Ian Brazier, of Shirley, Solihull, admitted racially aggravated assault after he tugged at Farhana Chughtai's hair in Touchwood, Solihull, in March.
Brazier had been smoking cannabis and was "upset" at not being able to watch two films at a nearby cinema complex.
Ms Chughtai felt "humiliated and upset" when her veil fell to the floor, Solihull Magistrates' Court heard.
Police released CCTV footage of Brazier, of Berkeley Road, following the attack, which took place at about 14:30 GMT on 3 March.
The incident was treated as a race-hate crime.
Prosecutor John McCann, said 26-year-old Ms Chughtai, who does not know Brazier, had been with her family in the shopping centre at the time of the incident.
Confessed to police
Mr McCann said that she had felt a tug at her hair and her niqab [a veil that covers the face] fell on to the floor, leaving her feeling "humiliated and very upset".
Ms Chughtai turned around and saw Mr Brazier running off.
Habib Ahmed, for the defendant, told the court that after after his arrest and not commenting in a police interview, Brazier had later walked into a police station to admit what he had done as he "couldn't live with himself".
He said he had tried to see two films at the centre's cinema complex, but had become upset at one not being shown and the second being on at a different time.
Mr Ahmed said that Brazier had smoked "two cannabis spliffs" for the first time and had not appreciated the effect they would have.
Brazier had coped with learning difficulties from an early age, which might have affected his feelings at being unable to watch the films, the court was told.
He has been released on bail to be sentenced on 4 July at the same court.