From millions of followers on social media to their own namesake labels, these are the Saudi makeup artists innovating the industry one look at a time.
“I remember the first time I was told my work inspired someone,” begins Hessa Alajaji. “It made me feel like I actually touched people with art. It was humbling yet motivating at the same time.” Born and raised in Riyadh, Alajaji is part of the new generation of makeup artists. “Since it’s a relatively new industry here and growing fast, sometimes it feels like a race but in a good way,” she explains. Her Instagram feed catches your eye instantly. Models showcase clean, glossy skin, a hint of blush, and vivid colors. Experimenting with graphic eyes, she’s not afraid to think out of the box – one post features purple brows and another, yellow eyeshadow with graphic red liner modeled by Shahad Salman. When asked about her aesthetic, she shares, “It changes but I find that, at a pinch, I always go back to minimal and clean with a pop of color.” As for what the future holds? “I’m working on launching my own brushes by the end of 2019, fingers crossed.”
For Waad Altarki, makeup began as a hobby. “I used to try it on my friends and family members. Now it’s my job,” she says. Things weren’t always as simple for the Riyadh-based artist. At the beginning of her career, she was alone – “everybody was against my will to pursue this career.” Her mother saw how determined she was, though. “She started helping me by providing a space for me to work at home, buying makeup tools, and highlighting the importance of beauty. From the very beginning, my parents were the ones who helped and allowed me to progress in my career.” Sharing her work on Instagram was a defining push in her career. “At that time, there were only a few Saudi makeup artists on Instagram. A while later, the demand increased rapidly, and the work pressure was high. Social media helped me a lot,” she says. Now you can find Altarki hosting makeup masterclasses and working with international brands like Make Up For Ever and celebrities like Fouz Alfahad. Favoring a fresh makeup look, she focuses on highlighting her clients’ natural features. “Healthy skin, natural eyebrows that have a little bit of a spikey finish, a cat eye with no shadow or striking colors, a little highlight in the inner corner of the eye, thick lashes using mascara rather than extensions, and glossy lips,” is her signature look.
“The idea of it being a taboo made me so interested and fascinated by the idea of makeup,” begins Nouf Abdull. Based in Riyadh, she nurtured her love for the world of beauty by watching videos and mixing and matching the different techniques she saw. Her first professional experience was becoming a beauty advisor for Chanel. “What’s significant about my first job is that, when King Abdullah allowed women to have a broader role in society, in public shops, governments, and parliaments, I was one of the first females to work in that field.” After moving to MAC Cosmetics, she learned makeup artistry: “Creative looks that are more photo shoot-friendly,” she says. With more international brands looking to Saudi Arabia as a key beauty market, Abdull notes a shift in the industry. “The Saudi market is the largest in the Middle East. Most women work and can afford big brands. They want to test and be daring with new makeup looks that create their individual identity.” As for her personal approach, she says makeup is like therapy. “If you’re feeling powerful then the look is vibrant and if you’re feeling confident, then the natural look is the way to go.”
Nora Bo Awadh
“When I started this path, my family and everyone around me was so against it,” begins makeup artist Nora Bo Awadh. “I just turned a blind eye and kept going.” It didn’t take long for the same people to become supportive. Garnering more than 2.7 million followers on Instagram, she has come a long way since the days of her saving up her lunch money to buy an eyeshadow palette. “I started putting makeup on my friends when we would hang out, then I worked a summer job at a local salon and started getting an amazing reputation for my work,” she shares. Her next step was launching her namesake makeup line in 2016, with faux eyelashes. Since then, the brand has expanded with eight shades of matte lipstick and two makeup sponges. “I was inspired by the beauty of Saudi girls in particular,” she says, “Their eye shape and skin colors are the base of choosing all the colors of my lipsticks, and soon-to-launch glitters.”
Read Next: Model Luma Grothe Shares Her Top Beauty Tips