The solution: makeup.
If you’re lucky or high-powered enough to get yourself on MSNBC or Fox News, you’re in good hands; professional makeup artists will be there to help you look your best. But in other on-camera situations like smaller-market TV studios or even corporate videoconferences, you’re on your own. Bright lights make even dry skin shimmer. Noses, foreheads, upper lips, and bald heads are all potential trouble spots. So, a few tips for the cosmetics-phobic:
The first step is to camouflage 5 o'clock shadow. Even if you’ve just shaved, this can still be a problem for men with heavy beards. You also need cover up blemishes, moles, acne scars, and blotchy skin, all more noticeable these days thanks to HD TV. So buy some foundation at the makeup counter and brush it on. Once that’s in place, pat on pressed powder to reduce glare. An extra dab of powder on the upper lip just before going on air is a good idea.
Be sure to work the foundation and powder down your neck, or you'll end up with what looks like golfer's tan on your chin. President Obama had a little bit of that going on at the State of the Union address when he was mingling with the crowd beforehand. But once he was on the podium, under the TV lights, you couldn't tell he was wearing makeup at all, which is what you want. Extra tip for the bald or balding: The powder goes on your head too.
You can stop there, but if you want to take it to the next level, work a narrow strip of foundation, a bit lighter than the one you just used, along the middle of your nose to widen your face. Highlight your cheekbones with a bit of blush, and sweep a thin line of eyeliner on your lower lids to make your eyes look bigger. Less is more.
Make sure the products match your skin tone - makeup salespeople in department and specialty stores are usually good at this. And try them on your face, not your hand, which often has a slightly different skin tone. MAC makes a stay-on line of makeup called Studio Fix expressly for on-air occasions.
Needless to say, there are a few other grooming non-negotiables: clipping nose and ear hair (get a friend to help spot these), short, clean nails, and especially if the interview is outside, hairspray. A word about outdoor interviews: natural light is more forgiving than studio lighting. Least desirable is overhead fluorescent lights in a conference room or office.
Most important, don't get caught "doing your face”(or hair) on camera. One of the more unfortunate scenes in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 featured former Paul Wolfowitz spitting on his comb while tape was rolling. It was certainly memorable, but not the way you want to be remembered.