Being able to choose Halal when it comes to cosmetic purchases is still a relatively new concept with the vast majority of brands yet to celebrate their fifth birthday. However, with the worlds Muslim population set to grow from the present 23% to around 26.4% over the next twenty years (Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life) it looks like this is one section that has plenty more growing to do.
Last year (Halal Cosmetics – A New Horizon) I took a look at the science behind Halal cosmetics in a bid to understand and help communicate this very specific set of requirements to the wider cosmetic industry and its customers. The main points being:
- No alcohol (Ethanol) wherever possible. Some Muslims are happy to accept alcohol as an integral part of a fragrance product as these products can be applied to clothing and as such are unlikely to permeate the body. However, alcohol in general skin-care is less accepted and many Halal brands use alcohol (ethanol) free as a selling point.
- No Pork Derivatives. Glycerine, gelatine, collagen, Keratin and Elastin are the main culprits here. While much of the glycerine used in cosmetics these days is vegetable derived (usually a bi-product of palm oil production) some meat-derived glycerine still makes it into the cosmetics market. This is a no-go for Halal brand.
- No animal derived ingredients. This takes the above statement one step further and should include ingredients that while not animal derived themselves may have been prepared in animal-derived media (such as petri dishes). This also brings in the ingredients Hyaluronic acid, squalane, Chitin and Chitosan although again, due to a general dislike of animal derived ingredients these are now available as non-animal derived alternatives.
While this looks like it could be adhered to quite easily on the surface, the supply chain traceability required of Halal cosmetics and the attention to the detail of the preparation of each ingredient make for quite a challenge.
Take GM crops for example, in December 2010 a conference held in Penang, Malaysia (The International Workshop for Islamic Scholars “Agri-biotechnology: Sharia Compliance” agreed that GM crops could be Halal just so long as the ingredients used to develop them are from Halal sources. This position has since been fiercely debated especially by UK based Green group “The Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences” who have concerns about the way GM crops undermine God’s creation and can potentially damage the surrounding ecosystem. So to date, GM is officially ‘in’ although the market seems to be opting out.
But this challenge of scientific and marketing complexity is being met by many entrepreneurial spirits who are rising to the challenge and filing this developing gap in the market.
Saaf Pure Skincare based in the UK is one of the global success stories and now sell in over thirteen countries. Having not spoken directly to Saaf I can only report on what I see on their website and from there I see a brand that complies not only with Halal certification but also with Organic, Cruelty-Free and Vegan standards. In addition the companies are vocal about their formulations being 100% natural, vegetarian, alcohol-free, non-irradiated and free from Genetically Modified Organisms. They also remind the consumer that their products are only tested on willing humans and contain only ingredients needed to fulfill the products function – no fillers, no added perfume. If this Halal brand is setting the benchmark then the buzz word for the segment is ‘Purity’.
Other Internationally recognised brands meeting the Halal requirements are the Australian-made Inika Minerals who have just broken the back of the UK market to become one of Australia’s most successful Organic make-up exports, Canadian based One-Pure Cosmetics with their sophisticated anti-ageing skincare range and UK based Hussana with their low-priced skin and hair care options.
At a local level in Malaysia, the cosmetic/Natural health market has seen a number of Halal breakthroughs in terms of producing neutriceutical beauty products that are gelatine free, anti-bacterial mouthwashes that are alcohol-free and pharmaceutical base creams that are guaranteed to be free from animal derivatives. Again, it is quite possible that these products are already available in the wider market but the emphasis on fulfilling the ethical and practical (paper trail) requirements of the Halal market combine to make these developments significant.
So far it looks like Halal cosmetics fit very neatly (at least on a scientific level) alongside other Natural, Environmentally conscious, pure and animal-testing free cosmetic ranges. So do we need Halal personal care?
To answer that we need to think more about the lifestyle of the people for whom these products are aimed.
While not all Muslim women cover their hair, for those that do there are practical implications. The hair can become more greasy, lank and hard to manage. These facts have not gone un-noticed and have been picked up on by global hair-care giant Unilever who have just launched an advertising campaign aimed at hijab wearing women. Their new Sunsilk formulation promises to help revitalize the scalp of hijab wearers with natural lime while gently addressing greasiness and dandruff made worse by religious observance. Their tag line “the first shampoo for covered hair” is as smart as it is true – build the need, fill the need.
Other uniquely Muslim requirements include products that are pure and clean enough, without any perfumed smell, to be used during the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca. During this time it is essential that cleanliness and personal hygiene are not confused with a celebration of objectified beauty. Keeping it simple is the key. The same goes for daily prayer rituals which require the wudu or ritual cleaning to take place before prayer can begin. As far as cosmetic choices go, this makes the use of hard-to-remove or semi-permanent products most inconvenient.
So, to sum up, it would seem that the science that supports the Halal ethos is as well set as any other certification process. There are some areas for further clarification and discussion (such as GMO) but a general agreement on direction and interpretation has been reached. However, when it comes to translating that into lifestyle-based solutions there still seems room for innovation. Muslim men, women and children want to buy products that tick not just the practical but also the emotional box, they want to feel a connection, they want to see themselves in the product, and they want to be truly represented. For me, the future success of Halal cosmetic has less to do with the science and more to do with winning the hearts and minds of this diverse and ethical consumer group. As the best way to do that is to listen, I think the time has come to pull up a chair, put on the kettle and start to get to know our Muslim friends and neighbours.