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

The 6 Biggest Winter Makeup Trends, According To Celebrity Makeup Artists

Let’s face it: You probably haven’t been wearing much makeup this year. It’s been months of staying home, wearing loungey clothes, and covering half of your face with 2020’s hottest accessory, the fabric face mask. For these reasons, you may not have had an excuse to beat your face the way you normally do. But with the holidays upon us — arguably the most glamorous time of the year — it’s the perfect time for you to get back into the swing of your makeup-wearing ways, so you’ll need to be ready with all of the winter 2020 makeup trends to complete your looks. Holiday parties won’t look the same this year, which means the glam won’t be the same either. Whether your gatherings are of the in-person-socially-distanced variety or are completely virtual (and you’re wearing pajama bottoms under your dressy top), you can use these fun winter makeup trends to create makeup looks that make you feel like things are slightly normal. Of course, if you’re headed to a party in person, hopefully masks are required — which means you have the opportunity to put all the focus on your eyes. And if you’re celebrating from behind your webcam, then you can do a full face using some of this season’s trends. Ahead, some of the most in-demand celebrity makeup artists on what they think the biggest winter makeup trends will look like, from dramatic eyeshadow to glossy skin.

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  1. The Ultimate Cat Eye

Daniel Chinchilla, the celebrity makeup artist behind some of Ariana Grande’s most iconic red carpet cat eyes, says the classic look will be back in a big way this winter. “Cat eyes are an easy and sexy way to play up your eyes and feel done up,” he says. “What I love is that you can go as natural or dramatic as you want.” You can even add a glitter liner on top of your traditional black, or go with a bolder color for something more fun. To get the perfect shape, he recommends starting from the end of the eye and pointing it towards the top of the ears. Then gliding liner inward. If you’re using a pen liner, whether it’s felt or brush tip, the more you press down, the thicker your line is, so you’re able to maintain full control. 

2. Drama in the Eyes

Another holiday season classic, revamped. “As we get closer to holiday, the coming trend is going to be full-on glamour,” says Tanno. “[You don’t have to] just pick one feature to focus on — you can go for both [dramatic] eyeshadow and matte lips.” She says that Lady Gaga loves a monochromatic look from lash to brow, which you can achieve by washing an eyeshadow all over the lid and up the crease and using colors in the same family to add slight definition. “With any matte lip product it is key to make sure to prep your lips first,” she says. Matte finishes show more texture on your lips, so start by exfoliating your lips with a scrub like Lush’s Mint Julips. Next, apply a bit of any lip balm — the Summer Fridays Lip Butter Balm is ultra-hydrating — and blot. Fill in your lips with a matte lip crayon like Haus Labs’ Le Monster Matte, and add a bit of concealer around the mouth to have a really sharp, standout pout. 

3. Fluffy Brows

First came the over-tweezed brows, then the Instagram-favorite blocky brow, and now, fluffy, natural-looking brows are on trend. “I like this trend because by brushing the brows up and making the hairs straight,” says celebrity makeup artist, Patrick Ta, whose signature stamp is a full, fluffy brow. “It changes the face shape and creates a more angled look and lifts the face.” Chinchilla also thinks this trend will be huge this season, especially since face masks will continue to be worn well into the winter. “Brows are such a focal point on the face so I love making sure they make a statement,” he says. Try out a product that tints and volumizes your brow hairs without making them appear drawn on or overly done, like the Patrick Ta Beauty Major Brow Shaping Wax or Glossier Boy Brow. Use a brow pen like Urban Decay’s Brow Blade to fill in any sparse areas. 

4. That Glow

“Winter usually leans a little more matte when it comes to skin and makeup, but changing it up and giving the skin a glow is going to be huge this season,” says Ta. Sarah Tanno, celebrity makeup artist and Global Artistry Director for Haus Laboratories, is also sure that this will be a trend this winter. To get the look, she recommends “sweeping blush and bronzer above the cheekbones from the temple to the nose and draping a highlighter across the top to find your best light.” Topping your color product with a glossy highlighter can really add dimension and depth to your look. Finalizing the look with an ultra-glossy lip can really complete it, giving your whole face a dewy, glowy finish. For highlighter, check out Patrick Ta Beauty’s Face Gloss or the Nudestix Nudies Glow in Hey, Honey. Tanno loves using the Haus Labs Head Rush Blush Duo in Bouquet & Ribbon. For lip gloss, Dose of Colors has a wide array of flat and glitter glosses with high-shine finishes, or you can use the Marc Jacobs Beauty Re(cover) Hydrating Coconut Lip Oil as a clear topper over your lipstick.

5. Get Graphic 

You’ve probably seen graphic eyeliner looks all over Instagram so it should come as a surprise to you that both Chinchilla and Ta are predicting that the trend will be huge this winter. “It’s a great way to play with a little color without having to master the art or eyeshadow blending,” says Chinchilla. “Best of all, there are no rules!” Ta adds, “I love the fact that you can play and change the eye shape. I think it’s a fun trend that you can wear year round, it’s playful and fun, and it’s a way to play with color without having too much color on the eye.” Chinchilla recommends taking a tiny detail brush to a product like the KVD Vegan Beauty Super Pomade because they’re “super easy to use and are completely waterproof.” If you need a little more control and prefer a pencil format, the Colourpop Creme Gel Liners are hyperpigmented and easy to manipulate on the eye. Mix and match different colors and play with shapes or negative space until you achieve your desired effect. 

6. Living in Liner 

Another eyeliner trend for the season is what Tanno is calling “lived-in liner,” citing it as one of Lady Gaga’s current favorite makeup styles. Lived-in liner is a smudged, smoked-out look that you can achieve with just one easy product: a malleable eyeliner pencil. Look for a soft pencil like the Haus Labs Eye-dentify Gel Pencil or the Marc Jacobs Beauty Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner that gives you a little play time. Line your eyes with the pencil and use a smudging brush like Makeup by Mario’s E 5 Makeup Brush to create your desired shape. Pencils like the ones from Haus Labs and Marc Jacobs dry down so that you don’t have to worry about them budging all night long. 

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