The hands that touch Beyoncé’s face touched mine. I’ll explain: While coasting 10,000 ft. in the air on a private plane courtesy of makeup brand Luminess, Sir John—the makeup artist behind Beyoncé’s iconic beauty looks—did my makeup, sharing his best tips along the way. It was comically glamorous, and there’s nothing I can do to make it relatable, so let’s just acknowledge that life is sometimes ridiculous and move on.
If you caught Beyoncé’s Coachella performance (hereafter referred to by its given name, Beychella), the term “Teflon face” might sound familiar. If you didn’t, it refers to how Sir John, faced with wind, sweat, and the dance moves of an icon, beat the odds and kept Beyoncé’s makeup in place for the two hours she spent on stage. It was the be-all, end-all of makeup shellac—and for some background, I’ve never made it to the end of the day with my makeup fully intact. Ever. But if anyone could teach me how, it was Sir John. Determined not to fail him, I watched, I learned, and I put his teachings to the test.
Looking into my eyes, Sir John spoke his words of truth: You want to layer that sh*t (I’m paraphrasing, Sir John is a gentleman). The rule of Teflon makeup is to embrace layers into your life, because if you build it, it will stick. The key is to keep the layers thin and use different textures for each one, which will keep your makeup from turning thick and cakey. Where loading on heavy foundation and blush works for people on stage who need to be seen far away, doing the same for Beyoncé was out of the question—especially given that her face was going to be shown up close on the festival Jumbotrons, and on YouTube for the rest of time immemorial.
On stage, Sir John says that Bey was wearing at least two layers of makeup on every feature. Most crucial is the order you layer products in: powder on powder equals pageant-y, while powder on top of cream is surprisingly glowy. Sir John explains that creams, when they dry down, create a lock on your skin. When you top that with powder, it seals the deal and soaks up the inevitable sweat and oil that comes with a two-hour performance. I took tap dance as a kid, so I get it.
PHOTO: Rachel Nussbaum
Repeat after me: cream then powder. They’re the three magic words, especially when it comes to foundation. Despite trying almost every primer out there, the acne scars along my temple always manage to peek through by the end of the day (no matter how much I moisturize, my skin eats foundation like chocolate). So it took me aback when Sir John said that on B-Day, he’d skipped primer for the show. I rarely take the time for primer, so I’d assumed that was my foundation missing link. But, nope: More important is topping your liquid foundation of choice with a powder.
I tested this tip the hardest way I knew how: Riding the subway in the rainy, early days of New York spring. My down winter jacket doubles as my raincoat, so between the sweat and humidity I feel like I got the full Coachella experience. My hair frizzed a truly incredible amount, but my Teflon re-creation—a liquid foundation topped by a pressed powder mineral foundation—had only faded around 25 percent by the time I got home from work. My scars were visible, but just barely, so it looked like I still had tinted moisturizer on. It was remarkable.
After putting down a cream shadow base, Sir John said he pressed a mix of brown and purple pigments onto Beyoncé’s lids for her performance. This isn’t my first time around the makeup block, so as the owner of a pair of super oily eyelids, I’d tried the ol’ cream-powder duo before. No luck—it’d creased instantly. So I took the spirit of Teflon, and went a step further: A creamy primer with serious dry-down, plus a cream shadow, topped with a swipe of translucent powder on an eyeshadow brush. For liner, I went with a gel pencil, then went over it with a dark eyeshadow from the Luminess Tarot Series Eye Shadow Palette in Lover on a slanted liner brush.
I’ll be honest, it was a long time to spend on eye makeup. But it was entirely worth it: My eyeshadow typically disappears by noon at the latest, but the lengthy routine held that color to my lids through a night out dancing and into the next morning. A friend commented on how durable it was, and yes, that did feel amazing. It was all worth it, just for that.
Loading on two layers of blush would send my already-pink cheeks directly into clown territory, so I opted to double up on highlighter instead. My preferred glow level is “sheen when the light hits your cheekbone just right,” so the cream-powder combo took some adjusting to; she was strong. But if you really want to shine, and you want your light to be seen from football fields away for hours, this is the way to go. If that sounds a little much, I found my ideal mix is a swipe of cream highlighter and a diffused wash of powder highlighter on top. It’s soft and it stays, but if the sun hits you just right it could blind a man.
When he was demonstrating the Teflon technique, Sir John mixed a shimmery pink lipstick on me with a light pink gloss. I respect his mastery, but even with the new formulas coming out, gloss still feels too early-aughts for my matte-loving soul. Instead, I filled in my lips with lipliner, and topped with a cream lipstick. It is not news to me that lipliner and lipstick go together like peanut butter and jelly, and have since the ’50s. Still, I never do it, and now I don’t know why. I put this to the hardest lip test of all: eating an everything bagel. When I looked in the mirror afterwards, my lip color had barely moved.
The takeaway? For all the primers, finishing sprays, and waterproof formulas out there, the Teflon technique comes down to thin layers and basic science. It’s not as fun as groundbreaking new technology, but through rain, sweat, oil, and bagel, Teflon makeup holds on.
Luminess Cosmetics paid for the author’s travel and accommodations for the purpose of writing this story.
–This $10 Mascara Held Up Through Beyoncé’s Entire Coachella Performance
–Sorry BeyHive, Beyoncé Didn’t Actually Change Her Nails During Her Coachella Performance
–This Quick Contouring Trick Will Make Your Life So Much Easier
Watch Sir John Demonstrate His Secret to Smoky Eyes: