4 Muslim Women on Representation, Headscarves, and Caring for Their Hair
This week, for the second annual Muslim Women’s Day, we’re teaming up with MuslimGirl.com to offer a more well-rounded view of the Muslim woman and her beauty and wellness rituals. Seeded in profiling and stereotypes, it’s an unfortunate truth that being Muslim in this country is difficult. Muslim women face violence on public streets, bullying in schools, and governmental legislation limiting their fundamental constitutional rights. And it goes without saying there are far fewer Muslim women represented in mainstream media: on billboards, in YouTube tutorials, and in movies.
To turn the dial a bit, we collected stories from Muslim women regarding their haircare routines, learning along the way how a hijab or head covering can be both helpful (fewer wash days) and detrimental (dryness) depending on someone’s particular hair texture and chosen style. So, we reached out to four women for their favourite products, chosen regimens, and more. Below, see four Muslim women discussing their haircare in their own words.
“My hair was always very important to me growing up. In fact, in elementary school, I was constantly warned not to let other people touch it. It was a lot to hand for me, so at the age of 12, I started to flat-iron it weekly, washing and styling it every week. This pattern lasted until my sophomore year in college, where I forgot my flat iron at home after break. I had no other choice but to go natural, and that completely changed the game for me.
“I hadn’t realised how damaged my hair had become, prior. Initially, I was washing my hair once a week with Pantene, but after going natural, I shifted to Shea Moisture (launching in Australia soon). I also began to deep-condition my hair once every two weeks or at least once a month. I used different deep conditioners, depending on price. I’d do a hot oil treatment once a month with a blend of oils I bought from a natural-hair shop. I was diffusing my hair and eventually found DevaCurl, which I loved. While I began to take more care of my hair, I felt I was washing it too frequently, especially because leaving it natural allowed for it to be curly, which resulted in knots very quickly. Every two to three days, I was washing, detangling, and styling my hair.
“I began covering my hair a month before I converted to Islam. With a new lifestyle, my haircare routine shifted. I still wash my hair once a week. However, since it’s not out anymore and since allowing it to be big and curly makes it harder to style my headscarf, I’ve stopped diffusing my hair. Instead, I wash and detangle it and let it dry naturally, which results in looser, wavier curls. I use the Head and Shoulders conditioner since I’m finding my scalp has been a bit drier than usual. Occasionally, I’ll braid my hair and keep it in for about three days, but I’ll typically have it in a loose bun. With a recent cut, I think my hair is on a good path to regaining and maintaining its natural health.”
“Muslim women have haircare routines just as anyone else does. Just because some choose to wear hijabs doesn’t mean they don’t or shouldn’t care about their hair. There are plenty of times women can be in a space without a hijab if they want to be, especially at women-only weddings. And, for some, haircare is a form of self-care. I think there should be more representation of Muslim women in the media when it comes to haircare, and just generally, really, there are so many Muslims around the world that have different hair types. It is important for us to be represented.
“I have kinky/curly hair, and so my routine can take a lot of time. I usually have to dedicate a whole day as most women with natural curls do. Weekly, I wash and deep-condition my hair—usually leaving the deep conditioner in for a couple hours while doing other things around the house. After washing out the deep conditioner, I detangle [my hair] with a leave-in conditioner, add a moisturiser, and add some Jamaican black castor oil.
“My hair is usually braided as a protective style most of the time, or in a bun. I use a monthly subscription box called Treasure Tress, and they send me new products every month. It's always amazing, as you get to find new things that work for your hair. This is the number one thing I use to source my hair products. My favourite is Shea Moisture (launching in Australia soon).
“For years I neglected my hair because it is ridiculously thick with loads of volume—which is great to look at but not so much to manage. Then, I started to wear hijab and thought, No one can see it, so why should I bother? Recently, I realised doing my hair for myself makes me feel super liberated. It’s like when you’re wearing a lingerie set that no one can see, but you feel great because it’s one of those little things you do for yourself only.
“Mainly, I take care of my hair by using a deep-conditioning mask (Palmer’s Coconut Oil Formula Deep Conditioning Protein Pack, $4) every couple weeks, and I follow up with oils (usually coconut oil and argan oil). I am South Asian, so it’s a tradition to use oil treatments, specifically the Vatika and Amla brand. My mum would also oil my hair the night before a wash and braid it up, so I’ve reintroduced myself to that habit, but with 100% natural oils.”
“For context, I’m a black Muslim woman with relaxed hair. I retouch my hair (relax my regrowth) twice a year, which is usually considered odd as you can do it every six weeks. Because of this, I try to take great care of my hair between relaxers. I keep my hair in protective styling, usually simple braids or cornrows.
“The biggest problem hijab wearers face is dryness. To tackle this, my hair-wash routine is filled with more moisturising products. I wash my hair every 10 to 14 days and do a deep-wash once a month. My go-to haircare brands are Aphogee, Keracare, and AtOne. I use Aphogee shampoos and rotate between Keracare and AtOne conditioners. Because I have my hair chemically straightened, I avoid applying heat to my hair, so I air-dry. After a wash, I’ll detangle my hair, apply leave-in conditioner, rub in unrefined shea butter, apply castor oil to my edges, and seal everything with pure argan oil. I’ll comb through while it’s wet, wrap my hair, and cover it with a plastic bag. Then I’m free to stick my headscarf on and go about my day while my hair dries.
“I think a lot of stylists and hair salons don’t know enough about our hair. Having a headscarf on our hair for large parts of the day means our haircare requirements are quite different. The fabric used for your headscarf is an equally important part of haircare. I’d like mainstream media to feature more on this, but I think Muslim women need to talk more as well. It usually feels like a lonely journey of trial and error when you start your haircare journey, though YouTube has been a huge help and really beneficial for me as a person of color. I’d love to hear how even more sisters tackle the various challenges and their tips and tricks.”
Opening Image: Kat Borchart