The search for the perfect nude – not too thin or streaky, not too yellow and not too pink, not too light and not too dark – may well be a lifelong quest for mani-addicts, but we’ve done the research to get you off to a good start. All of our top ten offered easy application, a good glossy finish and at least five-day staying power (with the help of our favourite Seche Vite topcoat), and, from the palest of pinks to deep chocolatey brown, there’s something for every skin tone.

1. Essie Nail Lacquer in Spin the Bottle: £7.99, Superdrug

Essie is always a winner for its thin, streak-free formulas, wide flat brushes for easy neat application and reasonable prices. Spin the Bottle is a classic wedding day-pink nude that, unusually for paler colours, only takes two coats.

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2. Nails Inc NailKale in Montpelier Walk: £14, Nails Inc

This was the most versatile of the nudes we tested, working on super-pale right through to medium skin tones, and is actually slightly more purple on the nail than it looks in the bottle. It proved so popular that it was the only shade from the brand’s old nude range that it redeveloped in the new formula – and we’re glad they did. 

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3. Morgan Taylor Sheer Nail Polish in In The Nude: £11, Selfridges

A seriously classy near-white nude with a beautiful glossy finish, this has some serious staying power – in fact it grew out before we had to remove it because of chipping. The only downside is that it takes three coats to get an opaque finish; two can be streaky.

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4. Butter London Sheer Wisdom Nail Tinted Moisturiser in Deep: £12, butterlondon.co.uk

Designed to be a sort of tinted moisturiser for your nails, this range comes in six natural shades, right through to this gorgeous chocolate-y brown. It’s enriched with vitamin E, tea tree oil and keratin to provide nourishment as well as colour.

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5. Soigné Nail Lacquer in Éternal: £11, Soigné

‘Greige’ took over Pinterest home design boards last year, and now it’s on our nails too. Éternal, a milky grey shade, is an elegant and modern take on nude and comes in Soigné’s nail-friendly, 85 per cent natural formula, free from nasty chemicals. It is slightly yellow-toned so best on skins with similar undertones.

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6. OPI Nail Lacquer in Barefoot in Barcelona: £8.75, Beauty Bay

This reddy brown is beautiful on olive through to medium-dark skin tones. The formula is thin but highly pigmented while the brush is slightly flat and delicate – everything you need for a perfect mani.

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7. L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Le Vernis à L’Huile in Moka Chic: £4.99, Boots

We love the luxe look of the textured glass bottles that house L’Oréal’s new Colour Riche collection. It has a pretty good range of nudes and greiges, but our pick is this grey-toned brown, which is slightly cooler than Butter London’s chocolate offering. The brush is flat and wide, Essie-style, for easy application.

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8. Barry M Speedy Quick Dry in Winning Streak: £3.99, Barry M

This soft beige creme errs on the pink side but also works well for pale yellow-toned skins. It goes on streak-free with two coats and the quick-dry formula is touch-dry within a couple of minutes – ideal for last-minute painting. The Speedy collection also has new, flatter brushes for neater application.

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9. Mavala Nail Colour in Wind Breeze: £4.50, Nail Polish Direct

Mavala’s tiny bottles are underrated genius as you always finish them before they go gloopy. This creamy, sandy beige is part of the Oasis collection, which is inspired by sub-Saharan lands, and is perfect for olive and darker yellow-toned skin.

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10. Nailberry in A Touch of Powder: £14.50, Nailberry

Fashion-favourite brand Nailberry’s barely-there pastel pink made its debut on nails at Emilia Wickstead’s AW16 catwalk show. Apply one coat for a low-maintenance, delicate gloss, or two for a perfect French mani base.

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11. Leighton Denny Nail Colour in Creme De La Creme: £11, Leighton Denny

For a natural, understated nude, we love this creamy pink shade from Leighton Denny; perfect for a French mani or worn alone for its low-maintenance, sheer finish. The formula was also one of the longest lasting of all the polishes we tested.

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Verdict

Nails Inc’s Montpelier Walk wins points for its versatility, while you can’t beat Morgan Taylor’s In The Nude for a classy colour and glossy finish for English-rose tones, but for application, finish, value for money and sheer range of shades, Essie takes the top spot.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.