Zoom Video Conferencing Taught Me to Relax My Beauty Standards

Before the pandemic, I was the type of person who applied a full face of makeup every day before heading into work—primer, foundation, concealer, blush, brow pencil, mascara, and setting powder, at the very least. After all, I’m a market editor who specializes in beauty, and I really love makeup and experimenting with products. And as a black woman, it’s been instilled in me how important it is to present myself as a polished professional for even longer than I’ve been in the workforce. But now, almost two months into my new normal of working from home and the constant Zoom meetings that come with it, I’m doing something very different.Zoom video conferencing is, to put it lightly, nothing like my platform of choice, Instagram, where I post a mix of beauty routine and outfit-of-the-day pics, and, of course, selfies (at least 500 and counting). Crafting the perfect selfie and proudly uploading it to Instagram is a serious hobby of mine. I like challenge and the creativity of it, and, to be honest, I like the feedback: When I post a well-composed selfie, I get lots of compliments and likes, way more than I get when I post an artistic shot of a stylish restaurant I’ve visited (those were the days) or my newest cool nail art.Honestly though? All of those casual-looking selfies actually take a lot of time and effort. Whenever I post a selfie, no matter how “natural” it may look, there’s a fair amount of planning involved. Aside from making sure I have an acceptable amount of makeup on for the mood I’m going for, there’s also pulling together a content plan around what to post, finding the right light to shoot in, and using editing apps to tweak the final pose (if you’re wondering, my favorite of the moment is Snapseed). This is my preferred way of showing myself to the world: Well-planned, with just-right lighting, real but not too real.Too real, however, is exactly how I’d describe my face when it pops up on my laptop screen every time I have a meeting. All my hours of selfie experience did not prepare me for the brutal reality of what it felt like for my face to be broadcast daily on Zoom meetings with my co-workers once we started social distancing in March. It’s not like I was exactly shocked by how I looked on camera—I’ve been the proud owner of my acne-sprinkled face for 31 years—but there’s something about seeing it exposed, with no ability to control the things I usually have control over, that took me aback at first. While I don’t need tons of makeup or a professional-grade hairdo to make me feel beautiful, to say the blunt reality I saw on my laptop (the old dark spots, the shiny T-zone) had me shook would be an understatement.Initially, I would give myself around 30 minutes to brush my hair, fill in my brows, and at the very least swipe on a tiny bit of concealer to minimize my dark spots and under-eye circles before my meetings. I’d even stage my background like I do when Instagramming, with just the right amount of flattering lighting. But as the days went on, and for one reason or another, I sort of stopped caring as much. It’s not that I miraculously stopped being into wearing makeup or didn’t care how I looked at work anymore, but the uncontrollable stress of dealing with the impact of the coronavirus, coupled with the unnecessary stress of feeling like I always had to exhibit a polished appearance, was too much for my brain to handle at once. I started caring less about how I looked in front of my peers. I gave myself a break. In fact, weeks into our new normal, the only three beauty requirements I now have for myself for the foreseeable future (besides daily showers and a semi-comprehensive skin-care routine, both mandatory to me) are simply the following: Brush my hair. Put on a bra. Throw on a clean (perhaps stylish, definitely comfortable) shirt.

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