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.

Welcome to Artist Spotlight #91 series on my blog.

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

Don’t Forget to Pack These Vacation Makeup Essentials

With vacation season in full swing, there’s no better time to pare down your beauty assortment to curate your must-have travel makeup essentials. Whether you’re adhering to TSA guidelines or just want to pack lightly, most of us will not be traveling with our complete makeup collection.

While planning your trip details and what to wear are certainly exciting tasks, editing your beauty stash can actually be quite stressful. The entire process makes one reflect on what you’ll need on hand once you reach your destination—especially if you’re going somewhere without a drug store for last-minute beauty buys. Regardless, you’ll want at least one complexion product to even skin tone and veil imperfections, along with multitasking pigments to bring warmth and subtle color to the face. And let’s not forget how you’ll store all your makeup to avoid spills or damage.

Trusted Organizers

First things first, determine what travel makeup organizers work best for you. Maybe you already own the best toiletry bag that can fit both your skin-care and makeup necessities, or perhaps you’d prefer to store them separately. Away’s water-resistant case offers spacious compartments, transparent pockets, and even a detachable makeup brush organizer—perfect to secure in your carry-on. Otherwise, consider Longchamp’s zippered pouch, which is compact enough to pop in your purse or personal item for easy access.

Skin Prep

From the Oscars red carpet to the Met Gala, experts wax on about the importance of skin prep for glowing, beautiful skin with or without makeup. So, rely on skin-nourishing products and face primers to prep your base. We’d reach for Tatcha’s The Silk Canvas to weightlessly nourish, blur, protect, and prime—or, the French beauty favorite Embryolisse cream to restore skin moisture and leave a satin finish.

Multitasking Tools

Maybe you’re fine with applying all of your makeup products with your fingers. If not though, don’t forget to pack the beauty tools you rely on at home to perfect your look. For brushes, consider a dual-ended option that pairs two different brush types in one, like this Hourglass option suitable for powder, bronzer, blush, and highlighter. On the other hand, classics like the Beautyblender sponge make blending liquid, cream, and powder products a dream.

Foolproof Complexion

Selecting your vacation complexion products is arguably the hardest part, with so many different types of foundations, concealers, and powders to choose from—many of us requiring multiple shades for a brightened under-eye or combat hyperpigmentation. You can’t go wrong with Ilia’s Super Serum Skin Tint for lightweight, dewy coverage that even boasts sun protection and nourishing ingredients (read: niacinamide, squalane, and hyaluronic acid). For concealer, the Kosas’s creamy formula not only offers dewy medium coverage, but brightens, soothes, and plumps skin over time thanks to a blend of caffeine, peptides, vitamins, and hyaluronic acid. Seriously, who can say no to efficacious clean concealers and foundations?

Set the Look

Even on vacation, it’s important to lock your look in place appropriately. Charlotte Tilbury’s setting powder is excellent to have on hand to reduce shine and blur skin where you need it, earning bonus points for mess-free application (as opposed to loose setting powder options). Then, spritz your face with Supergoop!’s mist that sets and protects against UV rays and pollutants. In fact, a similar formula by the brand saved Vogue commerce writer Alexis Bennett’s makeup during Coachella.

Enticing Eyes

Bring your go-to eye look on your tip by way of the best mascara and eyeliners—both of which work wonders to make your eyes pop and enhance their shape. For smudge-free lengthening and lifting, reach for Merit’s clean mascara. To perfect your signature wing or add some dimension to your look, Ilia’s liquid water-proof formula allows you to precisely etch liner however you see fit, thanks to a fine felt tip.

Tinted Lips

Makeup artists say that the key to nailing a minimalist makeup look is adding an accent of color. One of the easiest ways to do so throughout travel is by keeping a tinted lip product on hand for a statement-making moment. Kosas’s gloss delivers a lip filler effect by visibly plumping the lips—especially if paired with a lip color complementing liner. Not a big gloss fan? Reach for Merit’s satiny lipstick for sheer, buildable color no matter the occasion.

Adaptable Color

We’ve quickly become huge blush enthusiasts, from viral TikTok picks to the best cream formulas. Either way, blendable blushes, and multipurpose color pigments allow you to customize your glow and place colors wherever you want. Versatility is key on any kind of vacation. Tap Merit’s creamy tint across the eyes, lips, and cheeks for a skin-like wash of color. Prefer a liquid formula? Saie’s water-based Dew Blush creates a natural tint after just one dot from its doe foot applicator—blended with one of the previously mentioned makeup tools.

Defined Arches

Brows say a lot about a person, so think ahead to perfecting yours when you’re packing for travel. Draw realistic brow hairs in sparse areas with makeup pro Dani Kimiko Vincent’s ultra-fine pencil, or comb hairs in place with a brow gel like Ilia’s to volumize and thicken with flexible hold.

Glam Optional

Maybe your travels are for a wedding or gala that requires full glam, or maybe you’re not quite sure what your itinerary entails. Nevertheless, a few products specific for camera-ready, longwear glam is essential. Think false lashes to amp up the drama; with this Velour Lashes kit, you have everything you need to apply natural-looking lashes on the go without trimming or measuring. Finally, the last thing you want during full glam is an unnecessary bout of shine. Stop oil in its tracks with Tatcha’s blotting papers without budging your look—housed in packaging small enough to fit in your party handbag or clutch.

VOGUE