How much do you know about Somali beauty traditions? Odds are it's not much. The truth of the matter is that Muslim women have been historically left out of the global beauty conversation. American consumers are obsessed with beauty advice from France, Sweden, Korea, and Brazil, but women from Muslim-majority countries are rarely given the chance to participate in the dialogue and represent their inspiring beauty secrets.
To help remedy this problem, we partnered with our friends at MuslimGirl.com. To help amplify Muslim women's voices, we're handing Byrdie's mic over to three Somali women who we met through MuslimGirl.com and who've graciously shared their skincare traditions. And they are fascinating.
"My mom and women relatives in Somalia don't look their age at all," Asha Mohamood Noor told us. "And I think it's from using these natural products." And with that, we'll step aside and let Noor, Safy Hallan Farah, and Maryam Said share their incredible skincare tips.
1. Meet Qasil, a spice that gives you major glow
"There's a facial paste called qasil, a ground-up leaf from the gob tree, which is indigenous to the region. You mix with a little bit of huruud [turmeric] to use as a face mask. I've added raw honey to that mix at times to make it more of a scrub. I make sure to use the qasil for special occasions because it gives you this amazing glow. When I was in Somalia for three or four months a few summers ago, I used the traditional remedies, and my skin was amhhhmmaaaazzzing." — Noor
"A popular mask that many Somali women make is by combining qasli and turmeric. Create a small mask by mixing equal parts of each product and then applying it to your face. Let it sit for a couple of minutes (five to 10), and proceed to wash it off afterward. Your skin should feel soft and look more vibrant." — Said
We recommend combining the two ingredients with honey as a base. This may aid in the moisturizing and brightening benefits of the spices on the skin, as honey has numerous skin benefits.
2. Combine it with turmeric for brightening benefits
"My mother used to make turmeric masks a lot, which in Somali would translate to huruud. I was always fascinated by the orange mask that she would wear as a kid. But when I got older, she explained why it was an essential to Somali skincare. Raw turmeric is healthy for the skin, as it works as a good exfoliant and also brightens acne scarring." — Said
3. Have dull skin? You probably need vitamin D
"Women in Somalia also get their healthy dosage of vitamin D. This, in conjunction with natural remedies, fresh foods, and being physically active (often part of the lifestyle), is [important to their skincare philosophy]." — Noor
4. Black seed oil is a miracle cure
"One really clutch thing Somalis love is black seed oil, and I swear by it." — Farah
[Ed. note: As New York-based otolaryngologist Monica Tadros, MD, says, "Black seed cumin oil was long used by ancient Egyptians for its healing properties. It is derived from the seeds of the Nigella sativa flower with three key phytochemicals … (which) provide a natural supplement with antioxidants."]
5. Rosewater is an amazing anti-ager
"My skin is sensitive yet not particularly acne-prone, but I have to be well-intentioned and balanced about the products I use. ... I like to mist myself with rose water—the brand doesn't matter, to be honest!" — Farah
Instead of buying a rosewater toner, create your own by boiling rose petals in water and transitioning it into a mister once cool. Add in Witch Hazel to try to further the skincare benefits of your DIY.
6. The best acne treatment comes from your pantry
"I tone with apple cider vinegar. … What I love about ACV is that it gets rid of my pimples when they're about to start. You know that flesh-tone bump before the actual pimple forms? That little annoying bump disappears once I apply the apple cider. I usually apply half apple cider and half water to make a solution—give it a little shake and apply it to my skin with a cotton pad. Trust me when I say it works wonders! Try applying it twice a week, once if you have sensitive skin." — Said
7. Don't limit yourself to one skincare philosophy
"My philosophy is more nuanced than my mom's and the women she grew up with I think. I see an esthetician once a month and work with her to treat my unique skin problems and ailments. … In my experience, I need other stuff [other than my mom's remedies] … for my skin to really glow. I use the Clinique 3-step formula and sometimes Elizabeth Dehn facial wash." — Farah
"My daily skincare routine starts off with washing my face with a cleanser by Clean and Clear. It's the lemon and coffee formula and has become a staple in my routine. I have had dark spots from years of acne scarring, and finding this cleanser has turned my skin into the proudest part of my body! Crazy, right?" — Said
8. Never try to make your skin look like someone else's
"What I've seen from other Somali people, especially Somali mothers, is that they are really into skin lightening. Of course, across borders, it's a ritual. But by embracing my imperfect dark skin, I've found [I've] become more at peace with myself." — Said
Burlando B, Cornara L. Honey in dermatology and skin care: a review. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2013;12(4):306-313. doi:10.1111/jocd.12058