Why Isn’t the Beauty Industry Talking About Hijabi Hair Care?

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Walking through the beauty aisles as a young girl, I stood in front of walls that displayed women of shades and features unlike my own applying products like mascara or straightening their hair. The beauty world that my white friends indulged in did not entice me because I knew no matter what I did, I would not look like the beautiful models that were pictured. 

Growing up, I did not have the privilege of seeing representation of a brown Hijabi woman that loved who she was and wasn’t a negative stereotype of what the media thought Muslim women were like. I was constantly othered, from my jogging pants that I wore in gym class to my colorful hijab that stood out in school pictures. I was never ashamed of who I was, but I would still shrink in embarrassment as I was surrounded by girls in class, their hands reaching for the fabric on my head while they asked me how I could wear something like this or if I even had any hair underneath. I was the representation of Hijabi women for myself and for everyone around me, from the age of 12 in my Texas middle school to now, as a 20 year old and the only Hijabi student at my college. 

Hijabi women have continuously been an afterthought in the hair industry. Our unique stories and experiences have been distastefully excluded and this lack of representation only continues to perpetuate the negative perception of Hijabis. We are not part of the false narrative of the “timid and oppressed Muslim woman” that the media loves to push. Every little girl deserves to see a positive representation of herself and who she can be, and Muslim girls are not an exception to this. And when the beauty industry failed me as a young girl, I was fortunate enough to have someone else teach me about the world of beauty. The woman that was my beauty standard, representation, and role model was my mother. She took time to teach me how my hair should be loved and taken care of, and how much beauty it holds.

The author, pictured here, has wore a hijab since age 12.

Courtesy of subject

Your hair care journey is personal and lifelong, and this is the same for Hijabi women. There’s a common misconception that hijabis don’t care about their hair because we don’t show it, but it’s quite the opposite. We have a deep connection with our hair because we choose to cover it. Covering our hair is an act of worship but also one of empowerment. It’s a statement on choosing what we want to do with our bodies and what we show to the world. I choose to cover my hair and dress modestly, but it still doesn’t mean I neglect that part of me. 

In fact, many Hijabi women come from cultures that are the blueprint for a lot of current mainstream beauty practices. South Asian women oiled their hair far before “hair slugging” was a trend. Middle Eastern women have been using henna as a hair dye for centuries. And yet, we are constantly excluded and not given credit for being the originators of these rituals.

Hijabi women face some unique but also common hair concerns, ones that haircare brands should do a better job at representing. As an influencer and writer, I’ve been pushing for this representation for years — and though many brands seem to only give empty promises and responses, others were eagerly ready to have an open conversation with me. Brands like Briogeo and Dae have been extremely receptive to an open dialogue with me about how to include Hijabi influencers in brand marketing. I know that these changes take time, but even a small step can have a positive impact. 

As someone who has been wearing the hijab since I was 12 years old and diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) at 14, I’ve had my fair share of hair issues. When your hair is in a bun for most of the day and rubbing against the fabric of your hijab, it’s inevitable to have hair concerns like thinning, a receding hairline, and breakage. In fact, there’s a term called “hijab alopecia” (a form of traction alopecia) that’s used to describe the hair loss from the friction of your hijab.  Concerns like hijab alopecia are extremely common among many Hijabi women, but it can be frustrating trying to tackle these issues when there aren’t any Hijabi women themselves talking about their experiences, which is why I’m happy to share my hair-care routine here.

But before I do, here’s a note from one Hijabi to another: No matter what your hair looks like or what struggles you have with it, it does not define you. No matter how we are represented or not, we will always be enough. Our faith may not have a defined space in the beauty industry yet, but our experiences and voices matter. They always have and always will.

Shaz & Kiks Back to Your Roots Scalp + Hair Prewash

As Hijabis, our scalp rarely gets a moment to truly breathe because it’s always wrapped up — and for me that seems to exacerbate concerns like dandruffdermatitis, and breakage. I’ve noticed that when my scalp is neglected, my overall health of my hair is affected. Shaz & Kiks is a South-Asian owned line with ingredients that I’ve grown up using and loving. The brand’s Back to Your Roots pre-wash with amla berry extract (for moisture) and turmeric (to calm inflammation) doubles as a scalp treatment and hair mask. I massage it into my dry scalp and onto my ends before I hop into the shower and find that it helps loosen up any build up as well as treats any irritation I may be experiencing.

Shaz & Kiks Back to Your Roots Scalp + Hair Prewash

Mielle Rosemary Mint Hair Oil

Oiling your hair is a beauty practice that South Asian women (and other women of color) have been doing for centuries, taught by our mothers and grandmothers. It’s one of the best ways to take care of your scalp and give it that extra love. An hour before I shower, I part my hair into sections and massage in oils that target different concerns.

Mielle Rosemary Mint Hair Oil is one I absolutely swear by for hair growth. Hair thinning is no joke to Hijabis because of friction, and according to studies, rosemary oil has been shown to promote growth. One 2015 study even suggested that its ability to grow hair after six months of use was comparable to that of minoxidil [Ed. note: Minoxidil, which increases blood flow to the scalp and increases the caliber of hair follicles, is one of few FDA-approved treatments for hair loss, and widely considered the gold-standard in over-the-counter options.]. I apply the oil specifically on areas where I’ve noticed thinning and make sure to massage it well into the rest of my scalp. I’ve been using it for months, and it’s helped my hairline so much.

Mielle Rosemary Mint Hair Oil

Fable & Mane HoliRoots Pre-wash Hair Treatment Oil

As a brown girl, I’m a sucker for anything Ayurveda, a form of holistic medicine that focuses on healing through plants, herbs, and taking care of your body and mind. So another hair oil I love is Fable & Mane HoliRoots. This formula uses ingredients like ashwagandha, dashmool, and castor oil to help strengthen your hair and it soothes my scalp. 

Fable & Mane HoliRoots Pre-wash Hair Treatment Oil

Briogeo Scalp Revivial Dandruff Relief Charcoal Shampoo

We use exfoliants on our skin to deal with congestion and build up, and that same concept is why exfoliating shampoos help treat your scalp and hair. It wasn’t until I added an exfoliating shampoo into my routine that I began to really feel a difference in my long and wavy, 2B hair. Briogeo Dandruff Relief Shampoo uses AHAs and BHAs to gently exfoliate your scalp and lessen irritation, flaking, and congestion. I’m a firm believer in only washing your hair two to three times a week max, and that’s how often I use this shampoo!

Briogeo Scalp Revival Dandruff Relief Charcoal Shampoo

HIF Hydration Support Cleansing Conditioner 

As Hijabis, we’re susceptible to dryness — the hijab fabric may reduce moisture levels in the hair — and dry hair leads to weaker hair, which leads to breakage. That is why conditioners are so important. HIF Hydration Support Cleaning Conditioner makes my hair feel like silk. You know a product is good when you squeeze every last bit of it out, and that’s exactly what I did with this!

HIF Hydration Support Cleansing Conditioner

Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask

As the final step in my shower routine, I use a deep conditioning hair mask to make sure my hair is moisturised from top to bottom. Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask intensely hydrates with rosehip oil, B vitamins, and algae extract. (It’s also a multi-time Allure Readers’ Choice award winner.)

Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask

The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA for Scalp and Multi-Peptide Serum for Hair Density

The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + Hyaluronic Acid Scalp Serum

The Ordinary Multi-Peptide Serum for Hair Density

I like to keep things simple after the shower, and so I opt for hair serums that focus on my hair goals of preventing irritation and breakage. I use The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA for Scalp nightly and it’s done a great job of keeping my scalp hydrated, with no itchiness. The brand’s Multi-Peptide Serum for Hair Density has made a difference in my hair, especially where it’s become thinner from my hijab.

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