Q&A: Get summer beauty tips from Beyoncé’s makeup artist Sir John Barnett

Beyoncé performs during the Formation World Tour at Raymond James Stadium on April 29 in Tampa, Fla.
(Frank Micelotta / Invision for Parkwood Entertainment / AP Images)

Based on her string of hit collaborations, Beyoncé appears to know how to spot royal talent. In her treasure chest of stylists and beauty gurus, there’s New York-based makeup artist Sir John Barnett (yes, that’s his actual birth name, but he’s simply known as Sir John in the beauty industry), who has worked with makeup visionaries Pat McGrath and Charlotte Tilbury and celebrities such as Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Karlie Kloss and others.

Most recently, Barnett, who has a background in art history and painting, created signature beauty looks for Beyoncé’s new visual album “Lemonade,” her new world tour and her Met Gala red carpet appearance. (The Formation World Tour is scheduled for a show tonight in San Diego and a sold-out Saturday show at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. A second local stop is set for Sept. 14 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.)

Here’s an excerpt from a recent conversation with Barnett, a L’Oréal Paris brand ambassador.


How would you describe Beyoncé’s beauty evolution? Does it speak to the direction in which beauty is going?

We’ve all grown up with Beyoncé, and a lot of this runs parallel with every woman. The aesthetics in the late ‘90s was completely different. It was more about a made-up [makeup] appearance, and there was a heightened level of perfection. ... And now, within the last few years, it’s been about a deconstruction of such a glamorous sort of perfection. It’s not about being perfect anymore. … It’s about a more realistic approach … making something raw.

Does what we’re seeing with deconstructed beauty trends now reflect the times?

Look at Snapchat. … It’s all about raw, no lighting, looking imperfect. It’s the opposite of Instagram. If you look at the “Lemonade” album, it’s about a political or emotional lore that, even though it speaks to every woman, it’s one woman’s journey, vulnerability and strength. So I feel like it’s all running parallel — politics, beauty, what’s happening in society. Looking back in history, there’s so much in fashion and beauty that runs parallel with what’s happening in society.

Because there’s so much physical activity happening onstage, what’s the key to Beyoncé’s tour makeup and how might someone use these beauty tricks this summer?


Working on the Formation Tour, many of the shows are in outdoor stadiums. These are uncontrolled environments. For instance, the day after the Met Ball, we flew to North Carolina to do a show. And it rained, and there was thunder and lightning. These are things you have no control over. ...

So what you want to do is lock in your makeup. That means using a cream foundation with a powder over it, some kind of invisible setting powder or something very sheer [such as trying mattifying moisturizer and water-based foundation if you’re oily]. You don’t necessarily need heavy coverage foundation. Also, if you use a cream blush, also use a powder blush. I use cream eye shadow, and then I set it with powder eye shadow. This duality helps your makeup become quite waterproof.

The girls can sweat and move. Everyone knows about waterproof mascaras. [L’Oréal Paris Infallible Silkissime Eye Liner ($8.99, is] really amazing as an eye shadow base or as a colored liner. These things don’t move. I use some of these products literally when [Beyoncé has] been submersed in water or swimming in a pool, and we need to get the shot and make sure [her makeup] doesn’t run because we’re working on a really aggressive timeline. And it works. For lips, [L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Last Lip Color ($12.99,] is really amazing at making sure the lip color stays tattooed on. I mean, she has a microphone in her face every day.

What do you think about using spot concealer where needed and keeping the skin pretty bare during the summer?

Absolutely. I feel like a lot of women don’t have to use as much foundation as they did before. Everyone’s paying attention to their diet in a different way in 2016. No one wants GMOs. No one wants fake food. Everyone wants organic. There’s this huge push toward a purification in everything we eat. ... In turn, that impacts your complexion. Also, when you have a tan, you often don’t need as much foundation.

How do you suggest women amp up their look this summer when they want to go glam?


It’s all about metallics. Metallics — chrome, gold, rose-gold — are huge right now. Glitter is also having a resurgence, but there’s a time and a place for it. Even if you’re a minimalist you can use glitter as a liner, a very thin band of liner across the top lid. Jewel tones are also big right now. If, say, you want to introduce a little color in your routine, use emerald instead of black. ... What’s important to know about makeup is that you don’t need a full face of everything.

Do you prefer cream or powder highlighter?

I like to use cream highlighter. It makes [a person] look like she’s lit from within. ... To usher in that sense of brilliance and light in your complexion, it doesn’t start with shimmery products. It starts with proper skin care, making sure you increase your cell turnover, keeping your skin hydrated, making sure you’re getting enough antioxidants, that you have an anti-inflammatory diet, moisturizer … All of these things add to overall radiance, not just on the face but from head to toe.

What advice do you have for art students who are considering becoming makeup artists?

If you’re coming from an art background — or actually, if you aren’t coming from an art background and just love makeup — it’s good to know references and have an unorthodox view of how you can place makeup. If you go to a museum and look at the washes of color in the cheeks in a Rembrandt or a Renoir or other artists or if you look at Picasso in his Cubist era … you have to have an open mind, but if you can translate that and bring that back to, “I’m going to use an ethereal watercolor washing of blush today,” or “Place the blush higher on the cheekbones because I’ve seen something in the Louvre in Paris,” or “I like the way Cleopatra is wearing her eyeliner in a painting in a museum in Berlin.” All of these things have an impact on how you approach your makeup regimen.