I Tried Oscars Red Carpet Makeup IRL And It's Definitely Not For Everyday Use, Plus 5 Other Lessons I Learned


Actresses could never tag images from the Oscars red carpet with #iwokeuplikethis. Glamour is labor intensive. To get a sense of the enormity of the red carpet prepping process, I spent longer face-to-face with Stephen Dimmick, a makeup artist who has prettied the likes of Anna Kendrick, Vanessa Hudgens, Cate Blanchett and Toni Collette, than I have with any other man in my life, including my husband (unless you count when he and I are sleeping).

Over the course of four or so hours, he translated four red carpet looks – the natural loveliness of Jennifer Aniston and Rosamund Pike at the Academy Awards, the smoky eye/softness elsewhere Oscar combo of Reese Witherspoon and Anna Kendrick, the bold red lips of Margot Robbie, and Uma Thurman’s eviscerated visage from her promotional turn for NBC miniseries “The Slap” – onto my decidedly not red carpet ready mug. Here are the 6 lessons I learned along the way.

1. A Natural Look Is No More Natural Than Looks That Aren’t Called Natural

Dimmick started out creating a natural look that laid the foundation, literally and figuratively, for the next three looks. There were different products chosen for the different looks, but the natural look didn't require substantially fewer products. A natural finish didn’t mean the look was finished in less time, either. The four looks each took about the same amount of time. The takeaway: If Aniston’s and Pike’s makeup appeared effortless on the Oscar red carpet, it is because quite a bit of effort went into it.

2. Red Carpet Looks Rely On Special Techniques, Not Special Products

Across all the looks, Dimmick used about 13 products and 10 brushes. Besides Dimmick’s soon-to-be-launched makeup brand GlossiGirl, they were from widely recognizable brands such as Laura Mercier, Lancôme, Nars and MAC. I could easily envision them in my makeup bag. Dimmick’s techniques, however, are not in my beauty arsenal. For the foundation, he blended it on my skin like he was the Vitamix of makeup. He suggested going lighter on the brow powder than my natural hue for a youthful look, a hint I will follow in the future. He applied lip balm long before applying lipstick to produce a moist canvas for the lipstick. Concealer was concentrated from the side of the nose to the tear duct instead of the under eyes, where Dimmick decries women tend to overexert their concealer.

3. There Is A Red Lipstick For Every Woman

I had always thought I couldn’t pull off red lipstick. I had tried many versions of the shade from coral to claret, and none appealed to me. However, when Dimmick painted my lips with a vivid take on red lipstick from his brand, I was surprisingly satisfied with the color of my Red Delicious lips. Perhaps letting someone else show you the red lipstick ropes is the key to a successful outcome in the crimson court.

4. Bold Red Lips Can Feel Silly Off Of The Red Carpet

Just because I was content with the red color didn’t mean I was comfortable with a daring red lip. Having your lips pop may be appropriate for the red carpet, but excessive lip popping anyplace else is a strange sensation. It was almost as if my lips were protruding from my face the way Jim Carrey’s eyes and tongue did in The Mask. If I were to pick a lip look Dimmick gave me to reproduce in real life, I would strongly prefer the softer pink in the Reese Witherspoon/Anna Kendrick interpretation. That could be lifted from the red carpet without coming across as clownish.

5. Looks That Stand Out On The Red Carpet Are Not The Ones You'd Sport On The Sidewalk

“A lot of women say they want this, but, if you do it to them, they will say it’s a lot of makeup,” noted Dimmick. “They really just want you to recreate the makeup they do themselves with a little polish.” Red carpet makeup only slightly resembles the makeup you would do yourself. When Dimmick was producing my Robbie-inspired bold lip, for example, he went over my lips with a brush more times than I could keep track of, to build the color and perfect the lip line. I can’t remember myself ever swiping color on my lips more than one or two times. The result of the building and blending was makeup that made me aware I was very dolled up. I didn’t feel like myself. In a recent article in Women’s Wear Daily , the designer Tom Ford advised actresses to, “Just play the role,” when they are walking the red carpet. With makeup akin to a mask, that shouldn’t be hard to do.

6. Looks That Work For Real Life May Not Suit The Red Carpet

Of the four looks Dimmick completed, I liked the recreation of Thurman’s look best for my everyday, red carpet-less existence. It lacked the humongous lashes that are staples of red carpet makeup. I was constantly cognizant of my coated lashes as Dimmick fashioned the red carpet looks because they were heavy, and I kept seeing their presence in the corner of my eye. That was the case despite the fact he skipped fake lashes. Thurman’s makeup artist Troy Surratt opted to leave out impactful lashes for the actress’ controversial look. He didn’t put a dash of mascara on her lashes. Dimmick is a huge fan of Surratt’s choice. “The makeup had a lack of artifice, and I loved that,” he gushed. Red carpet makeup usually is the definition of artifice. It wouldn’t take hours and hours to achieve red carpet looks if they weren’t transformative. Transformation, on the red carpet or the screen, is what actresses do. From now on, I’ll leave it to them.

Images: Author's Own