How the industry’s most popular influencer built an empire by touting banana boob masks and addressing her beauty issues with refreshing candor.
Written By NATALIA GARDUÑO
In a new series, VIOLET GREY profiles female beauty entrepreneurs who are considered industry game changers for their individual approach to business. Each one entered the conversation in her own manner and maintained a steady, if not unparalleled, trajectory with her indomitable spirit.
Huda Kattan, the Dubai-based social media beauty megastar, has more than 20 million followers on Instagram alone—that’s ten times more than renowned makeup artists Pat McGrath and Charlotte Tilbury combined. YouTube can't seem to get enough of her either. Kattan's channel currently tallies a staggering 1.8 million subscribers who are obsessed with her bizarre beauty hacks such as Toothbrush Blackhead Remover (boasting over 9 million views) and Banana Boob Lift. She swears the latter is, “really easy and it’s great for tightening the skin.” The one-woman powerhouse has been commanding clicks since the launch of her blog Huda Beauty, but her numbers haven't always read like MVP stats.
“I didn’t make any money for the first four years. It was tough. I had a very idealistic approach to blogging,” confesses Kattan, whose beauty career started long before she published her first post in 2010. “By the time I was 14, I was actually quite good at doing makeup,” she says, recalling her original clients which included her then-teenage-sisters and their friends. But Kattan was determined to take a big-picture approach and to turn her blog into a full-fledged brand. Before long, legions of beauty-obsessed fans began tuning into her YouTube and Instagram accounts for tutorials that paired expert-level artistry with a sense of humor and relatability. A star was born.
Today, Huda Beauty is a global empire. The world-famous blog ranks is the top-ranking cosmetics site in the Middle East, and has helped to put Dubai on the beauty industry map. Kattan has graced the international covers of Harper’s Bazaar and Cosmopolitan, and garnered an international clientele for her best-selling line of cosmetics, false nails, and lashes (of which Kim Kardashian is a fan). Unlike many of her vlogging competitors, the makeup mogul is more than willing to share the spotlight with fellow gurus. Her roster of YouTube guests includes celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin, Shiffa founder Dr. Lamees Hamdan, and artist Charlotte Tilbury who couldn’t help but gush, “It’s been one of my dreams to do Huda’s makeup. I’m like wait, I finally got Huda in my chair after all these years!”
But what truly sets Kattan apart is her blatant honesty and grounded charm. For example, she candidly discusses her body issues, use of Photoshop and plastic surgeries. And instead of using WWD’s title of “Digital Innovator,” Kattan continues to humbly refer to herself as a beauty blogger. “I feel like that's appropriate for me because that's how I started, and I feel like that can inspire people too. Maybe people will feel like, ‘Hey, I could start out that way too!’”
What is the atmosphere of your bedroom?
I rarely get any sleep, so I know investing in sleep is super important! My bedroom is ahhhmazing! We have a mini-cinema and a huge bed (big enough for the whole family to sleep in—literally!).
Please describe your bed and your favorite thing about it.
I am obsessed with our mattress! We had our bed custom made, and it’s been one of the best investments.
What time do you wake up?
Usually around 7 a.m.
How many hours of sleep do you require?
Five to six hours minimum, but if I can, I like to aim for eight or nine.
Any bedside beauty essentials?
I always have La Mer lip balm and Hand Chemistry Intense Youth Complex next to me. I also like to have Revitalash Eyelash Serum nearby for easy application before bed.
Do you drink coffee or tea, eat breakfast?
I usually like to have an omelette for breakfast or some fresh fruit with Greek yogurt. I swear by Bulletproof Coffee. I always have a cup of it. Ever since I’ve started drinking Bulletproof I’ve just had so much more energy and been more focused throughout the day! I also drink collagen every morning.
Do you work out in the a.m.?
I love to do yoga in the morning, but it’s not always possible with my schedule. Working out can range from dancing around in my closet to going up and down the stairs in our home. I like to keep things different and fun! A workout can never feel like work to me, otherwise I’ll lose interest.
What is your morning skincare regimen?
I don’t wash my face in the morning. I splash it with water and dab it dry with a bamboo cloth. Then I use Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herb and Rosewater, followed by Aerin Rose Oil, and then SkinCeuticals Skin Firming Cream. I also love the Anne Semonin Super Active Contour Serum for around my eye area.
What makeup and products do you use on a daily basis?
The one product I always have with me is our Lip Contour in Trendsetter. I am obsessed with it. My everyday makeup routine consists of our foundation (which we’re launching soon), our 3D Highlighter Palette in Golden Sands, our Rose Gold Eyeshadow Palette (my fave shades are Henna and Sandalwood), and our Faux Mink Lashes in Farah. I also like to use the Benefit ka-BROW! to do my brows. If I want to add a bit of extra color to my cheeks, I use Estée Lauder x Victoria Beckham Bronzer in Java Sun and Marc Jacobs Air Blush.
What’s your hair situation in the a.m.?
I don’t have a lot of time in the morning to do my hair, so I usually just rock a messy bun and straighten a few pieces to frame my face. Sometimes I apply some coconut oil on my hair and just leave it in the whole day. This leaves my hair feeling super smooth! If I wash my hair in the morning, I tie it in a specific way so it dries nicely with my curls. Then I don’t really need to style it because it has air-dried.
What’s the first thing you read each morning?
I know it’s really odd, but the first thing I do is browse through Instagram and LinkedIn. I am obsessed with those platforms. I like to see what’s happening and what people are up to. I find the articles on LinkedIn really interesting because they cover so many topics, from business to beauty to lifestyle, and I spend quite a bit of time reading them.
What business do you conduct before 10:00 a.m.?
I’m a big believer in routines and planning. Although I spend most of my time in meetings, I always set aside time for personal planning in the evenings and mornings. Once I get to the office, I take 30 minutes to plan for the day ahead and get into the right mind-set. I know it’s going to be a storm of meetings after that, so I make sure I am calm and collected. During these 30 minutes I go through my agenda for the day, start with my makeup, and try to relax as much as I can. After that, I am flooded by meetings with various departments, like product development, finance, marketing, retail, and HR.
What time do you head to your office?