One look at this drop-dead gorgeous girl and we knew we had to sit her down and get her to spill all of her beauty secrets.
Meet Saada Ahmed, an East-African transplant taking NYC by storm. Not only does she work at 3.1 Phillip Lim (!!), but she also happens to have one of the most impressive heads of curls we’ve seen, basically ever.
We sat down with Saada in her Brooklyn apartment to talk about her style, why she hates "natural" hair, how she manages to look so freaking amazing on the daily, and why raw eggs might just be the best beauty aid known to womankind. Read on and get ready to take notes: These beauty tips are that good.
Photographed by Maia Harms
Tell us a bit about yourself.
"I was born in Kenya, but I'm Somali and Ethiopian. My family lives in Ethiopia and Kenya. I've been in the U.S. since I was two, but I go back every couple of years. I've lived in Brooklyn for three years. My day job is working at 3.1 Phillip Lim but I also have a blog and I am the founder of The Everyday People Brunch
"I think what inspired me to start this was having a daytime party for the downtown crowd. There were party brunches in the meatpacking district but I didn't necessarily identify with them so I decided to curate a unique experience with friends that offers a music selection of old school, R&B, and hip-hop. The brunch is called 'everyday people' because I wanted all types of people to feel free to come — the experience is very much about conversation, dancing, and food set in a non-pretentious environment."
What's your day-to-day beauty routine like?
"When I wake up, I use Bliss Fabulous Foaming Face Wash
and then Aura Cacia Organic Restoring Rose Hip Oil
. If I'm going to work, I'll put on either a bright lip or some eyeliner. Sometimes I'll put bronzer on, or sometimes I'll put on a little concealer. It depends on the day. I talso ake a women's multivitamin, because there are different elements that help your skin and hair, such as vitamin E, fish oil — they're supposed to help."
Do you do anything different at night or when you want to dress up?
"I'm big on the bold lip, especially if I'm going to work and I look tired. It focuses the attention on my lips rather than on my eyes. If I wear a bold lip, I won't wear any type of eye makeup. I just think it looks too much like a drag queen…it's just too much.
Jewelry, bought on the street in Kenya.
Your skin is flawless — what do you do to it?
"I'm just genetically lucky, I guess. 'Black don't crack,' you know? I try not to be in the sun that much and I wear sunscreen. Even though people think that if you have enough melanin in your skin that you don't need it, but I think you definitely need it if you don't want wrinkles. I've seen people who, as early as their late 20s, have crow's feet."
3.1 Phillip Lim dress, Cheap Monday shoes
What are your thoughts on how the beauty industry views women of color? Namely, why do you think it's so hard to find makeup that works with darker skin?
"It's so disheartening when you go somewhere and there's nothing made for you. Or if you're going to the store, sometimes [the sales associates] won't know what matches your skin. I found, thankfully, Make Up For Ever, and that's what I use for foundation that matches my skin. But with most brands, there isn't a variety — it's frustrating, because black women, we use beauty products! And what's crazy is that I feel like the brands with the most variety are drugstore brands."
What are the products that you have the most trouble finding?
"Concealer — there are undertones that they don't have. For example, my brown is different from my roommate's brown. Although we may be similar, there's a very different undertone."
What are some beauty trends you absolutely love?
"I really like the strong cat-eye, but I haven't perfected it yet. And that's something that I'd like to learn how to do. I also really like dewy skin, but I don't really know how to do it without it getting greasy."
Are there any beauty looks you can't stand?
"Wow, I really don't pay that much attention to makeup. I will say I hate thin, drawn-on eyebrows. I also think too much makeup during the day is inappropriate. Less is more."
Saada gives a shout-out to Brooklyn from her patio. American Apparel sunglasses.
By the looks of things, you're really into accessories.
"I'm into ethnic accessories. I like a lot of hand-beaded bracelets, like the ones I got in Kenya, as well as copper bracelets. I don't wear earrings that much because my hair is big. I like that Coco Chanel quote, 'when accessorizing, always take off the last thing you put on...' Less is more!"
That seems to be your overall beauty mantra...
What's the best beauty advice you've ever been given?
"Stay away from the sun, moisturize your face, and though we joke about how 'black don't crack,' I feel like the reason is that...I have oily skin, and I feel like that moisture keeps my skin from wrinkling. So, it's kind of a gift and a curse."
And who gave you that advice?
"My mom. I always follow my mom's advice, because I think she looks great for her age. You have to look to your parents to find out what you'll look like in 20 years."
Saada sitting pretty in her living room. 3.1 Phillip Lim dress and jacket, ASOS shoes.
Are you into natural beauty products and treatments?
"When possible, I try to use all-natural things. These are things that my mom taught me when I was younger — she would put egg on her face or there's this mask that all East African women do that's ground-up tumeric, sandalwood, lemon, and dough. You use it as an exfoliant. That's what my mom used to use on her skin, and she still uses it to this day. I'll also do a scrub with sugar. If I do any beauty regimen, it's with all-natural things."
Hold up: Did you say egg on your face?
"I use an egg white mask on my face. I'll keep it on for about 15 minutes. It clears all of the dirt off and it tightens your skin. I'll do it every two weeks or so."
Where do you stand on lipstick: Are you a bold girl or more of the barely-there type?
"It depends on your outfit. Like, I would never wear lipstick with pastel colors. I just feel like it clashes. There are certain colors that look right with certain outfits. If I'm wearing white, or black, or neutrals, I'll wear a bright lip. If I'm wearing something bright…I just don't think it looks right."
What bright colors do you usually favor?
"I like reds and oranges. I don't think pink looks right on my skin tone."
Saada applies one of her go-to lip hues, MAC Lipstick in Russian Red.
Vintage issues of Ebony and Essence in the living room.
Let's talk hair — yours is kind of amazing.
"Well, I stopped eating meat for a few months, like for maybe six months, and my hair changed. For the worse. So, now I'm eating meat again, and I'm also using different products to bring the curl back."
Have you always worn your hair natural?
"I don't like that word, 'natural.' It's like a new thing. Natural. It's just your hair. No other race says 'Oh, your hair is natural.'
So you don't have any issues with girls who press or relax their hair?
"I think it doesn't matter. If you want to wear your hair straight, then wear it straight. I'll wear my hair straight, I'll flat iron it or get a blow out — one of those Dominican blow outs. But it shouldn't be your identity, like 'Oh, I'm a natural-hair girl.' I've been on natural-hair blogs, but i'm like 'No, I don't want to be put into that box.'"
It's funny, because we just interviewed Iman and she said basically the same thing — that she doesn't want to be considered a traitor to her race just because she wants to wear her hair a certain way. Do you agree with her?
"I totally agree. Just because it's an Afro, it's natural? What if I naturally had wavy hair? Does that discredit my blackness?"
Yanghi shirt and full-length skirt, Casio watch.
So, what do you use on your hair?
"I use an all-natural shampoo and i try to only wash my hair once or twice every two weeks because it's very, very dry. Like, it drinks water. I comb it out with my fingers because I don't want it to tear, and then I put in the deep conditioner and let it sit, for maybe a half an hour. I use a deep conditioner maybe once every two weeks. Then I wash it out, scrunch it up and let it air-dry. I do not blow dry my hair. So, if it's winter, I have to wash my hair the day before."
Why no blow dryer?
"I don't like using too much heat on my hair because it's already damaged."
Are you into using oils on your hair?
"I kinda got into the Morroccanoil thing, but generally, no."
Saada's hair and skin essentials: Kérastase Oléo-Curl Curl Definition Cream, DevaCurl Heaven in Hair Intense Moisture Treatment, Creme of Nature Kiwi & Citrus Ultra Moisturizing Shampoo, Bliss Fabulous Foaming Face Wash, Aura Cacia Organic Restoring Rose Hip Oil.
Do you style your hair differently, or is it always in an Afro?
"I wear my hair straight sometimes — I'll get it blown out at the Dominican salon. And if I do get it straightened, I don't put that much product on it — just a bit of John Frieda Frizz-Ease Hair Serum
. I wear my hair up sometimes when it's curly and I try to just roll it up when I go to sleep, just so it doesn't get tangled. I don't really do that much — I'm so boring!" [Editor's note: We strongly disagree!]
Do you have any natural remedies or treatments that you use on your hair?
"Yeah, my mom put hot oil on my hair growing up, and then an egg rinse is good for shine."
"Yeah, egg is the go-to beauty thing! It's cheap, too. Like, I'm living in New York City — it's expensive. How am I going to go out and spend all of this money on products? And it's probably better for me anyway…there are a lot of chemicals in those products."
What about your nails — are you into nail art or polish?
"I am, but right now it's not looking that great! I didn't have time [to do my nails before the shoot]. I usually have gel nails. Always. Gel nails are the way to go. My nails chip so easily, so gel nails last two or three weeks. And now they have all of these great colors. So, that's my go-to nail thing. I'm not into nail art, but I am into Henna — if I don't have anything on my nails, I'll usually put henna on my hands."
Where do you get it done?
"When I do the simple henna, I can just do it at home. Just the tips, not designs or anything. But if you do designs, in the Bronx there's this woman who does it that I love."