If you've ever arrived home from the nail salon and immediately grabbed a bottle of polish remover, then you already know that one nail shade does not fit all. Your skin tone and, more importantly, its undertone (the warm or cool cast your skin gives off) have everything to do with how fab--or drab--a color looks on your fingers or toes. Why? "You want to avoid colors that create an extreme contrast with your skin," celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippmann says.
So, how do you figure out your undertone? Look at your veins on the inside of your wrist. If they're blue, your undertone is cool (your skin has pink and blue tones); if they're greenish, your tone is warm (with yellow, peach, or golden colors).
Another trick: "Check your closet," Lippmann says. If your wardrobe is a sea of blue, gray, and purple, it's likely you have a cool undertone. If you mostly wear earthy shades like olive, burgundy, and burnt orange, then you probably have a warm tone. Lippmann says it's similar with jewelry: Silver looks better against cool skin, while gold goes well with warm. (Don't fit into either category? You're neutral, which means you can rock any shade--lucky you!)
Now for the polish part: Cool tones should stick to enamels with hints of silver, gray, or blue. Think icy pinks, blue-based reds, lavender, or fuchsia pinks. Warms can wear hues that have a yellow, orange, or golden base such as creamy nudes, fiery reds, and coral pinks. Need a cheat sheet? Here, some undertone-flattering shades for your skin tone.
Fair: Julep Nail Color in Abby ($14, julep.com), a sheer petal pink.
Medium: Maybelline Color Show Nail Lacquer in Paint the Town ($4, maybelline.com), a blue-based red.
Dark: China Glaze Nail Lacquer in In The Near Fuchsia ($5, ulta.com), a vibrant pink creme.
Fair: MAC Studio Nail Lacquer in Sweet Potion ($12, maccosmetics.com), a peachy-beige nude.
Medium: Deborah Lippmann Nail Color in It's Raining Men ($18, deborahlippmann.com)
Dark: Sally Hansen Miracle Gel in Electric Pop ($8, drugstore.com), a coral pink hue.