The halal creams that let Muslim faces glow

Anna Seaman

When Layla Mandi failed to find cosmetics consistent with her Muslim
faith, she developed her own range, which goes on sale this month.
Nicole Hill / The National

// As a freelance make-up artist, Layla Mandi was shocked to discover
three years ago that many cosmetics contain animal residues, including
pig products. Since then, she has spent her time developing her own
halal skin care range.

Now a self-employed businesswoman, Miss
Mandi, 32, hopes to fill what she sees as a gap in the cosmetics
industry for Muslim women in the region.

“I am providing a
service to women who want an alternative,” she said. “Some people don’t
care what is in their skin products or how they are produced, but for
those who do I think there should be options.”

Miss Mandi, a
Muslim convert, started her make-up career in her native Canada when
she was 17. At the time she was surrounded by Muslim families and she
started exploring the Islamic faith.

As the years passed and she
became more adept in her field, she began to look beyond the labels of
the products she was using every day, and realised that the ingredients
of many creams, lotions and make-up items did not fit with her idea of

In many brands she found animal by-products such as
blood, urine, fats, gelatine from horns and hooves, swine placenta and
stearic acid, a fatty substance derived from the stomach lining, often
of pigs.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), the
international animal rights organisation, confirmed the use of these
substances in its consumer’s guide to living, which says:
“Slaughterhouses must dispose of the by-products of billions of animals
every year. The solution is selling them to food and cosmetics

Also, unless specified otherwise the fats in
glycerine, keratin and collagen, all commonly found in cosmetics, are
from tallow, which is produced at animal rendering plants where
carcases are ground down and melted to extract the residual fat.

I read all of this I found it disgusting,” said Miss Mandi. “I
certainly did not want to put it on my skin where it would get absorbed
into my body. I wanted to find an alternative.”

In 2006, she moved to Morocco to find out more about Islam and the lifestyle of Muslims.

assumed, just as in the food sector, there would be plenty of halal
cosmetics for Muslim women. But I suddenly realised there were none,”
she said.

“In fact, people either didn’t know or didn’t care
that the cream they were putting on their face had pig and other animal
derivatives in it. I decided to try to make my own.”

following year Miss Mandi moved to Dubai to research the shopping
habits of Arab and Muslim women, and to develop her products she hired
a chemist and a dermatologist in Canada.

“It felt natural for me
to pursue this,” she said. “Skin products are my passion. I love
moisturiser; it makes my skin feel better, look better I love the
packaging and the way things feel and smell.

“My way of life as a Muslim was also really important to me, so to find something which combined the two was great.”

cosmetics are not a new idea. According to The Halal Journal,
approximately US$150 million (Dh551m) worth of halal products pass
through the UAE every year, a large proportion being cosmetics and
personal care items. But they are not readily available to consumers.
At the Halal Expo 2008, Raees Ahmed, the director of the event’s
organising company, said there was “an excellent opportunity for halal
cosmetics players to take advantage of the booming demand.”

recent survey by KasehDia Research Consulting, the company that
organises the World Halal Forum in Malaysia, said 57.6 per cent of
Muslims in Singapore and 37.7 per cent in Indonesia, both emerging
markets, were aware of halal cosmetics and would buy them if they were

Ahmad Azudin, senior manager for halal standards
and systems at the International Halal Integrity Alliance (IHI) in
Malaysia, said: “There is a growing demand for these products and an
increasing awareness with consumers about animal contamination.

is not just the porcine products that cause a problem for Muslims.
There are a lot of lipsticks that contain blood, which is considered
also impure.”

In response, Mr Azudin and his team are working on
implementing an international halal standard for cosmetics by the end
of next year.

“It is one of 10 areas we are focusing on,” he
said. “We are developing production standards for skin care, hair care,
oral products and fragrance in compliance with the Sharia board at the

“There will be strict guidelines to follow and this will give confidence to all consumers.”

Mr Ahmad added that halal products were also becoming popular with non-Muslim buyers.

are clean, wholesome and there are no impurities that go into the
manufacturing process. Everyone, not just Muslims, likes the idea of
that,” he said.

Consumer opinion in the UAE was mixed as to whether using products with animal derivatives was haram.

of the opinion that if you are not eating it, it is OK,” said Anisa
Alkos, a full-time mother living in Abu Dhabi. Obviously I’d rather not
put anything on my body that contained pig fat, but there is nothing to
make it clear.”

In the May issue of last year’s Halal Journal,
Kamarul Kamaruzaman, its managing editor, wrote that “due to its
biological similarities to human placenta and its excellent skin
healing properties, swine placenta is considered to be the darling of
the cosmetics industry”.

Some Islamic scholars, he wrote,
cited the change of state of the product, or istihala in Arabic, as the
central argument for accepting the use of gelatine and cosmetics.

However, according to the mufti at the official fatwa call centre of the UAE, pork products in any state are “absolutely haram”.

“Everything from the pig is rejected,” he said. “We can’t eat it, buy it, sell it, wear the leather or even touch the animal.

“It is nejes [dirty or impure] and we can’t use it on our body, a person will then not be in a state of purity fit to pray.”

Hanna Jaffer, 25, is one consumer who said she would be changing her habits for good.

was shocked when I heard how they make skin creams. I don’t think it
will be OK to use, however much it is sanitised or changes form,” she

“Our religion disallows it and from now on I will only be using halal products.”

Mandi’s One Pure Skin Care range will go on sale at the 50 Degrees
boutique in the Souk Al Bahar in Dubai, on Saudi Arabian Airlines and
online at the start of Ramadan later this month.

Although her
products, which include eye cream, moisturiser, cleanser and toner,
were initially certified by the Malaysian authorities, they are now
being produced and given halal certification in Italy.