With 288,000 Instagram followers, Sahur Saleim knows a thing or two about giving an audience what they want. The type of content she puts out? Makeup tutorials, which she’s been posting online for nearly a decade. In addition, she runs two beauty businesses: Sahur’s Art Beauty, a cosmetics range; and Sahur’s Art Academy, which holds makeup masterclasses. The 24-year-old talks to us about her entrepreneurial ventures, being skin-positive and why she doesn’t think she places too much emphasis on beauty.
Tell us more about Sahur’s Art Beauty and Sahur’s Art Academy.
Sahur’s Art Beauty makes products that are not only vegan and cruelty-free, but also designed with inclusivity in mind, which means they complement a variety of complexions and undertones. As for Sahur’s Art Academy, it’s a platform for beauty education. Having been in the industry for the past seven years, I have a ton of knowledge on beauty techniques and products, and among other things I hope this knowledge helps consumers make more informed purchasing decisions.
How are your products different from others in the market?
The products are inspired by fine art pieces. For example, our palettes Mona and Starry take inspiration from what we think Da Vinci and Van Gogh’s oil paint palettes would have looked like when [they were] working on their famous pieces. The Mona palette has an array of pinks, oranges and browns while Starry has yellows and blues.
You’re known for being skin-positive. What does that mean in terms of how you present yourself on social media?
It’s about depicting my skin as it is—to be honest about my skin and how it changes. A lot of digital content creators feel the pressure to look their best every single time, so they opt for drastic surgical procedures or use editing apps. While I agree these tools can help with the mental health of the users, they push false standards of beauty onto the audience. Who can look so good all the time? To me, it’s a really tricky situation where one party is always feeling worse off. As such, I try my best to show my skin as it is even on the bad days. I don’t like to use smoothing or blurring filters on Instagram stories and always turn off Beauty mode on TikTok.
Have you ever felt undermined for being an influencer?
A bunch of times—people don’t take my career seriously and I have had to constantly prove myself to those around me. I sometimes get mean comments, but I’ve come to accept that I just cannot please everyone. I deal [with it] by focusing on the bright side of things.
How do you stay confident?
By working hard and bringing professionalism into every project. Setbacks are hard to avoid, so it’s important to remember why I started and use that as a reason to keep going.
What’d you say to someone who thinks that you place too much emphasis on beauty?
I’d disagree—I’m not always out and about in heels and a full face of makeup. I enjoy exploring different techniques but it doesn’t come from a place of needing to look a certain way for validation, in the same way a personal trainer helps others shape up without imposing unhealthy body standards. Everything in moderation! I find meaning in what I do because I consider makeup to be my art form, but while I’m happy to teach people how to enhance their features, I also accept that it’s not a necessity.
How has the way in which you engage with your audience evolved over the years?
The algorithm is constantly changing and I have had to adapt. People used to enjoy long, chatty videos, but with the rise of TikTok, it’s all about creating maximum impact in the shortest time span. I used to create a lot of images, but these days I’m more focused on creating short-form videos!
Tell us some challenges you’ve had in running your own businesses.
We launched in the middle of the pandemic, so our start was far from rosy. Plus, in being an indie brand, we’ve had to put in a lot of work to distinguish ourselves from other brands out there. We try our best to maintain a comfortable working environment and place emphasis on taking rest and sufficient breaks. This keeps us going during the tough times, especially with how small the team is.
What about creative burnout—how do you ensure that you always have new ideas?
I’d say rest is key. You have to allow your mind and body to recharge and that means taking time off work and participating in other activities. I always feel most refreshed and creative after a restful weekend.
What do you get up to outside of work?
I like painting and strength training. With the pandemic, I felt listless being at home all the time, so I engaged a personal trainer and it has been my best investment ever. I’ve been having the best sleep and [I] feel so strong.
You got married recently. What are some of the things you’re adapting to as a wife?
After five years of being in a long-distance relationship, I can finally go back to a decent sleep schedule as my husband now lives here. That’s been great!
In your experience, how much do Singaporean men know about makeup?
I think with the surge in online beauty content, more men are beginning to understand makeup. My own family knows way more about makeup than I can believe! That said, with the advancement of products, it can be hard to tell when a person has makeup on. One can wear a full face of makeup that gives a no-makeup look.
Share with us a simple skincare routine any dude can (and should) do.
Moisturiser, sunscreen and lip balm.
It’s important that men also put in effort to have a skincare routine because…
The skin is our largest organ and we ought to take care of it. We also have to be consistent with our sun care, given our tropical climate.
What’s next for you?
We’re hoping to expand our product range to fulfil our audience’s requests for more unique products!
Photography: Hazirah Rahim
Fashion Editor: Gordon Ng
Photography assistance: David Bay
Grooming: Sha Shams
This story was first published in the November 2022 issue of Esquire Singapore.