The Middle East’s rising TikTok stars are a formidable force in the beauty-verse. From makeup hacks to skincare chat, they’re resolute on being real with their audiences.
Having evolved beyond showcasing the little dances it came to be known for, TikTok has leapfrogged its way to becoming one of the most-used social media platforms, and the most globally downloaded app of 2022. While there’s still plenty of cringe choreo to be found on it, users are now turning to the platform to satisfy other interests, with beauty one of the breakout content categories. According to TikTok, the beauty vertical alone has had more than 236 billion views across the GCC and Egypt, for the past six months. Using an algorithm that the platform says is sensitive to each user’s individual interests, Middle Eastern women soon found they could easily fill their feed with ladies who look like them, relate to them, and have the same regional beauty quibbles as them. Uploading videos showing hair care that works under a headscarf, sweat-proof setiing spray tricks, and tutorials for easy Eid looks, the region’s up-and-coming TikTokers, or “creators,” as the platform calls them, can share beauty content that is important to them, and in turn, relevant to their likeminded audience. With a Colosseum-style interactivity– the crowd decides what content becomes popular. These are the Arab creators who have stood out for their singular interpretation of digital beauty.
Maha Ali, @fashion.chaserr
Venturing into TikTok at the beginning of 2020, Maha Ali whiled away lockdown showcasing her favorite beauty products, and go-to modest fashion picks. Posting on her account, the 22-year-old Emirati has now built an audience following her “passport photo makeup” video (9.9 million views), with a down-to-earth attitude winning over followers. Joining the third season of the Sephora Middle East Sephora Squad, the full-time biotechnology student creates videos with what she says is TikTok’s most in-demand attribute – authenticity. “I’m always saying that I just want to be my followers’ virtual best friend and sister,” explains Ali. As an Emirati woman who chooses to dress modestly and embraces cultural style such as the burqa in her looks, she says she wants to empower others, especially her younger audience. “For decades, women have been scarred by beauty standards, and now authenticity is way more valuable.” @fashion.chaserr
Nadine Hossam, @thenadinehossam
With her mass of bouncy natural curls, ankh pendant, and penchant for TikTok’s lip-syncing format, Egyptian Nadine Hossam uses the platform to combine her colorful looks with trending Arab pop. Based in Dubai, Hossam had her first viral moment – collecting millions of views overnight – with a video lip-syncing to an Arabic skit as she did her makeup, a format known as GRWM or “get ready with me.” “Unfiltered beauty content is for everyone. We all have texture, pores, and imperfections, and it is time we all see what makeup really looks like in reality– no filters, no smoothing,” urges the 21-year-old management student. “My videos are for the girls who think glamming up is hard and learn it through my videos, for women who do not see a lot of acne on social media and think something is wrong with them, and for those having a tough time and maybe watching funny beauty content brightens up their day.”
Basma Salman, @makeupbybasma
No stranger to the beauty world, 34-year-old makeup artist Basma Salman was already familiar with content creation after enjoying success on Instagram, leading to her own launches and collaborations with brands MAC, Fenty, and Huda Beauty. She adapted her handle to the fast-paced TikTok format in late 2019, with her expert style lending authority to her beauty hacks and trend breakdowns. Her educational series dedicated to teaching everyday techniques to makeup beginners in a bite-sized format has been a hit, with the first of these landing six million views. The Bahraini creator says that her followers appreciate her authenticity about “women’s struggles to feel connected and heard,” alongside her makeup advice. “They want real content that keeps them entertained at the same time as adding value to their skills and knowledge,” says Salman. “I have gained women’s trust over the years because I will always respect my audience over any brand collaboration.”
Nouran Tarek Elsayed, @with.nouran
Having trained at Samer Khouzami’s makeup academy in Lebanon, Nouran Tarek Elsayed converted her artistry experience into digital content, joining TikTok in mid-July 2021. Uploading a quick tutorial on how to define eyebrows using powder, herfirst attempt on the app notched up more than a million views by end of day. “When I saw how interative the community is, I became obsessed and started creating content only and specifically for TikTok,” shares Elsayed. She was awarded by TikTok Middle East as a top beauty creator for 2022. Now the hijab-wearing 28-year-old’s goal is to demystify makeup techniques for an audience including busy mothers and younger teens. “For the past 10 years, makeup developed a lot of steps that could be overwhelming for some.” The Egyptian says that she sees her TikTok page as a comfort zone, where she can encourage positivity, emphasizing, “It’s okay to look tired, exhausted, or pale – it’s okay to have a bad skin day.”
Hadeel Ayman Altaweel, @hadeelartist
Hadeel Ayman Altaweel says she used to narrate her makeup application to an imaginary audience well before she started a career in the field. Now 22, the Palestinian makeup artist has graduated to demonstrating pop culture-inspired looks on her account, in addition to working full time as a social media specialist. Based in Saudi Arabia, Altaweel tries out global trends – a hijabi Wednesday Addams look features on her feed – along with practical advice like how to style full brows. Her videos lean toward wearable makeup looks like contouring and illuminating hacks, to simple skincare advice for younger skin. “I find beauty in every face, so why not help women with the best ways to amplify it more effectively,” she explains.
Originally published in the March 2023 issue of Vogue Arabia
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