Welcome to our series Beauty Test, where we invite the freshest new faces to the Byrdie studio to test-drive the most buzzed-about beauty trends—or just some rad makeup looks we’ve been dying to see in real life. This month, vlogger Shahd Batal shows us three spring-worthy makeup looks.
The hijab—a veil some Muslim women wear that covers their hair and neck—has long been a symbol of modesty, a word that itself brings to mind subdued colour palettes and high necklines. But things are changing. Last year, Nike started selling its first-ever performance hijab for Muslim female athletes. The year before, then-19-year-old Halima Aden became the first woman to wear a burkini and hijab on stage at the Miss Minnesota USA pageant; just a few months later, Allure placed her on the cover of its July issue, emblazoned with the words “This Is American Beauty.” In recent years, a new wave of hijabi beauty bloggers is proving modesty and passiveness don’t go hand in hand; that you can honour your religion and culture without sacrificing your voice (and style). Their videos get millions of views, their followers anticipate their every move and their Instagram feeds are the opposite of muted.
Shahd Batal is one such voice. The doe-eyed Sudanese vlogger started her channel on a whim in college, beginning with hair and makeup tutorials. She amassed a decent following (mostly for her tutorials on how to style her natural hair), but around election time last year, she made a move that changed everything: She started wearing a hijab. “The decision was 90% that I was doing something I had been thinking of for so long, and there was 10% that was like, there are so many girls out there who are so scared and want to take the hijab off because they don’t feel comfortable,” she says. “There needs to be someone to show them you can be unapologetic about the hijab and that’s how you should be.”
These days, Batal vlogs about everything from her beauty routine to tips on how to put yourself in a better mood, and her Instagram is an aesthetically pleasing collection of images that showcase her laid-back personal style (she prefers sneakers over heels) and knack for the perfect cat eye. She’s the definition of the modern Muslim woman who’s unapologetic in all facets of her life—from her religion to her culture to her style choices—and the perfect subject for our newest Beauty Test. We spent the day with Batal in Byrdie’s Los Angeles studio, where she swathed herself in jewel-toned hijabs and modelled daring makeup looks that left us all desperately dreaming of spring. Keep scrolling to see the looks and get to know Shahd Batal.
BYRDIE: Tell us more about your decision to start wearing a hijab.
SHAHD BATAL: It was election time last year. I deleted all my old videos, and I started to wear the hijab. People were scared. I think back to how easily I was influenced when I was younger, and I was like, no, there needs to be someone to be like, it’s okay to feel that in your heads. It’s about your faith—it’s not about trying to blend into society.
BYRDIE: Did it affect your followers?
SB: Around that time, a whole new group of people was starting to find my channel. Not the natural-hair girls anymore, but the hijabi girls. There are already so few hijabis on the internet, and the number of black hijabis is almost none. But the world was starting to see black hijabis and seeing Halima on the cover of magazines. It seemed more normal. Once I started wearing a hijab, I started wondering, How can I make a hijab work with my style? That’s when I started transitioning more to modest fashion. I didn’t want to feel like I couldn’t go into H&M and Zara and shop. I feel like a lot of people think modest fashion is its own thing, but at the end of the day, it is still fashion and can still be Western. That’s when I started building my Instagram. I started to post my outfits, and people actually liked them.
BYRDIE: Have you received any negative comments? If so, how do you deal?
SB: I just ignore it and delete it. I really had to learn how to build up a tough skin wearing hijab. I got a lot of attacks. Some of it was people trying to give me advice, but it just comes across as really rude or as a criticism. I do try to self-reflect, but if you’re saying it in a certain way, I don’t take it seriously. You have to take everything with a grain of salt.
BYRDIE: What’s your advice to any of your followers who might be struggling with finding their identity?
SB: I think that every single day you have to do something that gets you closer to being the person you want to be. I think that we’re constantly changing and have to accept that. You need a good foundation. When trends happen, there are so many things that get thrown at you. When you have a good foundation, you can pick and choose the things that you care about, if that makes sense. You just have to know yourself and your values well enough.
Products: MAC Toasted Blonde Brow Gel (£15); Laura Mercier Eyebrow Pencil in Ash Blonde and Fair (£19); Tom Ford Cream and Powder Eye Colour in Sun Worship and Young Adonis (£48) and Lipstick in Temptation Waits (£40)
BYRDIE: What do you think about the rise of more hijab-wearing beauty and fashion bloggers in recent years?
SB: Well, I don’t think that these women weren’t on the internet—I just think they weren’t noticed, and now they’re getting the recognition. And because they’re getting the recognition, more people are thinking, Oh, I can do this. It was very discouraging to think you won’t be noticed because you wear a hijab. People would ask me, “Do you feel out of place when you go to beauty events?” And I was like, why do I have to feel out of place? This is the U.S.—it’s so diverse. I think these girls like myself are finally feeling included. It goes back to me when I was younger and only seeing a white girl with silky hair on YouTube. That’s ingrained in my brain. But it’s different for the girls who are growing up in this era. I’m really excited to see where this goes in five or 10 years.
BYRDIE: There’s this movement in the beauty industry that’s all about embracing diversity and inclusion. Do you feel like it’s coming from a genuine place?
SB: It’s 2018. You can’t not be diverse anymore. You’re going to get called out. You can’t have all-white models. You’re going to get called out. It is really cool to see this movement happen. It’s also very clear when a brand is doing it because they “have to” versus a brand that’s genuine about it. I think a lot of brands are shook by Fenty Beauty, for example. I’ve never really known what my foundation shade was. I was like, well, this one might match, but I’ve never found my exact shade before, and that’s what Fenty did. Before, it was a struggle. It was a huge struggle.
BYRDIE: Tell us about your current favourite foundations.
SB: I really, really love the Too Faced Born This Way Foundation (£29). It’s a little on the cool side, but they are teaming up with [vlogger] Jackie Aina, so I hope they have my undertone to make it a little more yellow. Fenty Beauty, obviously. I’m in the shade 360. The Hourglass Mineral Veil Stick Foundation in Golden Amber (£42) is great, and on the drugstore side, the Maybelline Fit Me Poreless Foundation (£7) is just the OG. They were the ones who really did it from a drugstore perspective, I think. Their shade range is phenomenal.
BYRDIE: You currently live in Minnesota, which is frigid during the winter. What’s your current skincare routine?
SB: In the winter, I’ve been loving Drunk Elephant products. I know they’re on the pricier side, but I really love them. I love the Baby Facial (£60). I always take my eye makeup off with coconut oil; it’s my favourite thing to do. I like it better than any makeup remover. I switch up my cleanser so much—I don’t care too much about them as long as they aren’t too harsh. Then I’ll go ahead and use a serum like the Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair (£72) or the Drunk Elephant Glycolic Night Serum (£67), and then I’ll go ahead and moisturise. I use the Embryolisse moisturiser (£14). I’ve been using it for almost two years, and I love it, especially in the winter. I have a bit of hyperpigmentation on my face, which is super normal for women of colour, so I’ve been using the Estée Lauder Enlighten Dark Spot Correcting Night Serum (£74). It really helps my discoloration around my mouth area. And then eye cream: I’ve been using Drunk Elephant as well, the Shaba Complex Night Serum (£45), and that’s pretty much it. I’ll moisturise my lips, and that’s my night routine.
BYRDIE: One of the looks we did today feature blue lashes. Yours are incredible. Any secrets?
SB: I’ve been using the Grande Lash Serum (£49), and it’s been working for me! I love it.
BYRDIE: You always have such a glow in your Instagram photos. What’s your secret?
SB: It’s all about highlighter. Estée Lauder Heat Wave (£33) and Bobbi Brown Bronze Glow (£36) are both really good; they kind of melt into the skin. I really love Fenty Beauty Trophy Wife (£26) for a glaring highlight to make it a little more golden. And this isn’t a highlighter, but the Sephora brand has a mist just helps everything melt into the skin. Sometimes when I’m looking straight-on, my highlight can look a little ashy, but I just spray it on top of the highlighter, and it blends it in.
BYRDIE: You’ve mentioned before that when you started, you weren’t very good at doing makeup. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned since then?
SB: Less is more, blending is more important than wearing more product, and quality over quantity. The beauty industry is so saturated. There are so many products, but it’s about finding the products that work for you, not because someone else has it. I think the drugstore has a great selection of makeup, especially if you’re a beginner—it’s such a great place to start. Maybelline is one of my favourites. Nyx is universally flattering. All their products are good—I could do a full face with them. Find a good concealer or foundation for a really good base and fill in your brows, then find your perfect nude [lipstick]. That’s enough. And a little bit of highlight. Just healthy-looking skin.
BYRDIE: In your opinion, what are brands doing well in terms of inclusion, and how can they improve?
SB: I think that in terms of inclusion, we’re doing a really good job with it. It may be because brands feel like they have to, and even if they aren’t doing it naturally, that woman of colour or guy is still representing a demographic, and now they’re someone to look up to. So whether a brand is doing it from a genuine place or not, at the end of the day, people are seeing someone who looks like them. I don’t want my daughter to struggle to find her foundation shade.