The nude nail is the white T-shirt and jeans of manicures — it never goes out of style. We’ll always have a soft spot for elaborate nail art, bright colors, and deep jewel tones, but sometimes, we find ourselves in a more minimalist mood. That’s where the nude manicure, a legend in its own right for so many reasons, comes in. It’s a classic go-to for everything from weddings to fashion shows to casual weekends; it looks as good with a formal gown as it does at the office.

“Nude is the perfect natural canvas. It’s like a tinted moisturizer for your nails,” says Brooklyn-based nail artist Anna Miles. “It goes with any outfit and jewelry. It’s timeless, kind of like an ‘upgrade’ on your body’s already-beautiful factory settings.” There’s a reason nude shades like Essie’s Ballet Slippers, OPI’s Bubble Bath, and People of Color’s Brown Sugar Babe are so iconic — they work on a wide range of skin tones, and give your nails a rather tidy overall look.

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That said, nude nails can mean different things to different people; some are attracted to the “mannequin hands” look, where the polish so completely matches your skin tone that it gives the illusion of longer, sleeker fingers and nails. Others prefer something more sheer, to let their natural color peek through. Then there are those who favor an opaque, creamy color for a more uniform vibe. 

But the best thing about this type of manicure is that it’s so easy to deal with. “Nude shades are lower maintenance. As the mani grows out or chips, it is not as noticeable as it can be with bold colors,” says Silva Nahabedian, director of education for nail-care brand Dazzle Dry. “For the DIYer who does not have a very steady hand, nude shades tend to be more forgiving when you don’t polish them to perfection.”

Because there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all nude, you may have to do some experimenting to find your perfect neutral shades. That’s right — there is more than one nude color out there that will look good on you. To figure it all out, Nahabedian recommends the classic wrist veins tip to determine whether your skin tone is cool or warm. “Look at your wrist’s underside. If the veins appear blue, you have cool undertones,” she explains. “If the veins appear green, you have warm undertones. You are typically neutral if you are unsure if they are blue or green.” Nahabedian says that dark skin tones can wear almost any shade, while olive tones look great in “peaches and cream” colors or beiges. Medium skin tones can try a pale pink or off-white, and fair skin tones might prefer a creamy pink-beige or milky, pale pink sheer moment. 

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