Beauty at the Oscars: Has the less is more look really worked this year?

Lifestyle Editor Jess Herbert distinguishes the best beauty looks at the Academy Awards

Jess Herbert
15th February 2020
On the 9th February the 92nd Academy Awards were held in the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. However, this year at the Oscars, beauty seemed to take a backseat to fashion.

Bold outfits were paired with simple contours and a sprinkling of red lips to ensure the focus was not on the actors’ faces. Even experimental icons like Billy Porter failed to match their subversive outfits to their makeup, which felt anticlimactic compared to the beauty whirlwind of the Grammys, only a fortnight before.

Instagram @mindykaling

Despite the initial disappointment towards the underwhelming looks, there were many examples of elegant execution. Natalie Portman and Mindy Kaling presented nude lips, soft blusher and their hair tucked daintily behind their ears, making it difficult to identify that they were wearing any makeup at all. However despite their airbrushed skin, their looks felt unoriginal and unexciting.

Instagram @saoirse_ronanofficial

Someone who played more with ‘no makeup’ makeup was Saoirse Ronan; the actress opted for a lilac shadow on her lid, developing into a deeper purple in the crease, and encased with a delicate winged liner to accentuate her piercing blue eyes. She debuted a quaintly cut micro-fringe, exposing her full and fluffy brows. Finally the understated look was balanced by indulgent diamond pendant earrings that added an element of extravagance above the shoulders.

Instagram @janellemonae

Brighter lips disrupted what would have otherwise been wholly natural looks, as demonstrated by Margot Robbie and Rebel Wilson, but no one modelled this quite as well as Janelle Monae, who wore a lip colour that toed the line between red and coral, forming the focal point of her minimalistic makeup. A gentle highlight elevated her cheekbones, but the most endearing part of her look were her whimsical doll-like lashes, curled and wispy, dominating any photos of her side profile. Her eyes were completed with a flick of silver liner, adding a hidden sparkle to the deceptively simple look.

Hair had a slightly more exciting role, as the updo reigned over the red carpet. Sandra Oh secured her voluminous curls into glossy buns across her head, creating a style that resembled a crown. Zazie Beetz pinned her hair into a half up half down style, letting the curls sit liberated over her smokey eyes to further frame her chiselled cheekbones. Lastly, Florence Pugh’s plaited topknot materialised as a reinvention of the classic bun, striking the perfect balance between messy and intricate. Her grown out roots added another element of originality and contributed to the current trend that hair doesn’t have to be freshly dyed to be photogenic.

Despite the beautiful execution at the Academy Awards, the lack of experimentation was a little uninspiring. Beautiful hair and outfits successfully diverted the attention from barely there makeup, but it would have been more satisfying to see makeup complimenting the colours and styles in the fashion, rather than becoming a blank canvas to be ruled by the clothes. The celebrities with the best looks demonstrated how natural doesn’t necessarily have to be synonymous with predictable, but sadly this won’t be remembered as a particularly interesting night for beauty.

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