“I never thought I could be part of the beauty industry”: Meet the burn survivor whose makeup line is now at Sephora

When Basma Hameed was two, a kitchen accident left severe scarring on her face. Her search for a foolproof foundation led her to create her own brand, which has been repped by Kourtney Kardashian

By Nour Abi Nakhoul
“I never thought I could be part of the beauty industry”: Meet the burn survivor whose makeup line is now at Sephora
Photo courtesy of Basma Hameed

Basma Hameed grew up in Iraq, where, at two years old, a kitchen accident resulted in third-degree burns across her face. A few years later, she discovered an aptitude for makeup, a skill that she used to bolster her confidence by minimizing the visibility of her scars. But, as her cosmetic skills grew, so did her dissatisfaction with the beauty industry. So she took matters into her own hands. In 2021, she launched her makeup brand, Basma Beauty, with a line of foundation sticks for both scarred and unscarred skin. The TikTok-viral product has been repped by Kourtney Kardashian, and this spring, its 40 shades made their way onto the shelves at Sephora. Hameed spoke with us about being a beauty prodigy and why the industry needs as many shades as it can get.

How did you first get interested in cosmetics? When I was two, hot oil splashed across my face, giving me third-degree burns. It left me with a lot of scarring. Suddenly, that was the first thing people noticed about me. I got a lot of nasty comments and was bullied. Then, when I was six, I found a bottle of foundation. I put it on and immediately fell in love. It boosted my confidence right away, and people started treating me like any other kid. I stopped trying to avoid going to school.

When I think of six-year-olds wearing makeup, I get a vision of carnival face paint. How did you learn to use it all properly? This was before the makeup tutorial era. I just experimented with products I borrowed from my mom or my many aunts. It was very intuitive. I taught myself colour correcting without knowing what that was—I was just trying to balance the discolouration from my burns.

So you were a makeup prodigy of sorts. Were you already noticing potential areas of product improvement? Yes. I could never find a shade that was exactly right for my skin. And, because I have both scar tissue and unscarred skin on my face, a single product would look different depending on where I applied it. Plus the texture was off—everything felt super cakey and oily. Brands weren’t as focused on quality back then.

Did you immediately think that you’d be part of the solution? Growing up, I didn’t think that someone who looked like me could ever be part of the beauty industry. Billboards and magazines were filled with people photoshopped to unrealistic perfection. You’d never see anyone with a scar, and there I was, with this huge one on my face. It made me feel horrible. But I had a vision, so I still wanted to try.

You took a detour first and invented a method for camouflaging scars using permanent cosmetics. How’d that happen? When I was 14, I asked my plastic surgeon how to improve the look of my scars. He told me to take my money and go on vacation, because there was nothing he could do. But I’d been mixing pigments and putting them on top of scar tissue, so I thought, what if I injected them into it instead? My doctors all said it wouldn’t work. So I became my own first client. I mixed pigments made for permanent cosmetics and used needles to implant them into my scars. After years of taking care of my own wounds, I was an expert in safety and sanitation. And it worked—the scars absorbed the colour and became less visible. I perfected the treatment through experience and eventually esthetician training. Then, I gave it a scientific name so that the medical community would take it seriously: paramedical micropigmentation.

And have they come around? They were resistant. But, once they saw the results, they changed their minds. Now, many top surgeons send their clients to us. I’ve worked with people from all over the world—A-list celebrities, reality TV stars, members of royal families. I have clinics in LA and Toronto.


When did you decide to branch out into makeup? I always wanted to create my own foundation because it’s the product that I’ve had the most difficulty with. In my clinics, I spent years working with different skin tones, types and conditions, customizing colours every day to suit each client. So, in 2016, I took all that expertise and spent years developing my foundations. We launched at the end of 2021.

How are these foundations different from any other cover-up? They work on both scarred and unscarred skin. If you have a scar or any type of discolouration, you just apply more for higher coverage—it doesn’t become cakey or oily. Or you can put on a lighter amount for a sheerer look.

And big beauty is taking notice—Sephora started stocking your products back in March. For a burn survivor who grew up getting bullied, to have the biggest beauty retailer in the world pick up your brand is major. And it lets a younger generation know that representation is possible. When you see someone who looks like you achieve success, it motivates you to continue pushing for your own.

Sephora wasn’t the first titan of industry to take notice either. At the beginning of 2022, Kourtney Kardashian’s makeup artist posted a photo of the celeb rocking one of your foundations. What was that like? Surreal. It was only two months after we launched. Immediately, our social media blew up, and other celebrity makeup artists started reaching out to us.

In the past few years, makeup brands have finally started reckoning with representation in the industry. What has that looked like for you? There’s still a shortage of makeup for BIPOC people. It’s a real gap in the market despite the fact that there’s plenty of demand for those shades. When we launched my foundations, I received some criticism that our darkest shades weren’t inclusive enough. I grew up feeling left out, and I didn’t want to make anyone else feel like that, so I sat down with my chemist right away. Instead of trying to sweep it under the rug, we now have two new shades that are launching early next year.


You’re clearly very passionate about your work. Do you have a favourite part? Seeing a client become more confident. After all this time, it still makes me emotional. One of my current clients is a young girl who had open heart surgery when she was two. The scar goes from her collarbone all the way to below her belly button. She was so self-conscious about it and always covered it up. By my third session with her, she had ditched her turtlenecks for low V-necks.

Between the clinics and the makeup line, you’re very busy. What do you do to wind down? Fishing, actually. People might be like, What? But it’s so peaceful to be out in the middle of the ocean. I haven’t caught anything really big or exciting, but that doesn’t matter. It’s just relaxing. When I’m in Toronto, I spend time walking by the lake. It’s beautiful down there, even though you can’t fish in those waters.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


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