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With the pandemic and quarantine came another entirely unexpected beast – we can't stand seeing our face on Zoom. Yes, there's even a term for this phenomenon – Zoom dysmorphia.
During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, video conferencing via Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, and other platforms have become the primary communication tools for work, school, and others. Unfortunately, this lengthy on-camera time and staring back at yourself for hours every day (something we're definitely not used to) have led to our negative self-perception, and basically, thinking we're ugly.
In fact, more and more people are seeking cosmetic consultations and even asking for facelifts and plastic surgery to look better while video chatting despite being amid a pandemic.
So, the question is – Do I really look like that? And is the surgery indeed the only solution?
Long story short – No, you don't. And, no, it isn't.
And here's why!
What Exactly Is Zoom Dysmorphia?
Sagging face, double chin, disproportional head, and colossal nose... That's all you can see staring at you from your computer screen, right? And you can't stop staring back because... well, it's you.
But is it really? Because you know you don't look like that when you see yourself in the mirror. And, simply, the image you have in your mind doesn't quite match.
So, to answer the question – It kind of is you, but, at the same time, it isn't. First of all, it's your brain playing tricks on you. What we usually see in the mirror is now reversed. As Pamela Rutledge, the director of the Media Psychology Center, said for The Atlantic:
Looking at yourself in the mirror becomes a firm impression. You have that familiarity. Familiarity breeds liking. You've established a preference for that look of your face.
When in reality, when brushing our teeth, shaving, or putting on makeup, we only see the backward version of ourselves in the mirror.
Additionally, the front-facing camera on your laptop or phone isn't exactly face-friendly – at least not in videos. Yvonne Thomas, a psychologist from L.A., explained it in the article for Mel Magazine:
The front-facing camera is an extreme wide-angle, which can cause shadows around the eyes and nose, highlight one's facial imperfections like blemishes and wrinkles and add enough bloating that it can look like one has a double chin.
The effect of this issue is so far-flung that more than 80% of dermatologists' visits last year were related to people's discomfort and dissatisfaction due to their distorted body image. Additionally, people are increasingly asking plastic surgeons for a video-friendly face. And so, the new video-call renaissance disorder emerged, and it's called Zoom dysmorphia. It refers to one's warped and altered body image, resulting from the countless hours spent on video calls.
On this point, DermatologyTimes quotes Shadi Kourosh, an assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School in Boston:
The increased time on-camera, coupled with the unflattering effects of front-facing cameras, triggered a concerning and subconscious response unique to the times we're living in. In addition, many people were also spending more time on social media viewing highly edited photos of others—triggering unhealthy comparisons to their own images on front-facing cameras, which we know is distorted and not a true reflection.
So, while technology has helped us navigate these difficult times, it has also harmed us in many ways. Perhaps, its consequences will remain long after the pandemic is far and gone. Therefore, it's essential to understand the core of the problem. It's best to talk to a board-certified dermatologist, as well as a psychologist, and identify if the problem is truly an aesthetic one.
If not, before doing something you might regret later, try these simple tips and tricks to help you look your best during video calls.
Tips on How to Look Good on Video Calls
There's no reason to feel anxious and have minor panic attacks awaiting each video call, whether it be with your colleagues or friends. Dreading seeing yourself on that screen can be a thing of the past with these simple but truly effective tips and tricks:
Tip #1: Start From the Basics – Your Appearance
If you're happy with the way you look (in the real world), it will translate on the screen, and you'll feel less awkward about yourself. So, whether it's combing your hair, giving yourself a face massage, or putting on some makeup, make an effort, and it will pay off.
Of course, you don't have to go crazy with it either. A tinted moisturizer with a setting powder will do the trick, evening out your complexion and reducing shine.
Tip #2: Think About What You're Wearing
Skip on your p.j.'s and dress as you usually would for a meeting (at least from the waist up). Go through your closet and find a nice polo shirt, blouse, or blazer – something that's comfortable but professional enough.
Colors matter too. Try to avoid wearing busy and heavily patterned shirts. This will make you look unflattering and can be distracting for other people on the call. Instead, wear plain, solid colors, but avoid extremely dark or bright tones, as these will make you look bigger on the screen.
Tip #3: Good Lighting Is Everything
Seek for natural lighting or ring light that illuminates your face head-on and evenly. That way, there won't be any shadows that distort your face features or emphasize even the tiniest flaws, like your blemishes or wrinkles.
Steer clear of backlighting as it will darken the shot. Likewise, avoid overhead lights as these will create shadows under your nose and chin and give you under-eye bags even if you have the healthiest and smoothest complexion.
Tip #4: Position Your Camera at Eye Level
For the most flattering angle, you need to position your camera straight in front of you and adjust its height at eye level. If you have your laptop or phone camera too low, it will make you look bigger and even give you a double-chin effect. Plus, nobody likes to look straight up your nostrils.
So, use a laptop stand or a stack of books to place your computer or tablet on and have it in line with your eyes. If you're using your phone, you should hold it a bit higher.
Tip #5: Find a Good Distance
Most web cameras have wide-angle lenses, flattening out your features and making them look wider. So, if you sit too close to your camera, your nose will look entirely out of proportion, wide and big.
Therefore, keep a safe distance from your camera. Some rule of thumb would be to sit an arm's length in front of a webcam and try not to fill the whole frame with just your face. There should be some open space above your head, and your shoulders or armpits should be at the very bottom of the screen.
Tip #6: Invest in a Better-Quality Camera
If nothing else works, getting a good-quality, high-resolution external camera would be a good investment. There's a wide array of affordable quality cameras that can make a huge difference. These will provide a more true-to-life and better quality image.
Tip #7: Make Use of the Zoom Settings
Zoom offers a "touch up my appearance" setting. It will smooth out any marks or blemishes and brighten up your face. This is a quick option, ideal if you're in a hurry and don't have enough time for Tip #1. Simply go to video settings, and select the "touch up my appearance" option.
Tip #8: Check How You Look Before Going Live
Zoom also offers an option to show you a small preview of your video before joining the call. Take these couple of seconds to see how you look and make some final adjustments if necessary.
For more detailed info, you can check out other Zoom settings options on their website.
Tip #9: Try Not to Stare at Yourself
During video conferences, eye contact with other people is essential. So, try to focus on other people's faces instead of your own. Plus, looking at the little box in the corner of the screen all the time won't do you any good. It can only ruin your chance to leave a good impression and have a natural conversation.
Tip #10: Avoid Social Media After a Meeting
Video calls tend to get very draining, as they require more mental processing and focus than eye-to-eye interactions. This is because we have to work much harder to read non-verbal cues in video chats, such as body language, facial expressions, and the tone of other people's voices (plus, there's that staring at the little box with your face in the corner which can be pretty draining).
So, try not to get on Instagram or Facebook right after an online meeting. You'll get into comparing those perfect, filtered photos with your distorted image from the call that's still fresh in your memory. You'll start feeling even worse about yourself very quickly, without even being aware of it.
Some Parting Words of Advice...
If video calls affect you so much that asking for fillers, Botox, or a facelift seems like a good idea, and the only way to make yourself feel better, stick to phone calls or turn off your camera whenever possible. On the other hand, if you can't escape them, learn to love yourself the way you are and don't focus so much on your looks.
Still, if the whole subject bothers you far too much, open up and talk to a friend or, even better, a therapist. And, remember that beauty is fleeting, and the only things that remain and that count are your spirit and character.
How can I look better on Zoom?
To look better on Zoom, you can try some of these tips and tricks: apply foundation to reduce shine and even out your skin tone; use ring light or sit in front of the natural source of light that will illuminate your face evenly; avoid overhead lighting as it can create shadows and give you double chin; position your camera at eye level and sit an arm's length in front of it.
Why do I look so bad on Zoom?
Front-facing cameras on phones and laptops have an extremely wide angle, causing shadows on your face and distorting your facial features. These shadows also highlight blemishes and wrinkles.
What colors look best on Zoom?
It would be best to avoid wearing heavily patterned clothes while on Zoom calls. These don't look flattering on the screen and can be pretty distracting for other people on the call. Instead, go for plain, solid colors, but avoid extremely bright tones because these can make you appear bigger.
Why do I look terrible on camera?
Cameras tend to flatten your facial features making you not look like yourself. Besides, we're used to looking at ourselves in the mirror, when we can adjust the most flattering angle. Cameras capture you from different angles, some of which we're not used to seeing.
Why do I look washed out on Zoom?
You may look washed out on Zoom due to exposure settings on your camera. Exposure on your camera determines how light or dark an image will be. So if you look washed out, your exposure may be set too high. Try to adjust it manually until you get the desired lighting.
Why do I look fatter on Zoom?
Your laptop camera may flatten out your features, making you look generally bigger. Plus, overhead lighting creates shadows on your face, making your nose and chin look bigger and wider.