For years I regularly used Zoom meetings as an alternative to traveling to customer offices. Now that the majority of physical offices in the US have been closed for several months, Zoom and online meetings have become the default option for a lot of other people, and it’s time for me to share my Zoom Tricks.

Looking at yourself on video if you’re not happy with your appearance can be pretty distracting.

This is extra unhelpful if you are presenting and can’t stop looking at your own face, wondering why you are so red and what could have happened to your eyebrows. Additionally, looking good on Zoom is not really the same as looking good in real life. So if you are working from home and still get dressed up in your business casual, do your makeup, and blow out your hair, feel free to fully skip this.

If you want to learn how to do the bare minimum to keep yourself looking acceptable enough to click that “Start Video” button, read on.

Zoom Background Home Office
Zoom attendees can’t tell if it’s a fake plant
  1. Zoom Background. What will people see behind you? Keeping in mind the general philosophy of “other people’s stuff is clutter” and “other people’s clutter is more disgusting than my own clutter,” it’s best to have the absolute minimum amount of stuff in your background. A bookshelf neatly populated with vintage leather volumes or a blank wall with a plant are both good options. If the other meeting attendees can see so much as a plastic water bottle behind you, they’ll think you’re a hoarder.

They can definitely tell if you are using a digitally added-in “Zoom background.”

Zoom Background Home Office
The intellectual option. Do not attempt if your literary collection is mostly self-help or romance novels.
  1. Light. Point a (not super bright) light source directly at your face. Related to the previous point, dim lighting in a Zoom setting has a tendency to look dingy and a little less than professional. Nobody will believe you are doing your job (even with evidence) if your home office looks too dim and cozy.

The other reason to do this is because if the lighting is too dim, you might look red.

I always look very very red without a light pointed at my face. Sometimes to the point of looking like I might be from a different planet than these other attendees. If you don’t want to use a small desk lamp, a ring light, like the kind intended for clipping to your iPhone (clipped instead to your laptop) works well.

Desk Lamp for Zoom
This is the one I have. They make a floor-lamp version as well.
Ring Light for Zoom
Purchased in pursuit of a decent-looking photo of myself. Has been repurposed for sofa-based Zoom meetings on my tablet.
  1. Tinted Moisturizer. Continuing on the topic of not looking like a maroon-skinned Martian, tinted moisturizer is a nice compromise in the makeup arena. I can put a little bit in my hands WHILE dialing into the meeting, and quickly rub it in without looking and click on “Start Video” while waiting for the attendees that are still making their way through their dual authentication process. For years, the only tinted moisturizer I used was Laura Mercier, but I just got this one from Giorgio Armani that I like quite a bit as well.

Tinted sunscreen is another good option.

If working from home has encouraged you to try to spend more time outside, Babo Botanicals makes a (non-nano, reef-safe) tinted moisturizer sunscreen that comes in lotion form and stick form. The stick version lives in my top desk drawer. If I think I’ll be outside that day, I’ll just blindly rub it all over my face and then rub it in, and it looks good enough for a Zoom video (might want to check a mirror before going into public though). I am pretty pale, and the color it comes in works well for me. I’m told it works well for medium and slightly darker skin tones but if your skin is very very light or dark you might need the clear version (still a great sunscreen and moisturizer) or another product.

These two live in my desk drawer.

Tinted Moisturizer for Zoom
  1. Eyebrow Makeup. Since the lamp or ring light causes that (good) washed out effect, you need extra definition in your face. Going along with the nature of applying makeup in seconds without looking, my favorite product for this has been Boy brow. In the Glossier videos, I see the models swiping it up, down, in, and out, basically gooping and slathering it all over their eyebrows. That is not how I put it on. I apply it to my eyebrows almost like mascara, in a diagonal upwards and outwards motion, and then run a clean fingertip across the tops of my eyebrows to minimize the “wizard brow” effect. If I have a day where I am actually “doing” my makeup, I prefer to use eyeshadow and an angle brush to define my eyebrows. The end result looks a little nicer, but it also requires looking in a mirror.
Brow Definer for Zoom
I can use this one (in brown, even with blonde hair) without a mirror.

I have yet to find a better eyeshadow for this purpose than Mary Kay’s “Espresso,” and I feel like I have tried them all.

Espresso has just enough of a grey tint to go with my blonde hair, and brown enough that it goes with my natural shade of brunette. When I have tinted my hair more of a red/auburn/ginger shade, the Espresso seems to work too. I don’t really pull off the black hair look, so very dark-haired people might need another shade, but the Mary Kay formulation seems to be amazing for eyebrows.

Brow Definer for Zoom
My all-time favorite eyeshadow, powder eyeliner, and brow definer. Ive used this since 2006, and Im screwed if they ever discontinue it.
  1. Glasses. Or Eye Makeup. Remember when I said looking good on Zoom isn’t the same as looking good in real life? Rimmed glasses provide just enough eye definition on camera so that I don’t need to apply any more eye makeup. If you don’t wear glasses you could always keep a non-prescription pair on your desk for appearing conscious on camera. As an added benefit, glasses are still considered to enhance an “intellectual look.”

People might assume you’re smart as well.

Glasses for Zoom
Intellectual look, replaces eye makeup. These are the prescription glasses I wear.
  1. Lip Color. I have tried all the lip colors that exist, and these are the best, in order:

These are not the same colors as each other, but the reason behind selecting these colors is the same.

Each of these colors is close enough to a natural lip color to apply without use of a mirror.

You’ll also notice that my ranking has an inverse relation to cost. You know how much I wanted my favorite lip color to come in a shiny beautiful engraved tube, so I could feel like an adult who wears real makeup and has nice things?! But it turns out that this $5 drugstore chapstick is my all time favorite lip color. Disclaimer: These are not the products that provide the dense, saturated reds or other colors that you would achieve as part of a full makeup look. That is a fully different topic and product.

Lip Color for Zoom
This was the winner.
  1. Soft Clothes. Fantastically, the other meeting attendees can’t really tell what you are wearing. In real life, certain fabrics and good tailoring have a huge impact on your overall look. In a zoom meeting, it’s really only a low-res snapshot from the shoulders up. Solid-color crewneck or v-neck long sleeved knit tops are really ideal for on top. Short sleeves, sleeveless, and low-cut tops just don’t really translate all that well. Patterns (unless very subtle) and graphics tend to up the clutter effect I described when discussing Zoom backgrounds. That said, the top portion doesn’t matter a whole lot of you take advantage of my next point. In theory, nobody can see what you have on the bottom.

Do you really want to run that risk?!

What if you stand up to grab something? Pajama bottoms/exposed underwear/children’s cartoon character sweatpants are the source of almost every embarrassing video meeting story. Don’t take the chance. Get yourself some black sweatpants or these leggings. They might as well be dress pants as far as anyone can tell.

Black Leggings for Zoom
These are my absolute favorite, of all time. Better than Lululemon (although I wouldn’t try working out in them… they’re VERY soft and might slip down). I use them as travel PJ pants.
  1. Pashmina. If wearing a reasonable top (and … bra) on a reliable basis seems like too much to handle (my situation), keep a pashmina on the desk. Wrap it around the visible portion of your top as you’re dialing in. I have a grey one, but beige, black, navy, or cream would all be professional and yet forgettable enough that nobody will really notice that you appear to only have one top.
Grey Pashmina for Zoom
This is the one I have. I’ve also used it as a wrap for weddings and formal events. And as an airplane blanket.

*Disclaimer: I’d be happy to be compensated or get things for free. That said, I purchased all these things myself. (…as well as a bunch of other things that ended up being less good)

Next time you’re pinged with a “Got a minute to chat?” message, reply yes! Then take 5-10 seconds to flip your light on, tint/moisturize your face, emphasize your brows, put on your glasses, apply some chapstick, and throw a pashmina over your pajamas. It’s fast enough you can do it WHILE Zoom is ringing. Then you can answer with your video ON, and everyone will probably think you have your life together. Or they might not care at all, but at least it won’t be distracting for YOU. 😉 Then you can get back to wasting your life on Pinterest guilt-free.

Zoom Meeting
Now you can focus on your meeting!

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