Just because your hair is covered doesn’t mean it deserves less of a routine. Stylist contributor Zeynab Mohamed breaks down the four pillars of hijabi haircare, from tackling hair loss and dehydration to minimising friction.
Like most people, structuring the perfect haircare routine has been complex to say the least. Add the extra layer that is my hijab, and we’re talking a whole different ball game. In the good old days, when my hair was (literally) out of my hands, my mum adopted the same routine for my sisters and me. Despite our hair types ranging from big 2c curls to 4c coils, it somehow worked across the board.
When I finally graduated to looking after my own hair, I enrolled myself on the online beauty school that is YouTube. Ever the eager student, I bought all the haircare products under the sun – I needed everything, according to YouTube. From leave-in conditioners to homemade oil concoctions, it quickly became too complicated – and expensive. All the discipline and hard work proved to be too much, and soon enough, I entered the carefree stage, figuring that one of the bonuses of wearing a hijab was that I didn’t really have to do my hair because it’s covered.
Fast forward to today: I’ve established a middle ground and my hair is definitely thanking me for it – regardless of who sees it. Being unseen in mainstream beauty media has led to Muslim women writing the script for themselves, and while beauty may be superficial on certain levels, representation matters on all levels everywhere.
As a result, I discovered the world of hijabi beauty bloggers: people that not only looked like me but could also educate me about how my hijab was causing breakage, dryness, scalp irritation and frizz from wearing it too tightly.
I delved straight into what the community had to offer me. It wasn’t until I was watching the likes of Shahd Batal, Umayma Abdul, Aysha Harun, Chinutay, and Iqra from The Blushing Giraffe, that it all clicked for me. Why had it taken me so long to turn to women in hijabs for haircare advice? Hijabi bloggers were scarce back when I needed them the most, but it’s something that’s been gaining traction over the last couple of years – along with the gratifying sense of familiarity and belonging as the community builds. I’ve racked up so much information that’s changed my hair – and my life – for the better, so we can support and educate each other where mainstream hair discourse won’t.
Pick your scarf materials wisely
This is where it all begins. The biggest change for me came when I swapped my polyester scarves for lighter, more breathable fabrics. As your scarf rubs against your hair, the friction causes breakage and frizz, and even a greasy and irritated scalp. Cotton, chiffon and silk are less likely to rub, and their natural origin means they’re kinder to your scalp too.
Create a barrier
OK, I know I said swapping my scarf material was the biggest change, but I’m adding silk headbands to that title. Wearing one under my hijab has done wonders for my baby hairs. Just like swapping your cotton pillowcase for a silk or satin one, the smooth texture of a silk headband ensures that there is less friction from the rougher texture of the headscarf, equalling less breakage and less moisture absorption. Silk and satin bonnets and scarves will also do the trick, but I prefer a headband as I know it’ll stay put.
I have 10 of The Que’s 100% silk headbands, which feel so luxurious on the scalp, are wide enough to cover a large area of hair and still sit comfortably on my head without any tightness – which is crucial for a long day of hijab-wearing. Since adding them to my routine, I’ve noticed that my baby hairs lay smoother and have grown in fuller, with no sign of that dreaded hijabi receding hairline popping back anytime soon.
Nurture those edges
The combination of pulling your hair back plus potential friction is a lethal combination. I’ve gone full combat when it comes to edge protection as a result, and my arsenal is full of edge treatments, oils, butters and supplements. The most important saviour is undoubtedly Kiya Cosmetics’ Growth Oil: a super mixture of the hero oils – including baobab, castor, peppermint, vitamin E and avocado – revered for their hair strengthening and scalp properties. Although I was initially reluctant to try for fear of getting a greasy scalp, I was pleasantly surprised that everything absorbed easily within minutes.
The most common hairstyle to wear underneath the hijab is a bun or a ponytail, but doing this day in and day out causes a constant pull on your hair, and especially on your edges. Luckily, I learned from Nicholas Willis, senior master stylist at Charles Worthington, that I can extend my silk headband trick to my hairband choice as well. “If you’re tying your hair back every day, go easy on the tightness as it can cause tearing and friction,” he advises. “Loosely tie it with a silk hairband or Invisibobbles to prevent breakage.” My hair would be lost without my kitsch Satin Pillow Scrunchies and Silk Works Silk Skinny Scrunchies.
Kiya Cosmetics Growth Oil
Shop Kiya Cosmetics Growth Oil for £11.99 at Jamii
Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen Grow and Restore Edge Treatment
Shop Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen Grow and Restore Edge Treatment for £15.34 at Amazon
The Mane Choice Laid Back Effortlessly Growth Stimulating Edge Control
Shop The Mane Choice Laid Back Effortlessly Growth Stimulating Edge Control for £9.99 at Naturalistic Products
Alchemy Oils Peppermint Hair Remedy
Shop Alchemy Oils Peppermint Hair Remedy for £36 at Content Beauty & Wellbeing
Moisture, moisture, moisture
“Wearing a hijab can reduce the hair’s moisture level, largely because of friction,” Zateesha Barbour, celebrity hairstylist to the likes of Jorja Smith and Dina Asher-Smith, informs me. “I’m a big fan of swapping your conditioner for a hair mask – Holy Curls’ Deep Conditioning Curl Mask intensely moisturises the hair thanks to the marriage of shea butter and baobab. Leave it in for prolonged nourishment.”
I do a weekly deep conditioning session, going between my beloved Garnier Ultimate Blends Nourishing Hair Food Banana and Shea Mask and Davines’ The Renaissance Circle Mask. Both give a hefty dose of nourishment, plus hydrate my hair when it’s feeling parched without weighing it down. A new addition to my bathroom has been L’Oréal’s Dream Length Wonder Water. Powered by lamellar water technology, which uses moisturising agents and tiny amino acids molecules to target the driest and most damaged sections, it creates a reparative layer to smooth and repair wherever needs it. You’ll notice the effects almost instantly: my hair afterwards was smoother, silkier, and easy to manage. It’s basically liquid gold for your hair.
Holy Curls Deep Conditioning Curl Mask
Shop Holy Curls Deep Conditioning Curl Mask for £28 at Yard + Parish
Garnier Ultimate Blends Nourishing Hair Food Banana and Shea Mask
Shop Garnier Ultimate Blends Nourishing Hair Food Banana and Shea Mask for £3.49 at Boots
Davines The Renaissance Circle Mask
Shop Davines The Renaissance Circle Mask for £9.50 at Cult Beauty
L’Oréal Paris Dream Length Wonder Water
Shop L’Oréal Paris Dream Length Wonder Water for £9.99 at Boots
Haircare and hijabs aren’t discussed enough in conjunction, but like any other hair differences that the haircare industry caters for, the hijab is definitely one. Muslim women need more representation in the haircare narrative: onscreen, to magazine pages, and on our social media feeds. We too want and deserve to be a part of that hair club; we are entitled to be seen, to be recognised as individuals with haircare needs. Until the industry catches up and tailors itself to our needs, the health of our hair lies in our hands – so let’s keep the education circulating.
Main image: Getty