Exclusive: Beyoncé's make-up artist, Sir John, reveals his secrets to glowing skin

He’s the A-listers’ secret weapon, but now, as L’Oréal Paris’s new make-up ambassador, Sir John has your spring face sorted
He’s the A-listers’ secret weapon, but now, as L’Oréal Paris’s new make-up ambassador, Sir John has your spring face sorted Credit: Arved Colvin-Smith  

He’s the A-listers’  secret weapon, creating megawatt looks for Beyoncé, JLo and Celine Dion to name just a few. But now, as L’Oréal Paris’s new make-up ambassador,  Sir John has your spring face sorted

Make-up artist Sir John has always seemed somewhat untouchable. He was the coveted, under-the-radar make-up artist who had celebrities all over the world fighting for his time – and his secret recipe for flawless skin. He kept a low profile and rarely gave interviews.… Until now. 

Sir John’s big break came when he was working as one of M.A.C’s top make-up artists in New York. While on his lunch break, he bumped into Yadim (another beauty industry great), who asked him if he wanted to help on a catwalk show with make-up  maverick Pat McGrath. Recognising his talent, McGrath asked him to join her team for the next leg of fashion shows.  Shortly afterwards Sir John met Charlotte Tilbury and went on to work closely with both beauty gurus until he landed the job of all jobs – doing Beyoncé’s make-up.

‘I’ll never forget it, it was a life-changing moment,’ he says.  The rest is history. For nine years, Sir John has been Beyoncé’s make-up artist on her tours and for pretty much every red-carpet event. But his client list doesn’t stop there. When he’s not doing B’s make-up (as he calls her), he’s working his magic on Celine Dion, Jennifer Lopez and Ashley Graham. And now you… From flawless foundation to ‘nontour’ contouring, here’s how to update your look – courtesy of Sir John. 

The ‘nontour’ contour 

‘Contour is all about the silhouette not the colour,’ says Sir John. ‘It’s not contouring, it’s sculpting or “nontouring”.  Always go on the cooler side, shade-wise – most skin tones suit a grey undertone, which allows your  cheekbones to recede. It’s that depth that makes you look youthful. Key areas to apply a cool-tone contour are your temples, underneath your cheekbones and above your cupid’s bow. Build up your sculpting in three layers: cream, powder then more powder for a lasting youthful contour– not what you sometimes see  on Instagram.   ‘To erase any VCL – visible contour line, that is – use a blusher brush and brush excess into hairline.’  

The 'nontour' contour

The kit

Mac Powder Blush Pro Palette Refill, £16  

Smith Cosmetics 124 Contour Brush, £23.50

L’Oréal Paris Infallible Concealer, £9.99 

Embrace highlight

‘Highlighter is a beautiful make-up add-on that lifts and illuminates your face but apply too much and you can look like a smashed disco ball.  ‘Personally, I avoid applying highlighter with a brush as you can’t blend it and you have less control. Instead, I use my hands and start with a less-is-more approach, then build it up. Apply your highlight on the “oracle bone” of your cheekbone and make sure it doesn’t cascade down your face – applying with your hands should help prevent this. To contrast with the highlighter, I like to mattify the lids and lips a bit. L’Oréal’s blue setting powder is  a great suits-all texture and will tone down any shade,’  says Sir John.    

Embrace Highlight

Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops in Sunlight, £34 

L’Oréal Paris Infallible Magic  Loose Powder, £8.99

The blush renaissance 

‘Blusher is making a comeback, and it’s the easiest and most flattering way to add dimension to your look. This is especially good for mature women who are experiencing volume and colour loss,’ says Sir John.  ‘The biggest mistake people make is to use a small blush, which results in concentrated areas  of colour. Instead, use a big bronzer brush and gently wisp the pigment up and over your cheekbones into your hairline. If you want a more natural flush, apply on your apples. To find them, just smile – the fattest part of your cheek is your apple. ‘The lighter the colour the higher you can go,’ advises Sir John. ‘If you’re wearing a deep raisin or red blush, apply lower down  – if it’s too high you run the risk of looking bruised. The same applies for pale colours – apply  too low and the  hollow of your cheek will disappear.’ 

The blush renaissance

Ace your base 

‘Your foundation should really be an extension of your skin, so I recommend mixing an illuminator, such as Marc Jacobs Dew Drops, with your shade,’ says Sir John.  ‘If you buy one thing, make it a beauty blender – it’s my secret to Beyoncé-like skin. Wet it then use to apply your foundation – it’s so sheer and dries like  a second skin. ‘When it comes to bronzer, less is more. Use a big fluffy brush to apply. It helps buff in colour and ensure you’re streak-free. ‘Every woman, regardless of their  age, should try using bronzer. It elevates your bone structure and helps elongate your face.’

Ace your base

The kit

BareMinerals Barepro Longwear lipstick in Saffron, £20 

L’Oréal Paris Infallible 24Hr Fresh Wear Foundation, £10.99 

Marc Jacobs Dew Drops Coconut Gel Highlighter in  Rose Gold, £32 

Insider secrets:  Sir John’s make-up kit 

So, what does the maestro tote from shoot to shoot? We got to take a peek…

Sir John's kit

Easy come, easy glow

Sir John’s kit is full of glow drops like the Danessa Myricks Beauty Oil in Love and Light, £30. Mix with foundation or use as a highlighter on its own.  

Brush up your skills

‘You should change your tool depending on the finish you want,’ says Sir John. Smith Cosmetics makes really affordable and useful brush sets.

Lips go bold

‘I love a bright, bold lip,’  says Sir John. ‘These [L'Oreal Paris Rouge Signature Matte Liquid Lipstick ,£7.99] budge-proof pigments give a sophisticated tint without a hint of “millennial” lacquer.’ 

Undercover hero

The L'Oreal Paris Age Perfect Cell Renew Day Cream, £24.99, may be a day cream, but it’s Sir John’s secret for glowy skin. Apply beneath foundation for a rosy look or mix with foundation for a subtle, soft-tinted finish.

Sir John working his magic

Make-up: created by Sir John using L'Oreal Paris 

Photography: Arved Colvin-Smith  

Hair: Ben Talbott using L’Oréal Paris Elnett

Manicure: Trish Lomax

Styling: Karen Preston

Models: Harriet Longhurst at Elite and Sasha Pereira at Premier Model Management 

Beauty direction: Dominique Temple