Feeling beautiful without labels is powerful. Basma Hameed knows this. When she was two years old, a kitchen accident left her with third-degree burns on her face. Instantly, she became “the girl with the scar,” or the “burn survivor,” repeatedly told by people throughout her childhood that she would never be successful because of her skin discolouration.
She didn’t listen. Around the age of seven, she began experimenting with makeup, which helped her feel empowered and confident. By the age of 17, the Toronto-raised teen developed a dermal treatment (now called the paramedical micropigmentation procedure) that helped camouflage her scar and restore the natural colour of her skin by using special pigments in a method similar to general tattooing. This discovery eventually led to opening her first clinic in Toronto in 2009. Shortly after, her story went viral and people started flying in from around the world for her procedure. In 2015, she opened a Beverly Hills location where she now treats celebrities and influencers such as Jordyn Woods, Chris Appleton, Black Chyna, Nazanin Kavari, and Daisy Marquez.
Along the way, she was still experimenting with makeup. Growing up, she was often pigeonholed into the “scar-friendly” makeup category which left her with limited shade (and often cakey) options and no creative flexibility. Plus, she couldn’t relate to major beauty brands because no one in their advertisements looked like her. That’s why she started Basma Beauty. “We all have insecurities or something that bothers us. We shouldn’t label a person or box them in,” Hameed tells Refinery29.
The brand launched its first product, The Foundation Stick this week. Not only is the packaging Instagram-ready, the product itself is a game-changer, suitable for all skin tones, conditions, and textures. The hydrating and lightweight, buildable formula comes in 40 shades with special attention to skin tone and undertone. Hameed and her team spent four years perfecting the formula, which has a creamy texture courtesy of hero ingredient apricot butter ,which nourishes and softens without leaving skin feeling greasy, while aloe vera and vitamin E improve skin elasticity and deliver antioxidants to increase skin moisture.
Below, I spoke with Hameed about freedom from labels, how her work as a medical micropigmentation specialist informed the brand, and how people just want to be seen.
Tell me about your relationship with makeup growing up.
After my accident, I was left with bright red discolouration on my face. I started using makeup really young to cover up the redness. I was a baby. I didn’t know much at first, but throughout the years I learned how to colour correct; I knew what exact colours to use to cover up the redness and hyperpigmentation spots. Makeup was an escape because it made me feel like a different person. I felt more empowered after applying it and I had a boost of confidence when I left the house with my makeup on.
How did this lead to developing your own dermal procedure?
I always knew I wanted to make a difference in the world but I didn’t know how. I started thinking about permanent cosmetics and thought if we could do eyebrows, eyeliner, and lips, why can’t we implant pigment in scar tissue? I was 16 or 17 at the time and knew a lot of plastic surgeons in Toronto because of my experience with different hospitals. I sat down with them to discuss my thoughts and they all said the same thing: that it was the worst idea for two reasons. The first being that scar tissue wouldn’t hold pigment and the second being that it could age poorly. That only motivated me more. I studied medical aesthetics at George Brown College and I learned everything about pigmentation and how to implant it in the skin. Then, I started mixing my own pigments and started working on myself. This led to discovering scar camouflage, which helped the appearance of skin discolouration. At the clinic, I started treating everything from burns to surgical scars. That was a full circle moment because I knew what the power of makeup did for me personally. To be honest, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the confidence it gave me.
How did your background as a medical micropigmentation specialist inform the product development process? Makeup brands have finally woken up to making products shade inclusive, but making inclusive makeup for all skin types, textures, and conditions has been your goal from the start.
For the last 17 years, I’ve worked on so many different skin types, which played a huge role during the four years I spent working on The Foundation Stick. All people want is a formula that feels nice on our skin. We want it to be breathable, yet still offer coverage that isn’t muddy or heavy. I really understand that. I didn’t have to think twice about offering a shade range with 40 skin tones. It’s unacceptable to come out with fewer shades, and realistically, it’s very hard to match your skin colour within a 10-shade range. From my experience, I knew exactly what shades I needed. I don’t think there are lots of brands offering this many options for stick foundation, but a wide shade range should be standard.
Speaking of stick foundation, what made you opt for this format over liquid or powder?
Application was very important to me and I wanted something people could easily apply. To be able to carry it anywhere without the mess was also a big deal. The goal was liquid foundation in a stick format that was still creamy. With stick foundation, you need to make sure it has a buttery texture so it doesn’t pull on your skin during application. That’s why we have the apricot butter as a key ingredient to ensure it applies smoothly. It took a long time to perfect it but we got there.
Skin tone + undertone = perfect shade. You're a colour-correcting genius so walk me (and other beauty newbies) through this process.
Your skin tone refers to the colour of your skin on the surface whereas your undertone is the subtle colour underneath. For example, if you have dark under eye circles, you want to use warm colours (which have orange tones) to correct the (blue) undertone in the skin. If you use a cool colour, it’ll make your dark circles appear stronger. We built a shade finder on our website so you don’t have to be an expert to find your perfect match. Education is an important part of the brand and we want people to know they can use the foundation to help with melasma, sun spots, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation. Our Instagram skin guide is very helpful.
Do you have any personal takeaways you’d like to share with readers?
When I was younger, I would shop for makeup and the associates would see my face and recommend brands that were specifically for scars or vitiligo. That made me feel a certain way, I didn’t like that. I always thought when the right time came, I’d create something without labelling it. I wanted it to be for everyone and have them be proud and not ashamed to shop. Basma Beauty is that freedom. Whether it takes you two minutes or two hours to get ready, it doesn’t matter. We already have enough in this world to deal with. Makeup is something you can enjoy and have freedom with. I just want people to do what they’re comfortable with and my experience has taught me the importance of being unapologetically true to yourself.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
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