L’Oréal makeup ambassador and personal makeup artist to none other than Beyoncé, Sir John (the title makes sense seeing as Queen B is veritable royalty) is sought after for his high drama looks. He was introduced to Beyoncé while assisting Charlotte Tilbury and they hit it off big time, but before he was creating her Coachella glitter, Ashley Graham’s smokey bronze eye or dramatic midnight blue liner for Joan Smalls, he earned his living doing makeup at New York strip clubs and dressing windows for Gucci. It’s fair to say that he’s seen it all and knows exactly what works, whether you’re performing a gig at Wembley or just need a quick and easy ‘office face’. Here’s just a snippet of his no holds barred makeup wisdom.
From using Pritt Stick on your eyebrows to avoiding beige primer like the plague, Sir John dropped some beauty truth bombs…
For a great base, get your blood flowing
Sir John’s masterclass began with a poll of the best activities to get your blood pumping (ahem), but he firmly believes that for your base to look great, creating a natural healthy ‘glow’ works wonders. He prescribes 30 minutes of exercise a day if you can manage it (the NHS would like Sir John), plus a session of gua sha or using a jade roller to work your serum and/or moisturiser into your skin pre-foundation application. Incidentally he always applies foundation to slightly wet skin, straight after moisturiser, as it melts into skin rather than sitting on top. Speaking of making makeup look natural…
Avoid ‘tattoo’ makeup
As Sir John highlights, there’s a time and a place for ‘teflon face’, and that’s probably a sweaty stadium situation rather than your day to day. He creates Beyoncé’s makeup looks on tour by layering powder products over cream makeup for staying power, but underlines that makeup that’s ‘tattooed on’ can be dehydrating and come off lacklustre IRL. Which leads us neatly to…
You probably need less coverage than you think you do
Sir John advocates stippling on your foundation with a brush and holding your brush further down the handle to prevent “aggressive, heavy handed application”. This will help to prevent streaking when you apply your base too, and he rates brushes over sponges or Beautyblenders for most foundation application as sponges can distribute too much product. The focus should be on a lighter touch, and always take a step back and question whether you need quite so much coverage. Sir John also points out that it could be more pertinent to change your lighting rather than your makeup - it could be that the harsh lighting in your bathroom is leading you to apply more than you need.
Dark circles can be sexy
Ditto showing skin texture, freckles and letting the natural colour of your lids be your starting point. In our London masterclass, Sir John used the model’s olive undertones and undereye circles as the basis for a taupe eye makeup look, accentuating her natural colouring with light brown eyeshadow and washing it over lids rather than packing it on too intensely. If you’d like a little coverage in terms of concealer around your eyes, just go as close to your skin tone as you can - many of us opt for a lighter concealer around the eyes but Sir John warns that this can come off “too austere” Also, do your eye makeup before your concealer and when you do apply concealer don’t windscreen wipe it - dot lightly with your ring finger and blend people. For the purposes of the masterclass Sir John used the new L’Oréal More Than Concealer, £9.99, launching in March, which has an applicator that’s four times larger than the average concealer wand to speed up your makeup routine.
Steer clear of beige primer
On the eyes at least - Sir John describes the effect as “a roll-up blind”. A primer that matches your eyeshadow or a clear, invisible eye primer are your best bets, or for all-over he rates the new blue toned L’Oréal Magic Prepping Essence, £9.99, (also launching in March) sounds and looks like a whole load of crazy, but the pearlescent blue pigments brighten your face in the way that a blue toned red lipstick makes your teeth look whiter.
The cakes can stay, but in line with his ‘real skin’ aesthetic, Sir John isn’t into baking or piling on powder:
“Healthy skin is never matte all over - skin reflects light by nature so work with that, not against it.”
While a cream/powder combo creates duality and the kind of long lasting finish that Beyoncé’s sets demand, he rarely applies powder all over, and never around the eyes as it settles in creases. If you are applying powder, choose a soft, loose brush and go easy.
Your SPF can be a brilliant highlighter
Who knew? The slight sheen that SPFs give off can make for a low-key glow according to Sir John, and glycerin based products create a beautiful shine too - try dabbing your night cream across your cheekbones to create dimension that’s as far from tin man highlighter as it gets. Sir John mixes highlighter with Eucerin Aquaphor , £4, to light up Beyoncé’s face and body before she goes on stage, a trick that Meghan Markle’s makeup artist Daniel Martin also employs. Applying a little with your fingers to the high points of the face creates radiance that looks ‘lit from within’ rather than stamped on.
Be strategic with your glow
Sir John has strong feelings about highlighter placement:
“Never apply highlighter to the inner parts of your cheeks - this tends to be where your pores are larger and it will look greasy as opposed to flattering. Where you position your highlighter can completely change the dynamics of your face, so apply sparingly. Do not, whatever you do, apply it to the tip of your nose. I know it’s a look that’s all over Instagram but it can make you look like a cartoon character if you go there in the cold light of day.”
Use Pritt Stick as a brow gel
This tip is in the same vein as Pixiwoo’s soap brow hack , but with slightly more Beyoncé worthy staying power. Brush it into brows with a clean spoolie and it will create the illusion of thickness
Keep your bronzer shade cool
Otherwise it veers into orange territory. Not that you should swerve orange altogether however…
Orange based lipstick will wake up your face
It looks especially modern and energising if you’ve got dark skin or want to set off a tan. Sir John kept everything peachy by using the same orange toned liquid lipstick he used on lips (try L’Oréal Infallible Lipstick in Tangerine Vertigo , £3.80) on the apples of the cheeks too - he simply buffed a little in with a fluffy brush for a sheer, stay-put flush of colour.
Use your Beautyblender as a magic eraser
Where a makeup sponge does come in handy is for seamlessly correcting product fallout or mistakes - dip your Beautyblender in a small amount of cleanser to vanish away excess product. If you’ve applied too much eyeshadow, blusher, highlighter, bronzer or foundation, a dry Beautyblender can also help to lighten up product without resulting in a patchy finish. Et voilà, Sir John has spoken.