Any woman knows that hair is about so much more than well, hair. The Oscars 2018 red carpet is a bellwether of our mood and the times, they are a-changin' says New York-based celebrity hairdresser Harry Josh, who tends the tresses of the showbiz and fashion A-list from Gweneth to Gisele, surnames optional. "We saw a very subdued Oscars" explains Josh. "We didn't see someone take extreme risks - not in clothes, hair or makeup." 

From Emma Stone's curtain of fresh, shiny hair to Gal Gadot's simple bun, this year the stickily product-rich textures, massive volume, tight waves and extensions of yore gave way to low-tech styling and a neutral palette. It is a tumultuous, heavily politicised time culturally and the world was watching.

Gal Gadot | Emma Stone

"It's the right call" enthuses Josh. "There is a lot of heavy stuff going on in the U.S. (and on the planet) right now; it's not the time for 'look at me' hair and big updos. It was better to play it safe, simple and chic. We saw a lot of understated looks - so refreshing for right now. Girls looked modern and strong."

Home-grown star Margot Robbie, celebrating her first nomination for Best Actress, ditched the bold red lip and classic movie star tropes, wearing her blonde goddess status lightly. Her fresh, clean look captured the mood perfectly, says Josh. 

"She is the ultimate gorgeous, modern starlet; there was nothing retro about her. Margot's bob with barely-there wave looked amazing, simple and clean - and everyone seemed to head in that direction." Dressed in dazzlingly simple couture Chanel, with the cloud-light touch of glittering shoulder straps, Robbie reimagined the 'blonde bombshell' with youthful insouciance.

Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, also nominated for Best Actress, was Josh's other pick for the most refreshing approach to Oscar hair. "Saoirse looked incredibly chic in a soft pink Calvin Klein gown, balanced by her severe blunt bob. These two young women nailed it, redefining the modern way to go to an awards show. The fashion worked with the hair: not too opulent, colourful or overly ornate.

Margot Robbie | Saoirse Ronan

And if you still have your Rapunzel locks because you're not game enough to try a bob, look to Jennifer Garner who slayed with her bombshell-lite look says Josh. "That lightly backcombed, bigger hair with a simple side-part was a great evening look that exemplifies what modern sexy is for long hair. Everything was turned down a notch."

Josh predicts that while this year's Oscar beauty feels experimental, the purity of purpose is here to stay. "After seeing this, women will think, 'okay I get it. Simple is the new chic. I'll stop with the crazy earrings, updos and over-the-top eye makeup and update my after-five look'."

More than a style trend, Josh sees this shift in beauty as an echo of the tectonic plate shift in Hollywood this year with white-hot cultural movements such as #MeToo that protest sexism and lack of diversity. As a progressive mood sweeps through Hollywood and a tolerance for old power structures curdles, people will change how they present themselves to the world.

Jennifer Garner | Ashley Judd

"Women are playing it cool, subdued, less flashy and more serious, which is reflected on the red carpet. 'I'm an actor, not just a celebrity'." Josh believes there will always be that divide between the actresses who love playing princess for the night and dressing up, and those who dread having to be anything other than themselves to support their work.

"Actress Frances McDormand is the breath of fresh air we're looking for: someone who gives zero fucks about looking and behaving in a certain way, but who really cares about the work women do. She is tapping into a global, spiritual mood of change and it's fabulous. Everyone's wearing a pin now but it's still going to be a fight, as veteran actresses have reminded us."

Harry Josh shares how you can nail the dialled back hair trend for your next event below.

Jennifer Garner: a light lift for long hair.

Why effortless hair was the biggest beauty trend on the Oscars red carpet

1. Use mousse on your hair from root to tip (Aveda Styling Foam).

2. Put soft large rollers (Lady Jayne) over your whole head to create a lot of lift, but softly.

3. After makeup, remove rollers and create a sidepart and then backcomb at the base around whole crown. Overshoot the volume as it will deflate.

4. Spritz on a finishing spray (Wella Sugar Lift) at the back where the backcombing is so it doesn't separate.

Wella Sugar Lift

Margot Robbie: add life to straight, short hair.

Why effortless hair was the biggest beauty trend on the Oscars red carpet

1. Smooth out texture with a de-frizz or straightening serum (Shu Uemura Urban Moisture Serum).

2. It is crucial to use a flat iron (GHD Gold Styler) to create a little bump in the hair. Run it through your hair, then halfway bend it to give hair the slightest kick - it's not even a curl, it's a half-bend. You have to mimic the same section over and over so apply flat iron systematically in small sections.

3. Hold with hairspray (Redken Work 12 Hairspray).

GHD Gold Styler | Shu Uemura Urban Moisture Serum

Why effortless hair was the biggest beauty trend on the Oscars red carpet