Have We Reached Peak Contour? Henna Contouring Is the Latest Over-the-Top Take on the Trend

Studio Art majors, this one's for you.

Henna Contouring
(Image credit: Marie Claire)

While clown contouring was a cheeky, yet effective approach to the Kardashian-beloved, cheek-sculpting makeup technique, there's a new method that's decidedly more painterly—as in it may or may not require a Studio Art degree.

Bloggers like Zimbabwe-based, self-taught Shahina Aslam and Pakistani henna/makeup artist Sahur Saleim have upped the playing field, using intricate henna patterns to map out the face for highlighting and contouring with picture-perfect precession. But instead of using the natural dye that comes from a Henna tree, they apply foundation and concealer using thin, tapered paint brushes, then blend.

Aslam created a henna contouring video as an entry to Anastasia Beverly Hills' Contour Kit contest, which is offering a grand prize of $10,000 to the contestant with the most impressive 60-second sculpting video.

"I am an Indian girl who wears Hijab, why not take advantage of my culture and show it off in a beautiful way?" Aslam explained to us. "It's really just for fun, and only took me two minutes, even though I'm not great with henna designs."

A few weeks later, Saleim's re-imagined henna contouring video garnered major interest when she was regrammed by Huda Kattan, a Dubai-based blogger who has over 6 million followers on Instagram. 

Intrigued by her approach, we got in touch with Saleim to learn more about her process and how long it really takes. Plus, got some expert tips for any brave soul who dares to give it a try.

What was your creative process for henna contouring?

"I pursue henna and being Pakistani, and having spent years in the Middle East, that was something I grew up on. I tested henna patterns on half my face, took quick pictures and sent them to my friends for first impressions. All of them loved it so much, so I knew I had to pursue it all the way."

The patterns are so elaborate—how did you go about choosing them?

"As mentioned before, I practice henna and I have a pretty good understanding of patterns and how to pair them so they look fluid and can fit into certain spaces and end at a certain spot. It's not something I could describe honestly, just intuition and practice."

How long does the process take in total?

"Well, I only really did it once and that was completely for fun! The actual process of applying the patterns and using concealers would've taken an hour at most, despite me wanting to make every single spiral, flower, and dot perfect."

What tips do you have for someone brave enough to attempt the henna contour?

"I would say make sure to use concealers with a more liquid consistency so its easier to apply. I used the LA Girl Pro-Conceal in Espresso to contour and a MAC Pro Longwear Concealer in NC42 to highlight. I applied them on my face with very thin paintbrushes that I normally use on paintings. So if you were to try it for yourself, the more detail you want to incorporate into your henna contour and the thinner lines you want to make, the thinner the brush should be. I'd be honored if someone were to retry! If they do, tag me on Instagram (@sahursart) and #hennacontour."

Who are your contour icons?

"Well, if we're talking celebs and contouring, its no secret that they don't do it themselves. So, in terms of celebrity makeup artists, I really look up to [Kim Kardashian's makeup artist] Mario Dedivanovic and Fyza Ali. All the work they do, especially with contouring, is so flawless. They're definitely role models."

Lauren Valenti
Beauty Editor

Lauren is the former beauty editor at Marie Claire. She love to while away the hours at coffee shops, hunt for vintage clothes, and bask in the rough-and-tumble beauty of NYC. She firmly believes that solitude can be a luxury if you’ve got the right soundtrack—that being the Rolling Stones, of course.