Our Hair Don’t Care: In Conversation with Sumaia Saiboub on Hijab Hair Care

by Alyx Carolus

In a series exploring the complicated relationships we, as women, hold with our hair throughout our lives, All the Pretty Birds introduces ‘Our Hair, Don’t Care’, an installment series of women we love sharing their personal beauty journeys.


Growing up in Italy as a young Muslim woman, #COCI2020 digital talent and regular contributor Sumaia Saiboub has shared many of her stories with All The Pretty Birds. She’s written about the difficulties when tackling racism in Italy and how she’s thriving despite the adversity she has faced. This time, we wanted to speak to her about hair care and what that means for a woman wearing a hijab. She shares some of her favorite hair care products, common misconceptions about hijab hair care and more. 


All the Pretty Birds: Growing up in Italy as a Muslim woman, did you have any standout childhood memories around your hair?

Sumaia Saiboub: Oh yes I do! People were always obsessed with my hair, because it’s naturally very curly and that used to get me mesmerized stares, compliments and those occasional annoying people who want to touch any hair texture that’s not straight.


ATPB: What are some misconceptions that exist around hijab hair care?

SS: Where do I start? Because there are so many! So many people I met either thought I was bald underneath the scarf or keeping it super short and taking zero care of it. Followed by those who think that I’ve never seen a hairdresser and such. I dare say, there is one big misconception around hair care when you’re a hijabi: most people assume you don’t take care of your hair.

ATPB: You’ve mentioned that you started wearing hijab in around 2010. How did your transition to wearing a hijab adjust your hair care routine?


SS: Well, first things first it started needing less washing, because I was keeping it covered whenever I was outside, that also applied to anti frizzle products. But on the other hand I had to start using lotions for curl definition and make the conscious effort to keep it loose, whenever I have nowhere to show up to.


ATPB: How do you tackle conversations about this component of your faith that is often widely misunderstood?

SS: Personally, I read and listened enough to all of the very superficial narration that mainstream media created around it, that I’m at a point now where I know what creates discomfort in people when they see a woman in hijab. After assuring people that no one forced me to wear anything, comes the reminder that we have plenty more to disagree on. When it comes to how we conduct our lives, if we all value our freedom as much as we claim , we must also protect our freedom to be different.


ATPB: Western (European) hair ideals tend to dominate the beauty market. Have you seen lack in the market as a woman with textured hair? As a woman who wears a hijab? What is the best solution to fill the gap?

SS: Oh, yes I did! I started noticing it when I was a teenager, the products that worked amazingly for my friends with wavy hair, didn’t have the same results on my own. It took me a few years, several trials, and some online shopping. I managed to find products that wouldn’t stain my scarf or make my hair greasy after applying them. I think the best solution to fill the gap if you wear hijab is to go online, check blogs, and other user generated content that can fill you in terms of products for your needs, because the right products exist. You just have to look for them a little bit harder. 

ATPB: Wearing a scarf can be a form of protective styling, but it’s important to nourish the hair underneath – do you have any favorite products you love using?

SS: When I’m showering after washing off the conditioner, I apply a deep conditioning mask and on dry hair I apply a nourishing spray daily.


ATPB: What hair care advice would you give to any young woman hoping to start wearing hijab in the future?

S: My top two tips for hijab hair care are don’t tie your hair too tight and if you feel like your scalp isn’t breathing to avoid ‘undercaps’ or choose better fabrics. Hijab isn’t one size fits all. 


ATPB:If you had to put all the important needs that come with hair care for hijab into one product, what would it be?

SS: That would most certainly combine necessary vitamins for the scalp, adequate hydration, and assist with protecting hair length.


ATPB: What can brands do to be more inclusive when it comes to hair care for hijab wearing women? Are there any brands that you favor who have enhanced your hair journey?

SS: I think brands should consider further developing their lines for textured hair, especially those in Western Europe, they don’t offer enough range. As I have mentioned before I have tried and tried until I found Frank Provost shampoo, conditioner, and anti-knot spray for curly hair, but when it comes to my dry hair I feel it’s still an ongoing journey.


Keep up with Sumaia Saiboub by following her on Instagram!


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OHDC: Candace Stewart 


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