Burb Beauty | Muslim women are showing off their insane nail art in ‘nelfies’
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Muslim women are showing off their insane nail art in ‘nelfies’

SoH is a women-only salon in Dubai that offers “Snow White” pedicures, temporary tattoos and an array of rainbow- or unicorn-hair color services. But its most popular feature, according to the lifestyle site Refinery29, is the “nelfie.”

A “nelfie” is when a client gets her self-portrait painted on her nails, which she then, of course, shares on Instagram. And SoH’s “nelfies” are the ne plus ultra of nail art: flower-crowned Snapchat-filtered selfies, mother-and-child diptychs, even entire family photos re-created in loving, painstaking detail on a single tip.

The practice is both celebratory and subversive. As SoH owner Sally Soheili told Refinery29, “This is a culture where for some people, it might not necessarily be a social norm for you to showcase your face or beauty on social media.” In other words, the nelfie allows women a way to share her image, her favorite outfit or her particular beauty routine with friends and family without worrying about appearing too proud or exhibitionist.

Social media — particularly Instagram and Snapchat — are often derided as encouraging narcissism. But women in places like the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia (one of the youngest nations in the world, in terms of population) are using social media as a powerful means of self-expression. And Muslim Instagrammers, including Hipster Hijabi’s Summer Albarcha, utilize the photo-sharing platform to show the world a different side of Islam, and that Muslim women can dress playfully and fashionably while observing their religion. SoH’s nelfies are just the latest example of that.

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