A close-up shot capturing a hand adorned with a vibrant coral nail polish, contrasting against sun-kissed skin, accentuating a tan complexion.

What Nail Color Makes You Look Tan? A Comprehensive Guide

Nail color can really make or break a tan. Finding the right shades to complement your sun-kissed glow can take your look to the next level. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the best nail polish colors to make you look fabulously tan.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Neutral and muted tones like light pinks, nudes, taupes, and warm beiges flatter tanned skin and make you look more bronzed.

Read on as we dive into everything you need to know about picking the perfect nail colors for a sunkissed tan, from foolproof shade options to application tips and tricks.

Go For Soft, Warm Neutrals

Light pinks

When looking to complement a summer glow, soft and delicate light pink nail polish shades are a fabulous option. Subtle pink hues like ballet slipper, petal pink, and blush work beautifully with tan skin by providing a gentle color pop.

These feminine tones bring out the warmth in skin tone without being overpowering.

Neutral pinks with just a touch of color pigment allow your tan to take center stage. Essie’s Ballet Slippers and OPI’s Tickle My France-y are perfect go-to shades. Sheer pinks compliment and enhance tanned skin while still keeping the focus on your gorgeous glow.

Nudes and taupes

Flattering nude and taupe nail polish colors beautifully coordinate with sun-kissed skin. These smart neutral hues extend the look of a tan by blending seamlessly with the skin’s undertone. From creamy shades like OPI’s Funny Bunny to sandy beige tones such as Essie’s Topless & Barefoot, you can’t go wrong.

Nudes and taupes provide a polished, natural-looking manicure that lets your standout tan take the spotlight. More opaque than delicate pinks, these colors nicely bridge the gap between a neutral manicure and a standard cream shade.

Warm beiges

Bring out your sun-kissed glow with the warmth of beige nail polish. From a rich, creamy coconut milk beige like Zoya’s Bevin to a pink-undertoned silk shade such as Essie’s Pillow Talk, warmer beige tones perfectly complement tanned skin.

These colors provide enough color payoff to add interest to the nail while still harmonizing beautifully with summer skin. Beiges that lean peachy or golden rather than muted work best to enhance a radiant, bronzed glow.

Go for beiges with yellow, peach, or pink undertones rather than those with gray undertones.

Muted corals

Few colors represent summer better than corals. When rocking a tropical tan, opt for muted coral shades that stylishly bridge the gap between peach and pink. These warm, mellow shades bring out the best in a sun-drenched complexion.

Stunning muted corals include Essie’s Clambake, OPI’s Suzi Says Foe, and Zoya’s Henna. Ranging from peachy pink to dusty orange these flattering shades make your tan pop.

Steer Clear of Bold Brights

When trying to choose a nail polish color that will complement sun-kissed skin, it’s generally best to avoid bright, bold shades that will clash with your tan. Here’s a closer look at some of the most jarring nail polish colors to avoid when you want your manicure to enhance your bronze glow:

Electric Blues

Vibrant, electric blues may be eye-catching, but their cool undertones have a tendency to make tanned skin look sallow or sickly. Rather than playing up your warm complexion, these shades distract and detract. For a better option, consider softer, muted blues in shades like periwinkle or powder blue.

Vibrant Greens

Just like electric blues, vibrant greens like lime, kelly green and even mint can end up looking garish next to bronzed skin. Their high-voltage hues overwhelm tanned hands and feet instead of complementing them.

For a more flattering alternative, go for muted, earthy greens like sage, olive or forest green.


No neon nail color is a good pick when you’re sporting a gorgeous, golden tan. Their extreme brightness coupled with your dark skin creates too much contrast. Neon pinks, oranges, yellows and more will stick out like a sore thumb.

For a better choice, look for creamy pastels in soft corals, peaches, creamy yellows or muted oranges.

The key is choosing nail lacquers with a bit of softness and subtlety. Nudes, rose golds, champagnes and other neutral, understated polishes allow your tan to take center stage. Avoid choosing any shades so bold that they overpower your sun-kissed glow.

With the right nude or neutral hue, you can let your tan be the star and your manicure, the perfect supporting act.

Metallics Add Subtle Shimmer

Rose Gold

Rose gold nail polish adds a romantic, feminine touch to any look. The soft, metallic hue flatters most skin tones and helps give the illusion of a subtle tan. When paired with a darker nude or brown base color, rose gold takes on an almost iridescent quality, adding dimension and shimmer.

Essie’s popular Mademoiselle nail lacquer is a perfect example of a flattering rose gold shade. Its warm, pinkish tone looks beautiful on both fair and darker complexions. For an amped up metallic version, try OPI’s I Rose Gave Peace a Chance—a true rose gold foil finish.


Like an effervescent glass of bubbly, champagne nail lacquers impart a delicate glimmer. These polished metallics straddle the line between gold, silver, and pale bronze hues, making them incredibly versatile. They give nails a subtle “lit from within” look.

A neutral champagne metallic like Essie’s Penny Talk is an effortless French manicure alternative. Or go for a warmer tone like OPI’s Champagne For Breakfast to play up a faux glow. For an icy take, Zoya’s neutral metallic shade Storm is more platinum champagne than gold.


From glossy penny bronzes to deeper, more weathered metallic shades, bronze nail polish conjures up images of sunkissed summer skin. There’s an intrinsic radiance and warmth to these metallic lacquers. Bronze shades are especially flattering on olive and darker skin tones.

Try China Glaze’s antique bronze shade Restoration Hardware for an artisanal twist. For an unexpected pop of warmth, Dior’s Diorlisse ridge-filling base coat in a light cappuccino bronze is a versatile neutral.

And for the perfect sun-drenched terracotta bronze, look no further than YSL’s La Laque Couture in Brun Cachemire—the depth of color pays homage to natural shadows and dimension.

Application Tips

Prep nails properly

Properly preparing your nails is crucial for getting that perfect manicure that will make your tan pop. Here are some tips:

  • Start by filing your nails to the desired shape. An oval or squoval shape tends to be the most flattering.
  • Use a nail buffer to gently smooth away any ridges or imperfections. This will create a nice, even surface for the polish.
  • Clean your nails thoroughly with nail polish remover to get rid of any oil and debris. This helps the polish adhere better.
  • Apply a hydrating cuticle oil around your nails and gently push back your cuticles. Trim off any excess cuticle, if needed.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water and thoroughly dry them. The nails need to be completely clean and dry for best results.

Use a base and top coat

Using a base coat underneath your polish and a top coat over it is key for protecting your manicure and making it last. According to nail care experts Sally Beauty (https://www.sallybeauty.com/nails/nail-color/base-and-top-coats/), base coats help prevent staining of the nails from darker polishes.

They also help the polish go on more smoothly. Top coats are essential for adding a glossy shine and preventing chips.

When selecting base and top coat formulas, look for ones that advertise being quick-drying. You want your layers to dry fast so you can complete your manicure timely. Top coats with UV filters will also help protect your polish from fading in the sun—no good when trying to play up your tan!

Consider gel or dip powder for longevity

While regular polish looks pretty and offers lots of color choices, it doesn’t have the best longevity. If you want your manicure to last over a week without chips or smudges, consider gel polish or dip powder instead.

These formulas are more durable and provide extended wear to show off those tanned digits!

Gel polish gets cured under an LED or UV light to create a glossy, protective layer over your nails. Dip powder uses a powder and liquid activator to harden into a similar durable coating. Both gel and dip powder manicures can typically last 2-3 weeks without touch-ups, making them perfect for vacation or special events.

Just keep in mind, removing gel and dip powder requires using acetone remover to dissolve the polymers. So they do require more effort if you want to change your color. But while you have them on, you’ll have fabulous, chip-free nails to complement your golden skin!


Achieving a perfect mani to complement your gorgeous tan doesn’t have to be hard. By sticking to soft, neutral and metallic shades that work with your skin tone, you can make your tan really pop. Avoid bold brights that compete with your bronzed glow.

Prep nails properly and finish with a top coat for long-lasting color. With this guide’s tips in mind, you’ll be rocking a manicure that highlights your sunkissed skin all season long.

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