Online cosmetics stores thrive in Taliban’s Afghanistan despite beauty parlour ban

From eyeshadows and lipsticks to “vaginal rejuvenation” pills, women in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan can find a wide range of beauty and health products in stores and online, despite a nationwide ban on beauty salons. With women’s movements in public tightly restricted, online stores on Instagram and Telegram offer discreet door-to-door deliveries.

After the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in the summer of 2021, women – as expected – were their primary target. First, women working in the public sector were forced to stay at home, then women in the private sector. Girls were banned from schools, young women from universities, and in July 2023, beauty salons were closed nationwide. All of this – work and education for women, and makeup in public – was considered “haram" by the Taliban, forbidden under their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam.

But while Afghan women are forced to cover themselves from head to toe in public and cannot work in stores, cosmetics are still widely available, at stores in cities and towns, and online.

'Sometimes the Taliban ask my opinion about buying lipstick for their wives'

Ziba [not her real name] is a young Afghan woman who lives in Herat and runs an online clothing business. She says that the Taliban have pushed women out of public life by forbidding them to work or study, but the cosmetics market in Afghanistan is booming.

There are not only traditional stores in the city, but also a large number of online cosmetics stores. Since the Taliban, the number of online cosmetics stores has exploded. Merchants sell their products on Instagram or Telegram.

Ziba explains:

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