Beyoncé’s Makeup Artist Sir John Swears by These Five Makeup Essentials

I always say that beauty is a feeling,” notes celebrity makeup artist Sir John on his beauty philosophy. “The way we make people feel is a destination—you become a destination of energy when you can do that.” While the pro is most known for his work with Beyoncé—including her glam at the 2022 Oscars and her British Vogue cover—he has garnered quite a Rolodex of star clientele. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Serena Williams, Zendaya, and Naomi Campbell (who happened to be his first celebrity client), to name a few, have all sported his glam on endless magazine covers, music videos, and red carpets. Not to mention a slew of brand partnerships with L’Oréal, Barbie, and MAC.

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And the sought-after makeup pro doesn’t have any plans on slowing down anytime soon. “One thing I know about life, especially at this big, grown age of mine, is that the finish line continues to get pushed back,” he continues. “There’s a Roman saying: never rely on past glory. Yesterday’s win is yesterday’s win. No matter what I did yesterday, that’s cool, but I’m really obsessed about what’s next.” Following two decades of experience, he’s adding another role to his ever-evolving resume: chief creative officer of Ctzn Cosmetics—driven by his commitment to building equity and diversity in the industry.

Founded in 2019 by a trio of sisters, the brand seeks to create products inclusive to people of color, inspired by their South Asian heritage. “I loved how authentically compelling they were when it came to what [they] want to champion for people who don’t always get invited to the party,” he says of his appointment. Sir John’s decision to join a promising up-and-coming brand, to him, is a reflection of the evolving beauty landscape.

He continues to say that he’s seen so many shifts in the industry throughout his career—noting specifically the emergence of men’s makeup. “I love the fact that we live in an era of exploration, where everyone can have a vehicle to make them feel better about who they see in the mirror,” he says. So, it’s clear Sir John is eager to create safer, more inclusive spaces and share the wealth of knowledge he’s learned—from normalizing Botox and filler to dishing his best makeup tips.

I love making the eyes look like different shapes with liners,” he explains. “Liners would be my favorite thing to do if I didn’t have any other makeup on me.” He’s particularly enjoying how people are playing with colored, whimsical liners on TikTok. “Also, my ultimate hack is making sure you set concealer with loose powder—never pressed powder. It’s too heavy under the eyes and drying.” Otherwise, he has a penchant for what he dubs invisible sculpting: “I love the way I sculpt and contour; you’re not supposed to see it but rather offer structure.” To do this, he will do a cream sculpt, then buff in a taupe or cooler colored tone to create dimension on the face.

Sir John’s approach to makeup has transformed in tandem with the industry and his clients. When asked if he thinks Beyoncé’s look has evolved over time, his response is “abso-fucking-lutely.” Though he admits she certainly knows what she wants, he has learned how to not only have conviction but consistently soak in new knowledge. His biggest advice? “Have faith in your eye, in your references you’re pulling. Where do you want to take this person?

With that, Sir John gave Vogue a sneak peek into his makeup kit—including his five must-have products.

1. Uoma Beauty Double Take Contour Stick

  • Key Benefits: “These are the best for sculpting,” says Sir John. “I sculpt and bronze with everything that looks like this. I’ll take a tiny bit on the back of my hand, and I’ll start to buff wherever I want that shadow.
  • More to Know: A lychee fruit extract-infused dual-ended contour and highlight stick to illuminate and shape the face.

2. Fenty Beauty Match Stix Matte Contour Skinstick

  • Key Benefits: The Fenty Beauty Match Stix is another top pick of his for his signature sculpted contour. For a lasting lifted appearance, he sets the cream contour with a cool-toned powder to keep everything in place all day or night.
  • More to Know: A buildable cream-to-powder contour stick that delivers a matte finish.

3. REN Clean Skincare Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask

  • Key Benefits: “This is amazing,” says Sir John. “It literally resurfaces your skin immediately; even if you’re super sensitive, it’s not a problem. I’ve been using it for years.”
  • More to Know: An exfoliating mask powered by a blend of glycolic acid from pineapple extract, lactic acid from passion fruit, and papain from papaya to refine skin texture and improve radiance.

4. MAC Fluidline Eye Liner Gel

  • Key Benefits: “I love this because it doesn’t move, it doesn’t go anywhere,” says Sir John. He recounts etching a perfect cat eye while on Beyonce’s On The Run tour using this pot and MAC’s liner in Graphblack. “[The liner] didn’t move through two hours of cardio. They’re worth their weight in gold.”
  • More to Know: A waterproof, smudge-resistant gel pigment formulated for up to 16-hour wear.

5. NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer

  • Key Benefits: Sir John counts this NARS concealer as one of his favorites, along with its matte pot formula. Pro tip: just make sure the under-eye is properly hydrated before applying.
  • More to Know: A creamy concealer infused with balancing and light-diffusing powders, along with magnolia bark extract, grape seed extract, and vitamin E to hydrate, brighten, and correct.

VOGUE

From Halo Eyes To Cognac Lips, Beyoncé’s Make-Up Artist Sir John Shares His Secrets

At this point, the allure of Queen B is boundless. From her musical oeuvre to that Sasha Fierce sass, British Vogue’s July cover star has the whole world falling hook, line and sinker for all things Bey. But behind every icon is a team to help her look and feel her best. One longtime member of her glam team is Sir John, a make-up star in his own right, who has worked with the singer for more than a decade after being introduced to her by Charlotte Tilbury (then his boss), backstage at Tom Ford’s first womenswear show.

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I’m blessed to be able to work around really strong women – Beyoncé being one of them,” he tells Vogue over video call. “She beams from within, almost like the sun, and you can’t help but just be heated – and raised – up. My inspiration literally comes from whenever we see each other, I’ve known her for such a long time. It’s really cool to see how she continues as an artist to grow and push herself. It pushes [me] to ask new questions, investigate and be curious, and I think the more curious we are as creatives, the more we have to add to the world.

Calm and gracious, you can see why B would choose Sir John as her go-to make-up artist – after all, actually creating a beauty look is only half of his task, the other half is (even if subliminally) helping her get into the zone. He is a big proponent of “dopamine glam” – the act of putting on make-up to boost your mood. 

On the July cover shoot, he worked with his great friend, the hairstylist Jawara, on creating Beyoncé’s glam. “I remember going in and seeing all of these beautiful hair references, but when it came to make-up, there weren’t any,” he explains. “So I started out with fresh skin to make sure she looked effortless, and then I knew if I got approval [from Edward Enninful and the team] I could keep pushing the look.” As you can see, that’s exactly what he did, from the punchy vinyl lips to molten gold “halo” eyes – not to mention skin to die for.

I’m confident that she loved how she looked that day,” he says. “Oftentimes, she’ll be like ‘Hey, listen, can we take this down [a notch]?’ She’s very vocal and doesn’t bite her tongue!” he laughs. “I wanted her to feel like she really did wake up like this in terms of ease and manoeuvrability. There are no lashes, minimal mascara, but I just wanted her to feel elevated. One thing I will say is that when you see someone who’s killing it on the red carpet or on a cover, there’s harmony in that dressing room.”

Below, Sir John shares the tips, tricks and techniques he employed on the day. 

Structure not contour

I love creating a lot of architectural structure on the face – I don’t like contouring so much, but sculpting instead. On Beyoncé [in British Vogue], you’ll notice that there’s sculpting to the eyes, temples and there’s a really beautiful halo effect on her eyelids. I predominantly used cream formulas and manipulated them in a way that made her look really pulled together. It’s all about giving yourself the shadows that your face naturally has, and magnifying them, to create a supernatural glam.”

The halo eye

On her eyelids, I created a halo effect. The halo eye is lighter [in colour] in the centre of the eye, and deeper on either side. It creates a very 1930s or ’40s – think Marlene Dietrich or Jean Harlow – effect and vertically elongates the eyes. I wanted to open up this area as much as possible. It’s all about juxtaposition – take a little fluffy brush and sculpt the interior of the eye in the inner and outer corners. The halo eye creates a soft glow effect on the face, but doesn’t look literal or intentional, just like she fell into good light.”

How to get make-up to last

People always ask how I get her make-up to last for hours when she’s on stage at Coachella, or whatever, and it’s really about duality. It’s using a cream or liquid foundation and then slightly buffing a powder into it. If I use a cream blush, I’ll buff a powder into that too. When it comes to sculpting eye products, it’s about setting them with a shadow. All of these are dual moments. Even with brow pencil – it’s waxy so by the time you get to lunch, brows will look shiny. Set them with a little brown powder or eyeshadow. The duality will make your face make-up last forever, even if it’s a super fresh, no make-up make-up look.”

The top make-up rule for mature skin

As we get more mature, the areas we add shine or highlight our face have to be more strategic. When you’re a baby you can put highlighter everywhere, but as we become more mature, make sure that you only find shine at the side of the face, the areas that span outwards from your pupils. From pupils inwards – so in the centre of the face – you should have not have anything sculpting or shimmery. That’s key because if you look at the photos of Beyoncé, you’ll notice she’s glowy everywhere but when you look at her directly onwards, the little heart in the middle of her face is always matte.”

Contrast it up

I love contrast and texture. Contrast creates something that is really compelling to look at – it’s visually arresting. That’s why when we see diamonds on matte velvet, or matte skin and shiny lips, it’s attractive. When it came to creating the different lip looks for the cover shoot, I wanted to give her lips something to sit on, like a pedestal. What you don’t want is for skin to be oily or balmy and then go in with super glossy lips, so I made sure there was some kind of strategy with how I applied her make-up.”

Vinyl lips

On her lips, we started out with red, and did some natural, balmy looks – and then I just kept pushing it. I started really simple and kept sculpting, drawing out and blowing the look up. One of my favourite lips from the shoot was almost like a cognac colour – soft brown, very ’90s in a sense but glossy. I applied the lipstick, then I mixed it with a clear gloss to create a lacquer, and then applied a clear gloss on top of that. Those three layers created a vinyl, patent leather situation.”

VOGUE