Picture perfect

Celebrity make-up artist Lina Hussein gives Helen Elfer a makeover


Lina Hussein has applied mascara to Jean Claude Van Damme’s lashes, seen Tom Cruise with no shirt on, and enhanced the features of a galaxy of Arabic TV stars. This is all part of her rather glamorous job as a make-up artist, but these days she’s also devoting her talents to teaching women in the UAE how to use beauty products like a pro.

The petite Iraqi-Canadian has been giving one-on-one lessons in make-up and beauty since 2009, and is about to launch group classes through the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation. She says women from all walks of life regularly approach her for beauty tips: ‘I give lots of lessons to brides because they have strings of family events where they’re the focus of attention – and they’re newlyweds, so they want to look their best. A lot of mothers also sign their daughters up for lessons, so they can learn how to apply make-up properly and avoid the eyeliner-heavy goth look. Then sometimes working women take lessons because they just need advice on which products and colours to shop for.’

Typically, Lina’s lessons take three hours and include an examination of the cosmetics you usually use, with advice on what products suit your skin and which to ditch. She’ll then teach you how to apply different kinds of make-up, and answer any questions you have about technique and style. It would seem anyone who wants to learn how to make the most of their features or needs a makeover for a special occasion can learn a thing or two from Lina.

Longing for dramatic eyes, plump lips and flawless skin (isn’t everyone?) we signed up for a lesson and gave her the go-ahead to rummage through our various pots and tubes. Lina gave our Benefit champagne eye shadow, Maybelline mascara and No.7 tinted moisturiser nods of approval, but firmly shook her head when we showed her a brick-orange lipstick and a beloved crusty old capsule of brown eye shadow, which we had to admit was about five years old. Since she’s not affiliated with any particular brand, Lina makes recommendations based purely on experience and taste – her own armoury of products (which she tows around in an enormous zebra-print case) includes Mikyaji eyeliners, Mac eyeshadows and Clinique lipglosses.

Among the tips Lina gave us during our lesson were a lash-boosting zigzag motion to use when applying mascara, where to apply eyeliner to widen your peepers, and how to blend eyeshadow to make the colours pop. ‘Make up artistry is all about blending,’ she tells us. Like any artist, Lina loves experimenting with colours, and takes trouble to adjust shades by infinitesimal amounts on your face until she’s perfectly satisfied with the result.

‘You can have one palette and use it four different ways on different people. Each face is a new canvas that you can paint or sculpt – I find it fascinating,’ she muses while dabbing at our cheekbones. After the lesson, Lina produces a highly detailed lesson summary for each client, which includes recommended products and a step-by-step guide to applying daytime and evening make-up, complete with diagrams. Since we’ve only ever used cotton buds and fingers to apply products she also helps us with a list of brushes that we would find useful.

Having thoroughly enjoyed the girliest afternoon we’ve had in a long time, we sadly returned to the office wearing make-up that wouldn’t look out of place on a red carpet – shimmery eyelids and lashes that would give Penelope Cruz a run for her money. But if you want to make better use of your new look, book a session with Lina before you go out for the evening – she’ll not just leave you looking glamorous, but with everything you need to recreate the look by yourself in future.

Lina’s Makeup Artistry, Dhs1,000 for a three-hour lesson, evening make-up application starts from Dhs550. Call 050 937 6640 for information on group classes with the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation.

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