We Spent An Hour With Beyoncé's Makeup Artist — & Learned So Much

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images.
You know Sir John's name from his status as Beyoncé's go-to makeup artist, but the beauty pro's life wasn't always so star-studded. Before he caught his big break assisting beauty legends like Pat McGrath and Charlotte Tilbury backstage at some of the biggest fashion shows, Sir John (yes, that's his real name) worked at MAC counters in New York City by day and did makeup in strip clubs by night. In other words, he knows a thing or two about nailing great makeup, no matter your budget. From using glue stick as brow gel (really) to the best concealer-blending technique, here's everything we learned from the L'Oréal Paris Makeup ambassador when we caught up with him in London.

Apply foundation straight after your moisturizer.

"I prefer to apply foundation on wet [freshly-moisturized] skin, because once your moisturizer dries, the foundation adheres to your skin in a really organic way," Sir John says. He likes L'Oréal Paris Hydra Genius Daily Liquid Care, and we spotted Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré in his kit, too. "Also, don’t be afraid to give your face a little bit of a massage to increase circulation," he says. "Blood flow is what you need for great skin. I like using a jade roller, as it really helps to kickstart circulation."

Foundation brushes are overrated.

"I like to apply foundation in two separate ways," Sir John says. "I like using a wet BeautyBlender, but also a big, fluffy blush brush. I don’t use foundation brushes because I feel like the application doesn’t look as seamless." With the other tools, he says, the product melds more into the skin and looks more organic. "The goal is not to be lacquered from forehead to chin," he says. "It’s okay to see an area that isn’t covered in product. I like seeing dark circles and veins on eyelids — that’s sexy to me. It’s 2019, and it’s cool to see texture, especially freckles."

Layer to make makeup last.

It's all about duality. "I use a cream blush and then I use a powder blush," he explains. "I use a cream foundation and then I buff a powder foundation on top of it. This duality creates a Teflon face. Even if you’re using brow pencils, they’re oily and waxy and will become shiny by lunchtime, so always set that product with powder."

You're using too much concealer.

"There are two kinds of concealer you should have," Sir John says. "One concealer for blemishes, which should be spot-on to your complexion, then one for brightening and elevating your bone structure. I take the concealer and do a dots situation under the eye — one, two, three, four dots. On Instagram, the first thing people do is slather it everywhere, but I cringe when I see that. You don’t need that much product."
While you're at it, it might be worth ditching your flat concealer brush. "I blend concealer with a fluffy eyeshadow brush like the MAC 224 Synthetic Tapered Blending Brush," Sir John says. "If you blend with a fluffy brush, you can really get in there and it almost airbrushes you. A stiff brush won’t give you a soft color — all you want to do is lift and sculpt." As for avoiding creasing around the eyes, Sir John says, skip the pressed powder. "It’s so heavy and drying and it’s really counterproductive," he says. "I use a loose, soft brush and translucent powder."

There's a right and a wrong way to hold your brushes.

Yes, really. Sir John suggests holding your brush in a way that doesn't have your hand or fingers sitting on top of it — which is the way most of us hold our makeup brushes. "This will only make you look streaky," he says. "Always get into a habit of holding the brush as far away from the top as you can, and application will be super easy and light."
And don't be scared of using your fingers. "Body heat changes the texture of makeup, warming everything up and making it look organic," Sir John says. "Use your ring finger to tap makeup into the skin — your index finger is too aggressive. Your ring finger is the weakest and picks up the least amount of product for a soft look."

The industry secret for stay-put brows is... glue.

It might sound absurd, but Sir John ditches brow gel for... a glue stick. "It’s the best brow gel in the world," he says. "After you put your brows on take a little bit of glue on a brush and brush the brow. It won’t clog your pores and it won’t take your hair off. I know it’s glue, but it’s going to keep them there all day, even if you sweat. It also allows you to draw hair on top of it. When it dries, it creates a base for actual hair-like strokes."
That said, this hack isn't exactly dermatologist- or ophthalmologist-approved. If you choose to try it at home, exercise extreme caution, and don't put anything near or inside your eyes. For a more skin-friendly option, try Milk Makeup's Kush Fiber Brow Gel, which made our shortlist for the 2018 Beauty Innovator Awards.

Over-the-top highlighter is over.

Sir John says that super-bright, blinding highlighter looks are done. Instead, we should be placing our highlight much more strategically for the most flattering results, stopping at the center of the eye for a subtle effect. "If you bring it down the cheek too much, it’ll appear as though your foundation is greasy, and that looks unflattering, especially in photos. Keep your glowy products more on the outside because it'll change the whole dynamic of your face," he says. "One thing I don’t like is brow highlights. They’re so played out. Leave the skin up there — it’s kind of sexy and modern."
Sir John's top product pick? "I love a luminous, creamy highlighter, nothing with a large particle," he says. Try L'Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Glow Amour Glow Boosting Drops — or skip the product altogether. "Sometimes, your SPF is the best highlighter," he says. "That glycerin effect on top of your foundation is flattering. You can also use night cream for the same effect." If it's glowy enough for Beyoncé, it's definitely glowy enough for us.
View this post on Instagram

Painting an Angel ?⭐️✨✨ #history #shining #BKxSJ

A post shared by S I R J O H N (@sirjohnofficial) on

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

More from Makeup

R29 Original Series