
  • Paz Vega
  • Zoe Saldana
  • Padma Lakshmi
  • Zoe Kravitz
  • Mariacarla Boscano
  • Mila Kunis
  • Jada Pinkett Smith

Dark skin.

Are “bronze” and “ebony” words you might use to describe your skin?

If your skin is darker than olive and your complexion is deep then you are a dark beauty.

This is the darkest of the 4 main skin tone categories.

Dark skin can be anything from tan on the lighter end of the spectrum to ebony on the darker end.

Dark beauties have the most choice when it comes to color, but they may have to deal with dryness or dullness.

Celebrities with dark skin:

dark celeb
  • Alek Wek
  • Viola Davis
  • Jeneil Williams
  • India Arie
  • Tais Araujo
  • Lauryn Hill
  • Naomi Campbell
  • Chanel Iman
  • Sara Nuru

How can I find my skin’s undertone?

Ok, hopefully, you have chosen your main skintone category from the four options above (fair, medium, olive, or dark).

We’re halfway there!

half way 2

The next thing you need to do is to find out what undertones you’re rocking.

There are only 3 possibilities, cool, warm or neutral.

Here are a few simple tests you can try to find your undertone.

For the best results, try out each of these tests and see which answer pops up the most – that will be your undertone:

1.    Look at the veins in your wrist.


You must do this test in natural light for it to work. So sit by the window or go outside.

Take a look at the veins in your wrist.

What color are they?

  • Bluey purple veins mean your undertone is cool.
  • Green or yellowish looking veins means you have a warm undertone.
  • And if it’s hard to tell between blue and green you have a neutral skin tone.

2.    How do you tan?

how do you tan

Another key thing when learning how to match nail polish colors to your skin tone is how your skin handles sun exposure.

How your skin tans can be a key indicator of its undertone.

  • If you don’t tan at all, or you go red / burn before you turn brown then chances are you have a cool undertone.
  • If you become a bronze goddess with little effort, you’re probably warm toned.
  • Neutrals may tan fairly well, but might have to control their exposure and do it gradually.

3.    Do the white test.

Here’s a simple test you can do with a sheet of white paper or a white t-shirt.

First, wash your face – you wanna make sure your skin is clean and free of make-up.

Hold a sheet of white paper up to your face or throw on a white t-shirt.

Have a look at the skin on your neck and chest – how does it look against a pure white?

skin test

Choose an answer:

  1. Good – my skin looks rosy / pinkish or bluish red.
  2. Bad – my skin looks dull and yellow or gray.
  3. Um – I can’t really see any pink or yellow?

If you chose a – you’re cool.

If you chose b – you’re warm.

If you chose c – you’re neutral.

4. Gold or silver jewelry?

Another good way to test your undertone is to take a look at your jewelry collection.

Do you tend to prefer gold or silver?

gold or silver

Without realising, you’ll go for jewelry that best suits your complexion.

Silver jewelry looks best on skin with cool undertones. So, if your bling collection is mostly silver – you might be cool toned.

Gold jewelry makes warm skin tones shine – so if you like to wear gold – you’re probably warm toned.

If both gold and silver jewellry are flattering – you are most likely neutral.

If you’re still not sure, try laying a gold and silver bracelet or necklace across your wrist – which one looks better?

You can also get a sheet of gold and silver foil and hold it up against your skin to see which one makes your complexion glow.

5. Check behind your ears.


Acne and other skin conditions can cause redness and make it hard to see your true understone.

This trick is super useful for anyone with a skin condition that gets in the way of some of the other tests.

You will need a friend to help you out for this one.

Get someone to take a look at the skin just behind your ear.

They need to look at the skin that’s just behind the crease, so hold your ear forward a bit so they can see.

Get them to tell you if the skin behind your ear looks yellow or pink.

  • Pink means cool undertones.
  • Yellow means warm.
  • No clear pink or yellow color means neutral.

6. Look into your eyes.


Your eye color can also give you a clue about your undertone.

The lighter your eyes the more likely you are to be cool-toned.

So, if you have blue, gray or light brown peepers that usually means cool.

If you have honey brown to dark brown eyes, or you have gold flecks in them then you’re warm.

7. What’s your natural hair color?

Is your hair medium brown to black with no undertones of red? Then you’re a medium to dark cool.

hair color

If your natural hair colour is blonde to light brown with no red tones then you’re a medium to fair cool.

Rocking brown hair with auburn, copper or red tones in it? That makes you a medium to dark warm.

If your hair is strawberry or golden blonde then you’re a medium to fair warm.

8. How intense is your blush?

Do you go red as a beetroot when you blush?

If so, your undertone is cool.

Hard to tell when you’re blushing? You’re warm.

9. What neutrals suit you?

What neutrals suit you

Think about the basic clothes you have that go with everything.

Do you tend to wear a lot of black, navy and stark pure white?

Or do you go for light tans, beiges and creamy off whites instead?

Cool tones look best in pure white, navy and gray whereas warm toned beauties will shine in light browns, camels and creams.

10. What colors suit you best?

A little peek in your wardrobe can help you suss out your skin tone.

What are your favourite colors to wear?

Earthy colours with a warm base like red, yellow or orange compliment warm toned skin.

Think brown, peach, ivory, coral, amber, gold, cream and olive green.

Cool skin pops in jewel tones of cool based colours like blue and purple.

Think sky blue, cobalt, plum, violet, turquoise, rose pink, charcoal and emerald green.

How to match nail polish colors to your skin tone.

Confident you’ve got your skin tone down?

Great – onto the fun part!

Let’s find out which nail polish colors will look best on you!

Best nail polish colors for fair cool skin tones.


Pastel colors with cool tones look amazing on fair cools.

Here’s a list of nail colors that work well for fair cool skin:


Essie The best est Zoya Vickie OPI I can never hut up


OPI–To be continued Essie Sway in crochet Zoya–Darby


Essie–Nice is nice Zoya–Miley OPI–Lucky Lucky Lavender


Essie–Fiji Zoya–Dot OPI–Baby take a vow


Essie–Seas the day OPI–Mexico city move mint Zoya–Harbour


Essie–Mint candy apple OPI–Thats hularious Zoya–Bevin
Zoya–Madeline OPI–Rice rice baby Essie–Young wild and me


Best nail polish colors for fair warm skin tones.

Fair warms need to avoid harsh strong colors and opt for a delicate palette.

Here are some of the most flattering nail polish colors for fair skin with warm undertones:


OPI Corralling your spirit animal Essie Set in sandstone Zoya Tessa


OPI Its a girl Essie Pin me pink Zoya Colleen


OPI Temperature is rising Zoya Tulip Essie Couture curator


Zoya – Avril

OPI – Baby, take a vow

Essie – Lady like


OPI Grapely Admired Zoya Ripley Essie Set the seam


Zoya Wednesday OPI Teal the cows come home Essie Garden variety


Zoya – Bee

OPI – Suzi’s slinging mezcal

Essie – Atelier at the bay


Zoya – Jaqueline

OPI – You’re full of abalone

Essie – Going steady

Best nail polish colors for fair neutral skin tones.

If you are fair and neutral, you have a bigger palette to play with.

You should be able to wear most of the nail colors listed above for either cool or warm fair skin.

You may find that some colors seem to work slightly better than others, depending on your specific tone, so feel free to experiment with all of the colors and see which ones you like best.

Also, you should check out the colors listed under medium neutral as many of those will work for you too!

Lucky you!

Best nail polish colors for medium cool skin tones.

Jewel tones are great for medium cools.

Here’s a list of nail polish shades that should flatter:


Zoya – Trixie

OPI – Tinsel tinsel ‘lil star

Essie – In my orbit


Zoya – Kristen

OPI – Ring bare-er

Essie – Once upon a time


Zoya – Fallon

OPI – No turning back from pink street

Essie – New year new hue


Zoya – Tina

OPI – Galleria vittorio violet

Essie – Breaking the bold


Zoya – Giovanna

OPI – Suzi san climbs fuji san

Essie – Jade to measure


Zoya – Jen

OPI – Blue my mind

Essie – Bobbing for baubles


Zoya – Lois

OPI – Meet me on the star ferry

Essie – V.I. please


Zoya – Koley

OPI – Relentless ruby

Essie – Drop the gown

Best nail polish colors for medium warm skin tones.

Medium warm skin matches best with rich earthy tones that are not too vibrant.

Here’s a list of nail polish colors that will compliment your medium warm skin tone:


Zoya – Flynn

OPI – It never ends

Essie – Truth or bare


Zoya – Spencer

OPI – Substantially tan

Essie – Kaf-tan


Zoya – Jaqueline

OPI – Shellabrate good times

Essie – Mixtaupe


Zoya – Tilda

OPI – To the finish lime

Essie – Mojito madness


Zoya – Tracie

OPI – This isn’t greenland

Essie – Take a walk


Zoya – Gal

OPI – This gold sleighs me

Essie – God it golding on


Zoya – Cassi

OPI – Coral chroma

Essie – Tart Deco


Zoya – Cole

OPI – Sun, sea and sand in my pants

Essie – Looks to thrill


Zoya – Arbor

OPI – Olive for green

Essie – Exposed


Zoya – Meadow

OPI – Freedom of peach

Essie – Peach side babe


Zoya – Cam

OPI – Endurance race to the finish

Essie – Meet me at sunset


Zoya – Autumn

OPI – Worth a pretty penne

Essie – Gorge-ous geodes


Zoya – Bee

OPI – One chic chick

Essie – Hay there

Best nail polish colors for medium neutral skin tones.

If you are medium and neutral – lucky you!

You can carry off a very wide range of nail polish shades.

But for that perfect match you’ll want to look for nail polish colors that are vibrant without being overpowering.

Here are your best nail polish color matches:


Zoya – Mia

OPI – Just lanaing around

Essie – Mauve-tivation


Zoya – Agnes

OPI – Let me bayou a drink

Essie – Blush worthy


Zoya – Lottie

OPI – Naughty or ice?

Essie – Mani thanks


Zoya – Dillon

OPI – This cost me a mint

Essie – Mint candy apple


Zoya Charli
OPI Taupe-less beach
Essie tonal-taupe


Zoya – Nyssa

OPI – Chocolate moose

Essie – Chocolate cakes


Zoya – Bethany

OPI – Tiramisu for two

Essie – Rainwear don’t care


Zoya – Cole

OPI – Machu peach-u

Essie – Peach side babe


Zoya – Joss

OPI – Rose against time

Essie – Stones and roses


Zoya – Ness

OPI – Verde nice to meet you

Essie – Jade to measure


Zoya – Chantal

OPI – Don’t cry over spilled milkshakes

Essie – Lace is more

Best nail polish colors for warm olive skin tones.

Most olive skin has warm undertones.

If you’re a warm olive, here are your best nail polish shades:


Zoya – Cole

OPI – Sun, sea and sand in my pants

Essie – Looks to thrill


Zoya – Sawyer

OPI – Endurance race to the finish

Essie – pinkies out


Zoya – Austine

OPI – Cosmo not tonight honey

Essie –  Star studded


Zoya – Rosa

OPI – Merry in cranberry

Essie – The fuchsia is bright


Zoya – Claire

OPI – In the cable car pool lane

Essie – Wrapped in rubies


Zoya – Courtney

OPI – Can’t be beet

Essie – gala-vanting


Zoya – Tamsen

OPI – A red-vival city

Essie – She’s pampered


Zoya – India

OPI – Malaga wine

Essie – Game theory


Zoya – Tessa

OPI – Freedom of peach

Essie – Peach side babe


Zoya – cho

OPI – Samoan sand

Essie – Sand tropez


Zoya – Clementine

OPI – I’ll have a gin and tectonic

Essie – At the helm


Zoya – Heidi

OPI – Have your panettone and eat it

Essie – Yes I canyon


Zoya – Cecilia

OPI – Teal me more teal me more

Essie – Garden variety

Best nail polish colors for dark and cool skin tones.

Bright jewel tones are a dark cool’s best friend.

Here’s a list of nail polish colors that should slay:


Zoya – Purity

OPI – Alpine snow

Essie – Clock in


Zoya – Jen

OPI – Mi casa es blue casa

Essie – Aruba blue


Zoya – Indigo

OPI – Indignantly indigo

Essie – Cause and reflect


Zoya – Bentley

OPI – Turn on the northern lights

Essie – Sexy divide


Zoya – Nana

OPI – Flashbulb fuchsia

Essie – Head over wheels


Zoya – Giovanna

OPI – Stay off the lawn

Essie – Jade to measure


Zoya – Talia

OPI – Eternally turquoise

Essie – Turquoise and caicos


Zoya – Sonja

OPI – Elephantastic pink

Essie – Lacquered up


Zoya – Vesper

OPI – Do you have this color in stock-holm?

Essie – Big spender

Best nail polish colors for dark warm skin tones.

You can enhance your dark warm complexion with rich earthy colors.

Here’s a list of colors that should match your skin:


Zoya – Kateri

OPI – You don’t know jacques

Essie – Bedrock and roll


Zoya – Austine

OPI – Glitzerland

Essie – Got it golding on


Zoya – Arbor

OPI – Olive for green

Essie – Precious cargo-go!


Zoya – Lulu

OPI – Tenacious spirit

Essie – Rainwear don’t care


Zoya – Mel

OPI – Things i’ve seen in abergreen

Essie – Sweater weather


Zoya – Darcy

OPI – Sun, sea and sand in my pants

Essie – Fall for NYC


Zoya – Gia

OPI – Merry in cranberry

Essie – Forever yummy


Zoya – Cinnamon

OPI – Falling for Milan

Essie – Sun-day style


Zoya – Soleil

OPI – Yank my doodle

Essie – What’s gold is new


Zoya – Bee

OPI – Don’t tell a sol

Essie – Avant-garment

Best nail polish colors for dark neutral skin tones.

If you are dark and neutral that means you should be able to carry off most of the colors for either dark cools or dark warms.

So have a play and choose your favs!

Also, you should check out the colors listed under medium neutral as many of those will work for you too!

Final thoughts: tips for choosing the right nail polish for your skin tone.

Final thoughts nail polish color

I hope that this article has given you a good idea of how to match nail polish colors to your skin tone.

Finding the right nail polish color for your skin tone involves first figuring out how light or dark the surface color of your skin is.

Once you know if you are fair, medium, olive or dark then you need to test whether your undertone is cool, warm or neutral.

The list of nail polish colors in this post will give you a great choice of shades but it is by no means exhaustive.

So the best tip that I can give you is to try to train your eye to tell the difference between warm and cool-toned colours.

As a general rule, warm-toned colors have a lot of yellow in them, while cool colors have a lot of blue.

Look at charts showing the difference between warm and cool shades of as many different colors as you can.

The more you look at these charts the more you will begin to notice the differences.

Then you can spot the right nail polishes for you quickly and easily!

Thanks for reading and happy painting!

More awesome posts:

What color nail polish goes with a black dress? Full Guide.

What color nail polish goes with a green dress?

Best acrylic nail brands: the most popular brands for acrylic nails.

5 Awesome Gel Nail Kits to Create Beautiful Nails at Home.

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  • Phoebe Meadows

    Phoebe Meadows is a self-proclaimed nail addict, always on the lookout for the latest trends and techniques. When she's not creating stunning nail designs, you can find her researching the latest nail care products or experimenting with new techniques.