Style & makeup For Work Video Calls

April 9, 2020

Style & Makeup
For Work Video Calls

Remember the pre-quarantine era, where days spent working from home involved voice calls dressed in pyjama bottoms or tracksuits and possibly working from the comfort of your own bed?

The days of slacking off in hiding are long gone and with the prospect of being confined at home for weeks, people have the need to connect visually more than ever, whether with colleagues, clients or even potential employers. 

While we break down some general rules about basic video calling etiquette, we will focus in this article on how to style yourself and your background for a work video call. Don’t miss our step-by-step video tutorial with Code8’s Carla Haddad, Head of Business Development, about makeup for video and the dos and don’ts of what you should wear. 


Some key general notes on business calling that now form the basis of virtual social etiquette:

  • Everyone needs to be on video mode, to level set the entire group and avoid leaving out certain people who may be forgotten about during the call. After all, if they can’t see you they may not engage as well with you.
  • Whenever possible, use a headset to avoid interference from background noises and most importantly in order to make sure you hear perfectly well. One special tip we strongly recommend is to remove any dangly earrings that might interfere with your earbuds or headset, there is nothing more unsettling than the sound of metal against your earpieces. 
  • Avoid shuffling with too many papers or cups to keep distraction and noise to a minimum.
  • Be aware of your habits: do you tend to slouch forward or play with your pen? Do you have snacks laying around your desk? Be mindful of any distractions that may promote socially awkward or unprofessional behaviour. 
  • Position your camera at nose level and centre your face in the frame of your camera. Use a stack of books if necessary to elevate your tablet or laptop. To avoid looking bigger on camera and to erase any shadows, tilt the angle of your camera slightly from the top down. 
  • Lighting is of paramount importance, always make sure that your face is either front-lit straight on to avoid any shadows or dark circles or use side lighting for softer features. 
  • When listening, nod and smile to show you are engaged. Make eye contact as much as possible for people to be able to read your full range of thoughts and expressions. 
  • Use hand gestures when appropriate.
  • Place your phone in silent mode to avoid these embarrassing WhatsApp notifications every time a meme is sent around your group chats.
  • Last but not least, do not drink, eat or chew gum, adopt a professional demeanour at all times. 

Let’s talk about staging your video call now, depending on whether you are seeing friends, your family or colleagues and business stakeholders, rules can be bent a little or relaxed. While you can roam around the house or visit your fridge on a drinks date with your girls or a catch-up with your mum, this is completely unacceptable in a business context, so is what you would wear and how you would style your hair. (Having said that, as promoters of well-being, feeling beautiful and self-confident, we would still encourage you to wear that blusher or pop of coral lipstick to show your loved ones that you are actually doing fine and feeling great, it is always reassuring to see friends or family members are preserving their sanity by making the effort to shower before 10am, brush their hair and wear something uplifting, other than a sloppy pair of track pants.) 


In the context of a work video call, especially with several participants, background styling, makeup and clothing do matter and can really change the impression you make on participants. We asked fashion-tech entrepreneur Anabel Maldonado, journalist and founder of Psykhe Fashion what her recommendations were in terms of staging a video call in the fashion industry: “backgrounds are massively overlooked and really form part of the impression.

I try to sit in my home office, which already has all the right background elements - a photo frame of Soho, NYC, a hanging plant, my whiteboard, but lately my husband has taken over the office, and I find I need backup areas. I also use my dining room table as a desk, which works well as I have my colour-coordinated bookshelf as a background. My final option is the couch, and I've strategically placed some flowers in a vase behind me”. We agree with this approach, but when in doubt, especially if you are being interviewed via video call, make sure there is nothing inappropriate or “loud” in the screens view that will pull focus away from you, and simply choose a quiet, well-lit room with a blank wall to sit in front of.

If the idea of working hard for more than a blank wall is adding stress to your experience why not try over 200 options of virtual backgrounds available on Zoom. 


Wearing a full-on power suit while working from home, will come across slightly out of place, especially in a pandemic era where everyone knows that most conventional dress codes are out the window, with the exception of lawyers, and job interviews. 

In the case of working women, this can even get trickier: a well-seasoned MD in a major investment bank in London advises: “a simple understated top with a bit of opening on the neck helps make you come across as more accessible. Understated prints are acceptable too, however bold prints can turn you into a very distracting subject particularly in the context of a group video call.”

Anabel Maldonado who works in a start-up environment concurs: “I try to wear white tops with clean lines - either a crew neck tee, shirt, or sweater. Neutrals also work in relaxing the viewer, which would induce a positive association with you. Navy is also a nice alternative as it is associated with loyalty, intelligence, and trustworthiness. Prints and bright colours are too distracting for work calls, and don't give off a focused impression.” 

Carla Haddad of Code8 demonstrates these pitfalls in front of a camera in our special video, where bold and bright colours such as magenta or orange can end up literally backfiring. She also puts out a word of caution against deep necklines or bare shoulders which can draw the attention away from your face and your eyes which should communicate clear signals to your audience; same goes for loud jewellery which can just create a lot of distracting reflections back at the viewers.


Our Investment banking friend spells it out very matter-of-fact: applying make-up for work calls is the equivalent of men shaving or having well-cared-for beards. A fresh-face conveys a polished look which can speak wonders about you and make you more engaging to others. A natural-looking complexion, some mascara, a lipstick (better than gloss), and some fresh colour on the cheek will go a long way.


The key in getting your video call makeup right, is in understanding what the selfie camera does to your appearance especially under unforgiving artificial lighting: any dark circles or signs of a sleepless night will look even more accentuated on video apps, as if being put under a magnifying glass.

That’s why a high-performance concealer for tired eyes and skin blemishes is a must: Code8’s Seamless Cover perfecting concealer provides high coverage and pigments without drying out the skin and blends perfectly for natural looking skin. Use Radiate BB cream to smooth imperfections and achieve natural-looking, hydrated skin or Day to Night foundation for higher coverage which gives your skin a second skin demi-matte finish. 


We’ve mentioned shine previously and things reflecting back at your viewers on video apps and that includes oily skin which can easily become an object of distraction: Matte Velour Finishing powder is an absolute must to keep your oily T-Zone as matte as possible thanks to its corn starch oil-absorbing formula and its special velvet cushion applicator. Toning down these shiny zones will make you look presentable and polished and keep the focus on your eyes. 


Do not underestimate the power of your gaze in the absence of physical expression, as they allow you to engage with your audience or interviewer: focus on eye definition with mascara or light shadowing, the makeup look should remain clean without overdoing any effects for a work video call. We recommend staying away from a smoky eye as that will drown your eyes and recommend opting instead for cleaner lines: wear our Contour Eye Pencil close to the lash line or trace a thin line with an eye-widening liquid eyeliner.

We think that our Iconoclast eyeshadow palette in Lustrous Corduroy, a warm-toned blonde to black palette is just perfect to create the needed definition especially over a professional video call, and the soft blending will make you look more awake and fresh.

Last but not least in our video call eye makeup guide, we think that separating the lashes and brushing them through with Lash Sophisticate mascara will also create a nice healthy wide-awake look.


Rather than contouring or perfecting your features (as if we had the time to do so between home-schooling, cooking and working), focus on getting a healthy glow going with a luminous peach or pink-toned blusher. Our makeup artist community swears by Blush Mood Reflecting Palette in Pink Beach or Rosé thanks to Knead Technology which provides long-lasting pigment in a super blendable finish. 

Don’t neglect your lips and give them a subtle nude dash of colour in either a natural-looking am/pm tinted lip balm (try chameleon shade for a matte but healthy shade of pink, that reacts to the pH level of your skin) or a Matte Velour nude lipstick in Lima which will colour your lips with a velvety finish. If you prefer a creamy lipstick finish, wear Code8’s Colour Brilliance Sculpting lipstick blotted down slightly with a tissue. 


Once again, our Investment Banking contact sums it all up when it comes to styling your hair: “well cared for, don’t show up in a bun under any circumstance.” Anabel who worked as a fashion journalist and influencer for many years says:  “wear your hair either up or down, as long as it looks clean and neat. Make sure your part is straight and you've styled down your flyaways with a pomade - they're pretty visible against a white wall. If worn up, do a neat low ponytail as opposed to a topknot, which looks too casual for a work call.”  

Embrace the new WFH era, all we need to wait for now is hologram video calling which will surely require its own separate makeup and styling tutorial.