Five Ways To Look Polished On Screen
If the past year has taught us anything – apart from the importance of good personal hygiene – it’s that we don’t always need to be chained to an office desk to get things done. Via the medium of platforms from Zoom to Microsoft Teams, we’ve managed to trade hours spent on sweaty commuter trains packed to the gunwales for more time spent in front of our monitors.
For better or worse, this looks set to continue. As the established nine-to-five seems to be increasingly likely to be consigned to the shelf, it’s clear that remote working will continue to be a feature of working life for the foreseeable.
And as we’ve all learnt – often through painful experience – the world of virtual conferencing requires a whole new set of skills to tackle everything from bad camera angles, to erratic microphones and dodgy virtual backgrounds. And that’s before we get to the litany of potential faux pas that come with working from home turf – errant four-legged friends, toddlers or underwear-clad spouses gate crashing meetings, filters that morph you into a potato (or cat) and lockdown-induced cabin fever that can reduce a mundane parish council meeting into the mudslinging equivalent of Dante’s Fifth Circle of Hell.
The point is, it’s worth fine-tuning your on-screen image to ensure you make as good an impression from a hundred miles away as you would across the boardroom table. Here’s how to do it.
Rethink your face-care regimen
If your grooming regimen has borne the brunt of a year of social hibernation, you’re not alone. While trading the urban commute for the kitchen table might have been a breath of fresh air for your skin, the accrued screen time that comes with working from home can have its own detriment. “Laptops, tablets or phones, all screens emit blue light, which causes premature ageing, like UV and traffic fumes,” says as Dr Yannis Alexandrides, founder of Harley Street skincare brand 111SKIN. As your first line of defence, Dr Alexandrides recommends an anti-pollution tonic that addresses both physical and light pollution. 111SKIN’s topical booster is blended with Indian ginseng to accelerate your body’s production of glutathione – an antioxidant that counteracts artificial visible light – to turn back the clock on screen-stressed skin.
It’s said that eyes are the windows into our soul and, with masks, they’ve become even more of a focal point. Long hours spent focusing on a screen can leave them looking far from bright, but an energising eye gel can help pep up strained peepers. Look out for active ingredients such as dark circle-busting hyaluronic acid and caffeine, which delivers a pick-me-up to tired eyes, much like your morning espresso.
If a bigger refresher is in order, a mask treatment will help you regain your glow and 111SKIN’s Y Theorem Bio Cellulose Mask is particularly noteworthy. Bio cellulose – originally developed to treat burns – is 500 times thinner than paper and functions like a section skin by aiding superior absorption of ingredients, including sea anemone peptides to calm redness, and liquorice root extract to brighten and tone. Dr Alexandrides advises putting some teaspoons in the freezer to massage the formulation from the mask into the skin to maximise absorption and reduce puffiness.
Reach for the concealer
As useful as topical treatments are, when a camera is focused on your face at close range, more obvious flaws are difficult to disguise in a hurry. The quickest solution? Make-up. It’s not just the likes of millennials and Mr Harry Styles that are slapping on the stuff, either, as the plethora of men’s make-up brands that have launched in recent years attests.
Mr Daniel Gray, founder of one such brand, War Paint for Men, knows that when grey skin or a rogue breakout threatens, make-up is an effective remedy. “A primer is brilliant to use before on-screen meetings,” he says. “Just sweep a small amount across your skin and it acts as a real-life blurring tool. It immediately evens out your skin and is completely invisible.”
A concealer also works wonders. “It’s ideal if you have a couple of problem areas you want to quickly correct, whether that’s hiding dark under-eye circles or making a spot disappear,” adds Gray.
Another option is a tinted moisturiser, which will give you a healthy appearance, no matter your skin tone. “If the lighting in the room isn’t the best, a tinted moisturiser will deliver an even, glowing skin tone. Apply it with your fingertips or a brush or sponge to spread the product and blend it,” says Gray.
Tame your mane
With barbers shuttered for the best part of a year, you might well have found the Wild Man of Borneo staring back at you in the bathroom mirror. If you are in the midst of a long spell between a proper snip, you don’t need to reach for the electric clippers to get a grip, as Mr Anthony Mayes, creative director of Mayfair men’s grooming destination, The Refinery, explains. “Always use scissors for slightly longer hair as they provide more control. Focus on trimming the errant hair around your ears, sideburns and fringe – this is relatively risk-free and will instantly give you a tidier appearance,” he says.
If you’re concerned that self-scissor wielding is going to end in a botch job, consider switching up your products instead, says Mayes. “Matte clays can help keep unruly locks in check and will make your bedhead look deliberate,” he explains. “For curls, use a leave-in conditioner or a few drops of argan oil to enhance moisture and encourage neater curls.”
Calibrate your setup
We’ve all heard Mr Tom Ford’s tips for a maximising your screen charisma, but beyond the chin-reducing stack of books, sheet of paper and keeping your dirty laundry out of sight, what else is there to setting up like a pro?
“Adjust your seat or laptop height so your camera as close to eye level as possible – this is the natural position you’d be in if having a face-to-face meeting,” explains Mr Dan Morbin, director and co-founder of Rise Media, which produces video content for Esquire, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar. “Also, make sure you are sat comfortably and relaxed when you frame up – often people do this while sitting to attention, and slump into a sloppy off-centre position after the call begins,” he says.
Any keen shutterbug knows the importance of good lighting and the principles of photography translate to a positive screen image, too. For starters, always pick a spot in front of a good light source, such as a window. “Avoid having light sources directly behind you – this will silhouette you and make you appear dark and grainy on screen,” says Morbin. If finding a quiet locale with a front-facing light source is difficult, then some inexpensive kit, such as light rings or cubes can brighten the situation.
“You can pick up some simple USB-powered LED lights online specifically for video calling – these can really make a difference,” says Morbin. “Be sure to go for one with an adjustable light intensity, so you don’t overexpose yourself and look like a bright blob with eyes.”
Curate a screen-proof wardrobe
As tempting as it might be to spend the working day at home in your boxers (after all, who’s going to see you from the waist down?), with our established routines in disarray, it can be useful to instil a sense of “dressing for work”, so think about your overall look instead of taking a piecemeal approach.
While a punchy pattern can add interest to your look when you’ve got little else on show, tread carefully. Microprints and dense stripes, for example, can produce an optical moiré effect, which will give your fellow Zoomers a chromatic migraine. “It’s best to keep pattern to a minimum – if your audience doesn’t have decent broadband, that nice floral print could look like you’ve spilt something down yourself,” says Mr Olie Arnold, MR PORTER’s Style Director.
An equally considered approach should apply to your colour palette. While all black is often a failsafe, if you’re pale, solid dark shades can amplify the contrast with your skin tone and make you looked washed out. Neutrals and colours that enhance or warm your skin tone are a safer bet, but take note of your background. “Complement or contrast your background, but don’t match it. A floating head is not a good look,” says Arnold.
To tackle surprise calls when you’re caught off guard in your slacks, Arnold suggests having few versatile pieces close to hand. “Keep an unstructured blazer or a lightweight scarf nearby to switch up your look if an unexpected meeting arises. Likewise, a plain cap is a lifesaver if you’re having a bad hair day.”