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Flora & Noor: Halal Made in the USA

Published July 4, 2023
Published July 4, 2023
Flora & Noor

Halal beauty has been an important cornerstone of global beauty, as Muslims make up 23% of the global population, and the halal cosmetics market is expected to grow to $52 billion by 2025. With 91% of surveyed Muslims saying their number-one product-purchasing priority is that it fulfills halal standards, these figures are sure to grow. Furthermore, the proliferation of clean beauty and ingredient-conscious consumers perfectly fits into the ingrained ethos of what it means to be halal certified. Nonetheless, the category has not reached full bloom in the US.

Research chemist and pharmaceutical consultant Jordan Karim is looking to change that with Flora & Noor. Founded in September 2020 and based out of Nicholasville, Kentucky, the skincare and body care brand is halal-certified, cruelty-free, vegan, and sustainability-focused skincare brand while catering to skin types of all melanin levels. Born out of her own frustrations in finding eczema-suitable and halal-certified formulations for her son, the brand began DIY in Karim’s kitchen before becoming a popular go-to on Amazon.

In addition to its own DTC presence, the brand is also stocked at Amazon, Thirteen Lune, and Ulta (becoming the first halal brand in the retailer’s roster). Bestsellers include the brand's Vitamin C skincare collection (which evens skin tone, brightens, and promotes collagen production), Oatmeal and Shea Body Butter to soothe dry, itchy skin and promote epidermal reparation, Shea Sugar Scrub with anti-inflammatory and exfoliating properties, and Rose Renewal 24/7 Ceramide and Tri-peptide Moisturizer that enhances the skin’s moisture barrier function and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Most recently, the company teamed up with ClearForMe to provide additional transparency and ingredient information on its products. Given the universal appeal of its formulation—informed by Karim’s own personal challenges as a beauty consumer but also extensive chemistry background—as well as its alignment with clean beauty values, Flora & Noor’s appeal is undeniable. After being announced as a finalist in Tower 28’s Clean Beauty Summer School and being announced as the winner of the Black Girl Ventures, Ulta Beauty, and Rare Beauty Brands Beauty Pitch Competition, securing $45,000 in funding, the company’s aspirations are continuing to become a reality.

BeautyMatter caught up with Karim to discuss the state of the halal beauty market, creating inclusive formulations, and her plans for future funding.

What informed your decision in founding Flora & Noor?

Flora & Noor was truly like my baby and a passion project of mine. For 10 years, I worked as a research chemist and also a former consultant for Johnson & Johnson and Allergan, with brands like SkinCeuticals, Botox, etc. I love skincare. I love seeing patients be happy with their results. But none of the products I could actually use in good conscience as a Muslim because they weren't halal certified. They were efficacious but didn’t have the best formulations in terms of being clean and vegan.

Then I had my second son, and he has eczema, which as you probably know, isn’t treatable. You can’t cure it, but you can manage it. We had a hard time finding products that would work for him that have clean formulations and were natural. Either they were natural and didn't work or they had a horrible ingredient list. As a research chemist, I obviously decided to concoct my own little formulation for him in my kitchen, which is our Oatmeal and Shea Body Butter that became a hit on Amazon. I created Flora & Noor in order to target those who are underrepresented: those who have chronic skin conditions like eczema, hyperpigmentation, melasma, or psoriasis, and those who have melanated skin and need to use halal-certified products. We're the only halal-certified skincare brand based and made in the US.

There's such a huge consumer audience for halal products, but not much representation in the US market. Why do you think that category has been so quiet for so long?

Globally and in general, there are more halal makeup and nail polish brands than there are skincare brands. Halal beauty is a $75 billion market, but for some reason, it's untapped in the US. Even when I go to an event, people ask me if I am from the UK because even that market is ahead of us. I think it's two things. For so long, Muslims have just accepted that we don't have any options in the US. It is what it is and we'll order overseas or DIY at the house. Also, in the advertising and marketing of a lot of brands, you'll see Muslim influencers and hijabis even though their products are not halal certified.

A large portion of Africa, the Middle East Asia, are all using halal  products and so we have a huge international capability also of mass retail abroad, which I'm trying to make sure that we actively get into as well, to get some of that global market share.

When people find out that we exist, they're like, “Oh my gosh, we've been waiting for this for so long.” We participated in the MAS Convention, which is where about 30,000 Muslims in the US get together. There are concerts, shopping, all sorts of things. It was amazing how many women, and men didn’t know that they had this option here. It was also surprising how many people thought that because it was vegan that it was halal, which is not the case.

In short, the halal description would be something that doesn't harm animals, humans, or the environment and doesn't contain alcohol. At what point does halal differentiate itself from clean and vegan formulations? It pertains to both the formulations as well as the packaging, right?

A lot of people don’t know that. Halal certification is so holistic: it is the ingredients, formulation, and packaging. Obviously, we can’t have any animal byproducts in any formulations, so collagen we don't use but we use ingredients that promote collagen [growth]. We also can't use regular glycerin, so we use kosher glycerin. We can’t have alcohol in any of our formulations. All of our packaging is reusable, recyclable, and has to be conscious of the environment. There's also a list of ingredients that are considered to be toxic or not permissible to use, which also goes hand in hand with being clean. I like to say we're beyond clean. When you think of clean, vegan, and cruelty-free, halal certification is all of these things in one.

Right now the standard in beauty is clean. Our brand is already beyond clean and we take it a step further. All of our ingredients are traceable, which is also a part of being halal certified. They also are inspired by African Middle Eastern traditions and ingredients, as well as treatments that are used often in pharmaceutical skincare, which is my background. Our Berry Oxygen Mask is inspired by pressurized oxygen facials. Our Rose Renewal collection has ingredients that are reflected in the African Middle East like hibiscus, aloe, and rose petals. We incorporate the culture and inspiration behind our brand [into the products].

"Even though the industry is more inclusive and diverse than it was in the past, there's still some growing to do."
By Jordan Karim, Founder, Flora & Noor

What is the biggest challenge in terms of making sure all your products adhere to that? Is it in the formulation, the packaging, or the manufacturing?

Cost. Our formulations are much more expensive because we're using fresh ingredients and a lot of widely used ingredients are not permissible for us to use, but we want to be an inclusive brand that's prestige but still affordable, which can be quite challenging. There’s also the educational aspect. When I found the person that we're going to mass produce all my formulations with, there's some halal education that has to go along with it. I would say that probably most of the manufacturers in the US are very unfamiliar with it. It took me a long time to vet and find the lab that could work for and with us, that was willing to be more educated on the subject of halal beauty.

Where are the industry and consumer at in terms of the perception of and demand for halal beauty brands?

The consumer is more eager, excited, and willing to educate themselves about different types of beauty and emerging trends in the industry. We can all see that on TikTok, it's a part of our culture. But I feel the industry is slow on the uptake. Even though the industry is more inclusive and diverse than it was in the past, there's still some growing to do. When I'm talking to people in the industry or investors, a lot of times I hear, “Oh, that's really niche for Muslims.” It's so important to explain to people that halal beauty is absolutely for everyone. Everyone appreciates clean, vegan, cruelty-free formulations, traceable ingredients that treat an underrepresented consumer with chronic skin conditions or melanated skin. Everyone can benefit from this. It's not just for Muslims.

Even when we look at our brand analytics and consumer analytics, 60% of our consumers are non-Muslims. They're also over the age of 35, people who are really into vegan, clean products. It has nothing to do with being in a specific niche. The numbers reflect everything that I'm expressing but sometimes, even with seeing the numbers, there's still a difficulty in understanding how big of a market it actually is.

How many people seek you out specifically as a halal beauty brand versus people that might just be seeking a product which is helpful for a certain skin condition?

That's also why we do so well with, for example, our Oatmeal and Shea Body Butter on Amazon. People are trying to find an issue-specific product, so they'll type in “eczema” or “psoriasis,”  and then of course they’ll get our products.

In terms of setting up the company, was it a self-funded endeavor or do you have investors?

Flora & Noor is completely self-funded as of now. It is 100% owned by myself; however, I am actively fundraising. I'm in the process of closing our $1.1 million pre-seed round, so we're really excited about that.

We want to break into retail more so are launching at Ulta, but also into other retailers as well. My goal with Flora & Noor is to make halal skincare and skincare for chronic conditions more accessible. I don't want us to have to DIY, to order overseas, and do all these things. I want us to be able to go to Credo Beauty, which I think would be an amazing partnership with both of our missions, or go to Target and [have customers] be able to grab our products off the shelf.  I want everyone to understand the benefits of halal beauty.


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