When the media discusses international beauty trends, the conversation is generally dominated by Korean companies, with a few obligatory "How to Whatever Like A French Girl" articles thrown in. But lately, we've noticed a growing number of beauty disciples turning their eyes to the Middle East.
From prominent Muslim beauty bloggers — Huda Kattan, Nura Afia, and Dalal AlDoub — to halal-certified beauty products, the Middle East, in our humble opinion, is the next big beauty hot spot.
Which is why we decided to bring on a beauty writer to tell us what's hip and happening on the Arabian Peninsula and beyond. Meet Shyema Azam, our official Middle East beauty correspondent. Shyema hails from Chicago and NYC, where she has written for pretty much every major women's magazine you can think of. She recently took a leap of faith and shipped herself off to Dubai to work with Kattan on her beauty line, Huda Beauty, and "immerse myself in learning about the culture of beauty in this part of the world."
"Relocating to Dubai has been my first immersion into the Arab culture (which I say loosely, because the majority of the people I’ve met in Dubai are expats). I’m hoping to travel more within the region while I’m here, but the makeup and beauty craze is real and I think women here really take it to the next level," she tells us. Shyema is a practicing Muslim who has traveled around the world and is semi-fluent in Arabic. "I still really suck at speaking it, but I can get by — mostly when I have to haggle in the souks," she says.
Each month, Shyema will report on everything from the best brands and products coming out of the region to the latest beauty stars. She'll also tackle heavy-hitting issues around Muslim beauty, and the misconceptions people have about the customs of many religions in the Middles East (or personal choices by women) to be more modest or to cover themselves. And there will be plenty of exploration into the very diverse mix of beauty and grooming rituals of women all over the region, including Isreali, Persian, Turkish, and Armenian, among others.
I think it’d be a mistake to assume that women who cover are drab or uninteresting because they choose not to show all of themselves in public.
"Muslim beauty is hard to define since it’s such a mix of culture and, for some, religious beliefs. As a Muslim, I can say there is just a wide range of how women express themselves and the way they practice their faith," she explains. "Some choose to cover, some don’t, but I think it’d be a mistake to assume that women who cover are drab or uninteresting because they choose not to show all of themselves in public. On the contrary, you learn there are so many ways they still express themselves — a big part of the [Muslim] faith is focused on cleanliness and finding the beauty in all things inside and out, while still remaining modest."
In her short time in Dubai, Shyema has seen plenty of trends — "that brow game is strong here" — and just how invested and well-versed many Arabic women are in all things beauty. "Women here are on top of what’s new and trendy in beauty, so I think it’s important to pay attention to what happens here. Locals are voracious in their consumption of the newest and the best. Price is not an object for many of them." She adds, "To me there’s a stark difference in how women here are perceived in the West, and how fierce [Arabic women] really are in expressing themselves through cosmetics and fragrances."
As for what you can expect from her column? In addition to all the cool product and trend news, she hopes you'll get the chance to see "a more positive, interesting side to the Middle East than you're normally fed from the news — there’s a whole vivacious culture that is expressed through the arts and beauty here that I don’t think gets enough spotlight."
Check out Shyema's first post — an exclusive insider peek at Kattan's massive makeup closet, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter for up-to-the-minute dispatches from her travels. Let her know in the comments below what kinds of stories you want to see her cover.