How 16 Hijabi Women Use Makeup To Express Themselves
Bustle presents our Beauty IRL package, a tribute to our readers' love of beauty and the way they use makeup and skin care to express themselves, to embrace their identities, and to self-soothe. Check out more of those stories here.
In the current political climate, Muslim people are subject to all kinds of misconceptions — about what they believe, who they are, and how they observe. Women who wear the hijab are at a specific risk for discrimination or attack, given that they don a symbol of their religion on their heads. In a culture that often otherizes Muslim women in general, and hijabi women in particular, it's important to instead focus on all that unites us — and, for Bustle's May Beauty IRL package, I spoke to Muslim women who wear the hijab about how they use makeup and beauty products to express themselves, just like I do.
"Growing up there were a lot of misconceptions amongst girls who wore hijab versus the women who did not wear hijab," says Ruma Begum, a hijab-wearing woman behind the beauty Instagram account @Rumastyles. "A lot of conversations started with 'you wear hijab, you shouldn't do this...' but the way I always viewed things was we are Muslim, everything applies to women of hijab or non-hijab. Nothing segregates the two. Women of hijab may have more of a responsibility when it comes to representation based on certain aspect of appearance, but modesty is spread throughout equally."
I spent time around many hijabi women in early 2017, when I lived in Malaysia (a nation whose population is over 60 percent Muslim) and traveled through Islamic countries in the region. On one particular trip to Dubai, I found myself standing at the Huda Beauty counter in Sephora where a group of Muslim women wearing hijabs were picking out makeup. They were debating the benefits of the Samantha lashes versus the Farrah lashes, trying to decide whether they were going to go with the "Cheerleader" lip contour of the "Heartbreaker" one, and lamenting over the fact that the eyeshadow palette was sold out — exactly what I, a non-hijabi woman, was doing.
"As for makeup, it is a complete personal choice," Begum says. "A woman who is not wearing hijab has no right to judge a woman who is wearing hijab and vice versa. But regardless of cultural, political or religious differences, there's one thing that all of us makeup-loving women have in common: the fact that we use makeup to express ourselves."
"Despite how it has typically been promoted, no one race, group, or type has a monopoly on beauty," she tells me via email. "We have to stop marginalizing those that are a little different. I’m so happy I just get to be a part of this movement; to make it seem attainable and possible for younger girls that wear hijab. To let them see that someone just like them did it, that you can make it, without sacrificing who you are and what you believe. That’s something I never really had."
One quick search of #hijabimakeup shows that Afia and Begum are part of a community of women who love beauty and also wear the hijab. The feed is filled with women in conservative-wear giving major face with stunning makeup looks. Their styles range from feminine and understated to bold and eye-catching, but there's one thing each photo has in common: They show that these women love makeup, and use it as a means of expressing themselves.
I spoke to 16 makeup-loving, Muslim women who wear the hijab about how they use makeup to help show the world who they are.
"Makeup is awesome because there’s really no rules. You can do whatever you want to completely transform yourself and your mood," Nura Afia says.
"I've never used makeup to change who I am — in fact, it has helped me bring out my creative side while staying true to myself," Areeba tells me. "Makeup has introduced me into an industry where I am able to help women feel beautiful and I am lucky enough to meet like-minded and unique individuals who I'm inspired by every single day."
"I use makeup to enhance my features, not transform them," Melanie says. "As a Muslim woman, I wear hijab every day to privatize my own sexuality and inform the world that I do not conform to society's mandates of how women should look and dress.
"I'm a firm believer a woman's inner beauty shines through, which is why I try not to rely too heavily on makeup, rather use it to subtly enhance my natural features ('cause let's keep it real, I'm Middle Eastern, which means my under-eye circles are out of control!)."
"Makeup has always made me feel beautiful but that's not why I wear it," Osob tells me. "I use it as an endless expression of creativity and inspiration. Makeup to me is an outlet not to change myself but to enhance the features I already love and to appreciate them even more."
"I use makeup as a form of expression because it allows me to show that I'm not confined to what people think a 'hijabi' should be based on a stereotype," Hani says. "I'm able to be creative and expressive and become a part of a community."
"I love to wear makeup to set the mood for the day," Samira tells me. "If I'm feeling fun and bubbly, I love to play with bright colors! If I'm feeling flirty, I like to wear more pink shadows, lipgloss and blush. When I'm in my diva moment, I go for that glam look with intense glitter, dramatic wing liner, and a bold red lipstick. And for those days I'm rushing to class? Well, at least my eyebrows are on fleek."
"I think every woman is told and also knows that real beauty is within, however I particularly love using makeup to express how I am feeling. Similar to apparel and shoes, makeup contributes to one's overall 'look' in self-expression," Sobia says. "Some days I'm feeling bright and bold, which is reflected in perhaps a vibrant lip color or bold eye makeup, and other days I'm feeling neutral, which is reflected with simple mascara and lip balm. I think being able to use makeup to enhance already beautiful features while simultaneously expressing oneself is kind of like the cherry on top of it all for you."
"I'm comfortable in my own skin, but makeup is definitely a confidence booster and the quickest way you can pull yourself together," Maryam tells me. "My winged liner is one of my signature makeup styles — I've been perfecting it from my teenage years. For me, makeup isn't only about concealing certain flaws, it's about enhancing what's there and giving you an instant confidence boost, no matter what the time and what the occasion."
"I began to wear hijab almost one year [ago], but [I've] loved makeup from elementary school. My mom always gave me new ... makeup tools to make me creative and play with color," Mellany says. "Makeup can make us look powerful. It's different. I don't say that makeup can make us beautiful — makeup can make us different. Because for me, makeup is art, [beauty] is from our heart, and wearing [a] hijab [completes it] all."
"[Makeup] is my passion and putting on makeup brings out my confidence and the love for art. It makes me think out of the box and get creative wearing either vibrant colors on eyes or a natural or bronzed look depending on my mood," Zena says.
"It fascinates me how makeup can transform the shape of the face, structure, and enhances the features just using the right techniques, tones, and colors and that's something I love doing," she tells me. "I also inspire myself by other talented makeup artists like @makeupbymario and @SoniaxFyza — they have been a huge impact to who I have become now."
"Makeup is art and the face is a canvas. You'll hear many makeup artists say this," Ruma says. "I love the colors, the vibrance, the way each look reflects on my mood. Some days subtle, some days fierce. It's truly the greatest form of expression when you do it all for yourself. And it doesn't hurt that I have complete control of how I present myself to the world."
"I would like to start by saying every woman is beautiful with or without makeup. I use makeup because it is an art I adore that makes women feel beautiful and confident," Nada says. "Most people like to tell me because I wear a hijab I am not allowed to wear makeup, but I see nothing wrong with art. I actually like to wear makeup to show a good picture about Muslim women that we also can take care of ourselves and look our best when we like."
"Makeup to me is a way that I can express my creativity and stand out from the crowd," Aysha Abdul says. "Even from a young age, I loved playing around with makeup and although at times it looked a bit questionable to other people, I always loved it. I didn't care what others thought of it because it was my passion, and it still is."
"The way we look has a huge effect on how we feel. Makeup isn't about showing something to other people, its about self-expression," Sebina says. "I use it to express the type of mood I am in or wish to be in and to prepare me for certain situations — the way you would wear a suit for a meeting or joggers for a lazy day, I wear makeup in a similar way.
"I'll opt for lighter makeup and softer colors such as pink lipstick or no eyeliner if I am going for a delicate, feminine look; if I have an important meeting that's when the red lippy will come out, but I normally steer clear of the highlighter if I'm going for a serious look. If I'm feeling unmotivated or lazy, going for a full glam look with fluttery false lashes and a contoured face can give me the boost I need to get up and be productive."
"I use makeup and my hijab as a tool to improve my self-confidence without leaving my religious obedience," Vivi Zelvia tells me.
"Growing up, my mother always taught me to use makeup to highlight my natural features," Summer Albarcha says. "I took her advice and honestly, this makeup style has allowed me to feel most confident, knowing I'm not covering or hiding my face but rather, accentuating it. It's pretty much art."
Another thing these women have in common? They all look beautiful.