Persian Beauty Secrets From Artist Sadaf Nava: DIY Face Masks to Embracing the Unibrow

If ever you’ve seen Sadaf Nava’s eye-popping performance art and video work, you’ll notice that she’s able to make a huge impact with the most minimal of devices. Whether she’s encasing her body in elastic rubber bands to further a conversation on the manipulation of the female form or dancing in front of her computer screen among a swirl of infrared colors in a lo-fi music video, the New York–based Iranian-Canadian artist, whose work has been featured in the prestigious Performa biennial, has a DIY approach to her craft. And, as it turns out, the same could be said for her beauty routine.

The stunning artist eschews a hairdresser, regular manicures, or the drugstore aisle, instead using her beauty regimen as a chance to connect with herself. From growing out her unibrow and conditioning her enviable mane of curls to whipping up turmeric facial masks passed down to her mother, Nava creates her own magic in the bathroom while bringing her Persian roots into the mix. Here, as Persian New Year kicks off, Nava lets us in on her native beauty secrets.

Take a DIY Approach
I think my family passed along a very DIY ethos [when it comes to beauty]. I don’t go to the hairdresser; I don’t go the nail salon, and I don’t go to the spa. I do it all myself. I think it’s important to know your body, and once you do, you yourself will know what works best. I also get satisfaction from perfecting my own rituals: cutting my own hair, doing my own nails. Another important factor is using natural ingredients. The beauty aisles can be dizzying, and it’s good to keep it simple.

Embrace the Unibrow
I have threaded my eyebrows once or twice, and I never seemed to be able to pick it up! I naturally have a unibrow and hated it when I was a teenager, so I would pluck my eyebrows to oblivion. Even as a kid, I remember I would draw faces without eyebrows—I thought everyone would look better without them! Now in my paintings, the eyebrows are always connected and very prominent and reminiscent of the Persian Safavid era. After age 18, I kept them pretty thick but very groomed, and now I am on my way back to my preadolescent au naturel look and have stopped tweezing them completely! I am trying to bring back the Frida Kahlo–esque unibrow I was born with, and I even darken them with pencil to a point of excess.

Find a Statement Lip Shade
Right now I’m kind of at war with the drugstore, and I always alternate face creams, so there isn’t one brand I love. But makeup is a whole other ballpark: I love drugstore makeup, and Revlon has a lipstick color called Persian Melon—it’s a very Malibu Barbie pink.

Make Your Own Face Masks
My mom makes this mask out of yogurt and henna and honey that is very good. The yogurt cuts the color of the henna so you don’t turn completely orange. But it’s got great benefits—it moisturizes and purifies the skin. I use turmeric now, too; it’s also really popular in India. I use bentonite clay, activated charcoal, honey, and turmeric. Also, baking soda is great for acne.

Line Your Eyes
My favorite look is a winged liner. I always use a liquid eyeliner; felt-tip ones work better for me. I’ve tried Kajal for under the eye; it’s kind of smudgy, so it’s actually great for a smoky look.

Fight Frizz Naturally
My hair is naturally really, really curly. I use an insane amount of leave-in conditioner. Recently I’ve also sprayed it with a mixture of glycerin and water, added a tiny bit of oil—a mix of jojoba, almond, coconut, avocado, and rose hip—and then sealed it with a styling cream.


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