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This work is framed in the field of statistical face analysis. In particular, the problem of accurate segmentation of prominent features of the face in frontal view images is addressed. We propose a method that generalizes linear active shape models (ASMs)l which have already been used for this task. The technique is built upon the development of a nonlinear intensity model, incorporating a reduced set of differential invariant features as local image descriptors. These features are invariant to rigid transformations, and a subset of them is chosen by sequential feature selection for each landmark and resolution level. The new approach overcomes the unimodality and Gaussianity assumptions of classical ASMs regarding the distribution of the intensity values across the training set. Our methodology has demonstrated a significant improvement in segmentation precision as compared to the linear ASM and optimal features ASM (a nonlinear extension of the pioneer algorithm) in the tests performed on AR, XM2VTS, and EQUINOX databases.