Henna contouring is a technique created by Shahina Aslam as an entry to Anastasia Beverly Hills' Contour Kit contest and then reimagined in an Instagram video by 17-year-old Sahur Saleim. Sahur's video was them reblogged by HudaKattan, a Dubai-based blogger who has more than 6 million followers on Instagram. And it's just spread from there. Now you can find numerous YouTube vloggers and makeup devotees trying their hand at the technique.
Ultimately, henna contouring is a beautifully intricate way to do facial contouring. Despite the name, you're not using henna on your face, so you don't need to worry about any tragic makeup errors staying with you for days. You're simply using the designs of henna as an inspiration.
Here's how it works: Using a fine brush to draw traditional henna designs with foundations and concealers, follow the same basics as your standard facial contouring, but replace the long wide brush strokes with intricate swirls and dots. You still use the same products and apply them in the same areas you would with standard contouring. Use one or two shades darker than your natural tone for contouring, and one or two shades lighter for highlighting. A lighter color is used under the eyes, in the middle of the forehead, down the middle of the nose, and on the chin; while the darker color is used to contour under the cheekbones, the temples, and down the sides of the nose. (Check out our complete guide to highlighting and contouring.)
The artists who've mastered this technique create a work of art on their faces and it's sort of a shame to see it all blended out to create a smooth beautiful finish. It's not really any more or any less effective than any of the other contouring techniques out there. You're still applying the base makeup in the same locations and then smoothing it out to make a flawless complexion. Personally, I don't have time to even do more than basic contouring. Even if I had the time, I definitely don't have the skill for Henna artwork. But it is fun to watch!