The art of carving faces

By Adeela Akmal
Tue, 08, 19

In an exclusive interview with You! makeup artist Bina Khan talks about her work and her journey through the years...


Known for her customised choice of colour and creating beautiful complexions, makeup artist Bina Khan has been in the beauty industry since she was 19. She may have stumbled into the beauty business, but she has surely carved a niche for herself, creating looks that very few beauty virtuosos could pull off. 

“When I finished school, I was completely confused about what I should do with my life (study literature, become a chef?). My aunt - who is like my mother - advised me not to waste my time and start doing something until I work out my future plans. Makeup was meant to be a summer job while I figured things out. 23 years later I’m still at it,” tells Bina.

Looking up to ’90s great makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin, Bina is a self-taught artist but she did get training from some of the most iconic artists the beauty industry has produced. “I am self-taught but in 2016, 20 years in to my career, I had the privilege of being selected for a creative course with the legendary Val Garland. I read about it in Vogue, applied and made the cut! What a life changing experience that was,” she enthuses.

In an exclusive interview with You! Bina Khan talks about her skills and exposure in the makeup industry...

You! How has the beauty business changed here since you began?

Bina Khan: The biggest change is of course the advent of digital cameras and social media. I came up in the era of film photography and editorials. It took years to establish myself as a name, it was hard graft. I think the creation of images was more adventurous and creative; maybe because we spent ages dreaming them up, perfecting them before the actual shoot. You had maybe 36 or 72 images you could take per shoot and you couldn’t see them till the next day. So everything you did had weight to it. Now you can take hundreds of shots and you can see the result then and there. To some extent I feel social media has saturated us with so many images that you’re bombarded all the time. It’s hard to stand out amongst all the noise.

You! What famous artists have influenced you, and how?

BK: Kevyn Aucoin is the absolute benchmark for modern makeup. I still have the first book by Kevyn I got when I was 19. That book blew my brain wide open and I still spend every day trying to live up to his standard of work. It’s simply perfection. I have also studied and immensely admired the work of Hollywood studio artists through the ’40s, particularly Whitey Snyder who was Marilyn Monroe’s makeup artist.

You! What is your favourite celebrity makeup look and why?

BK: I like so many but I really enjoy the way Julianne Moore looks on red carpets. She wears beautiful couture. Her colouring is so high contrast and when Hung Vanggo gets his hands on her face, it’s magic. Elle fanning is always whimsical and beautiful too. I just adore her face. And what Sir John does to Beyoncé’s face is also always lovely; and really desi friendly!

You! Name three holy grail drugstore and high-end products that you absolutely love.

BK: For drugstore: L’Oreal Infallible primer, Misslyn Lolita lashes mascara, Maybelline pink fling lipstick. For high-end: ANYTHING by Pat McGrath, Tom Ford highlighters, Marc Jacob foundation.

You! What are your favourite makeup tools to work with?

BK: I love a tiny packing brush for small details on the eye, and I have always used watercolour brushes for eyeliner. I love to creating a sculpt with the beauty blender and I love the way makeup sprays melt pigments down to look second skin.

You! Are brides these days more experimental when it comes to makeup?

BK: Not really and I don’t encourage that either. It’s a day to do classic and timeless things. Trends come and go but your bridal pictures have to last through the ages.

You! What is your biggest challenge while doing bridal makeup?

BK: I don’t want to just put make up ON a face; I want to draw that face out. It’s a more abstract aim that has less to do with how to apply things but rather how you enhance structure and push features to their max. You have to keep finessing and finessing till suddenly the face pops. That takes some doing.

You! How would you describe your signature look and what is it about your style that sets you apart from other makeup artists?

BK: By this point in my career, I am proud to say I have a few signature looks and I pray that I keep adding on more. I always work at making my makeup highly saturated, I stress on a strong tonal range; flat makeup really bothers me. I think I blend with extreme care, at every level and where there needs to be sharp lines, I make them super sharp. I like to think it’s clean, classic and punchy. That’s the aim, anyway.

You! How do you prep up skin before applying makeup on a client?

BK: I clean, plump, moisturise and prime.

You! If a client has terrible skin, what technique do you use when applying foundation?

BK: Terrible skin is a rather harsh way of describing anyone. Sometimes there are issues that people would like help with. People have all kinds of skin and proper foundation application can help disguise any issues one may be worried about. Techniques shift for every face depending on their needs.

You! Suggest some tips to have your makeup last longer.

BK: Select the right products for the season, don’t over load your face with makeup and always use a weather appropriate setting spray.

You! What is your favourite technique to contour?

BK: I follow Kevyn Aucoin’s contouring techniques and I always try to replicate a template of glamour lighting. So even if you aren’t lit up beautifully, you look like you are.

You! What style and colours do you prefer working with when doing eye makeup?

BK: I love all colours and you have to endlessly shift your style to stay relevant and not to die of boredom.

You! For hooded eyes, what would you suggest to make their eye makeup pop?

BK: Keep your structure soft, that’s really the trick. Dark all around near the lashes, fading to light is also a failsafe way to do makeup if your lid is slimmer.

You! What lip colours are in-vogue nowadays?

BK: Everything! But I’m happy to see nudes making a comeback in a big way!

You! What are some of the top three common mistakes women (especially brown women) tend to make while doing their makeup?

BK: Not powdering and setting their bases, wearing lipsticks without tweaking them for our skin tone and believing they need to buy yellow foundation.

You! Suggest a proper skin care regimen for all makeup enthusiasts who like to wear makeup every day?

BK: Go for a Dermalogica facial once a month and remove your makeup with Bioderma sensibio micellar water. It’s always on my bedside table.