Meet Beauty Blogger Hafsa Issa-Salwe

Post by Kay

I first came across Hafsa through our friend (co-founder of online beauty edit store ) Millie Kendall. Hafsa was doing some work there and Millie said, “you have to meet Hafsa, you’d find her really interesting’. Hafsa of MuslimahBeauty thandiekay_edited-1I’ve since followed her award-winning blog and have been meaning to write about here for ever-so finally, meet the lovely Hafsa!


Where are your parents from?

My parents are from Somalia, but arrived in the UK over 25 years ago by way of Kenya, India and Italy

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in London, but I spent my late teen years growing up between London and Saudi Arabia.

How did you get into beauty blogging/how long have you been doing it?

I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember, and it just so happens that something else I like in equal measure is beauty. The two came to intersect when a mentor of mine suggested I start a blog to express that fascination I had with the transformative powers of beauty.

July will mark my blog’s fifth year, but I recently realised that I’ve been somewhat of a blogger since I was 12. In my first year of secondary school I set up a website where I’d talk about issues affecting people my age, and though no one read it I felt like I was doing something important.

What is your day job?

Hafsa thandiekay.comI’ve only just completed my master’s, and so I’m fairly new to the working world which is equally nerve racking and exciting! At the moment I’m doing marketing at a tech company.

Has the response towards you beauty blogging been positive from your community?

The best thing about blogging is that I’ve managed to connect with women across the world; women I most likely wouldn’t have had the privilege of meeting otherwise. I’ve had nothing but positive responses and support from Muslim women, and it’s what keeps me going.

My father is a computer science professor so I’m hard pressed to remember a time I haven’t had a computer nearby. Because my dad taught me how to type and program, he loves that I write a blog so he constantly encourages me to continue at it.

What are the most typical assumptions you get about being a beauty blogger from the Muslim community?

One that particularly stands out to me is how I’m able to reconcile the idea of modesty with the supposedly contrasting notion of beautifying oneself. It’s an interesting thought, but I don’t think a woman wearing makeup robs her of her modesty at all, especially because modesty encompasses many other things. It reminds me of the debate on whether a feminist should wear makeup; I don’t see anything contradictory in both cases.

In what way do Muslim women view sexuality, do they express this?

Most definitely, though I think it’s a question of how and when one expresses that side of themselves. Modesty plays an important role in the Islamic faith for both men and women, and though there are many interpretations of what modesty may be exactly, there’s a general consensus that it applies to both one’s behavioural conduct as well as their dress. For many Muslim women, sexiness in the traditional sense just won’t work, or may not necessarily be for public consumption. However, I was recently reading something on Garance Dorè’s blog where she notes that to be sexy is as innocent as glowing skin, and it’s these more discreet things that a Muslim woman like myself is comfortable with displaying in public.

How did the women in your life shape your self-esteem?

Iman thandiekay.comI come from a family where the women come in a variety of hues, and with my mother and sister much lighter than me I found myself wanting to be like them when I was 8 or 9. I eventually grew out of it, and I think my grandmother had a lot to do with it. She was this dark skinned woman with a beautiful complexion, razor sharp cheekbones, raven black hair and a vast collection of glamorous silk scarves. She’d show me photos of Iman, and I revelled in the fact that I shared the same features with one of the biggest supermodels of all time.

Do you see a big difference in how Muslim women around the world express themselves through fashion?

In the past, Muslim women that covered had limited options, and they’d generally look to Turkey or the Arab world. Thanks to a generation of Muslim women who want to be stylish whilst wearing the hijab, the choices are now endless.Hafsa

Clothing has always been a way for people to reflect their values, personality and affiliation, and the hijab is a good example of this. With Muslim women previously having few choices available, their clothing didn’t say much except that they were Muslim women. Today, one has the opportunity to express how multidimensional they are through their clothing; the girl with a jilbab and the latest Air Max trainers shows that she’s into trendy footwear as well as showing the world how dedicated she may be to her faith.

 How would you describe your style?

I feel there’s a bit of a dichotomy when it comes to my style in that I’m either super polished or casual. I was the quintessential tomboy up until I was around 19 when I started appreciating shoes and dresses, much to my mother’s delight who hated the fact that I wore trainers with everything. There are times where it still feels new to me, but I do like to get dressed, sometimes more than actually going out.

How long have you been wearing a headscarf?

I’ve been wearing the hijab since I was 17 after a trip to the UAE with my mother. I was in awe of how elegantly Emirati women dressed so I’d buy similar abayas and scarves. I was also going through a spiritual moment, and so I felt there was no better time.

 Who makes your favourite headscarves?

I don’t have a particular favourite, I usually buy my scarves from a number of places like cheap as chips Whitechapel Market, H&M and Inayah. I find that Malaysian, Indonesian and Gulf brands are ahead of the curve compared to brands in the UK, so I make sure to stock up whenever I’m in the Middle East.

 What would be your ideal job?Hafsa Issa-Salwe

Running things at a beauty brand! From creative to marketing to retail logistics, the beauty industry is where I want to be. It’s wonderful how beauty thrives on creativity and innovation, as well as it being a means of empowerment for many women from Avon representatives to Estèe Lauder who created a legacy for herself and her family.

 Where would you ideally like to live?

This changes far too many times to count!  After recently visiting family in the Netherlands I fell in love with Amsterdam and wanted nothing more than to live in a houseboat on the canal. Now it’s Harlem; the people are so kind, and it’s a historical neighbourhood with an infectious charm where the likes of Malcolm X, Langston Hughes and Ella Fitzgerald roamed.

 What is your favourite item of make-up?

I dread questions like this, simply because it’s so tough to choose! However, I appreciate how much mascara makes me look awake and lately I’ve been using Code VLM’s Volumising Lengthening Mascara from BeautyMART.

 What is your favourite item of clothing?

Maxi skirts! I love how versatile they are, whether I pair a skirt with my Stan Smiths or Zara blouse… you can’t go wrong with a maxi skirt.

 Tell us a bit about beauty trends within the Muslim community.

I think they’re the same as with any community.


See Hafsa’s Beauty Blog

Follow Hafsa on Twitter and on Instagram



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