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Published October 25, 2018
Published October 25, 2018
Hasan Almasi via Unsplash

You might already be familiar with the term “halal” (Arabic for “lawful” or “allowed”) from happening upon meat vendors on city streets or dining in Middle Eastern restaurants. But halal can apply to more than merely what you eat. It can also be used to describe what you put on your face and how you present yourself to the world.

That’s right: cosmetics and beauty products can be halal, too. When the term is used in this way, it means the products are all-natural and are made only with ingredients allowed under Islamic Sharia law, as outlined in the Qur’an. That means they contain no animal products, no alcohol, and no harmful ingredients, as these are all deemed “haram” (or “illegal”). In other words, you won’t find collagen, gelatin, glycerin (when derived from pork fat), carmine (an ingredient extracted from insects and often found in red lipsticks), mercury, lead, hydroquinone (used in many skin-lightening products), keratin (found in moisturizers and derived from the wool of sheep or goats), or any type of alcohol-containing ingredient in halal cosmetics because they may come from animals or products that are forbidden for consumption. Instead, you’ll find these products contain ingredients derived only from plants and other natural or permitted sources.

While that might seem extreme at first, the growing popularity of halal cosmetics makes a lot of sense. Consumers are paying closer attention to what they’re putting into and on their bodies—and they’re willing to pay more for sustainable, cruelty-free products. In fact, the vegan cosmetics market is projected to reach $20.8 billion by 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of 6.3%. Millennial consumers have been credited with driving up the demand for more ethical beauty products, so it’s not surprising that both mainstream and niche cosmetics brands have quickly expanded their vegan and cruelty-free offerings in recent years to accommodate their increasingly humane-minded customers.

Since halal cosmetics are made with ethical and natural options in mind, Muslim-owned beauty brands are really finding their stride. Most notably, Huda Beauty—founded by Iraqi makeup mogul Huda Kattan—is considered to be cruelty-free; though some products do contain animal products, the company does offer a selection of vegan offerings. Farsali, the brand behind the face oils that skyrocketed to viral fame thanks to Instagram, is both vegan and cruelty-free. Ardere Cosmetics, the popular e-commerce brand started by a British Muslim YouTuber, is cruelty-free and contains no animal derivatives. While these brands may not be completely halal, they show how powerful a role ethical decisions (and social media influence) play in the success of a product or entire company.

To be sure, finding and using halal products is essential for Muslim customers. Muslims make up 23% of the global population, which means there’s real demand for such products, but these cosmetics have widespread appeal. Since 2013, Google search queries for “halal makeup” have been on the rise. The increasing influence of social media makeup artists—many of whom are Muslim—has caused viewers to pay closer attention to lesser-known halal makeup brands. Plus, the growing consciousness surrounding sustainability and the subsequent demand for ethical options has resulted in consumers seeking out such brands because of what they don’t contain.

What’s more, consumers can actually experience peace of mind when they purchase these products. While some companies will “greenwash” their products to make them seem more natural than they are, halal products have to undergo a more rigorous process to be certified as such. FDA regulation and approval can be rather inconsistent with cosmetics products, but organizations like the Islamic Society of the Washington Area (ISWA) and other members of the World Halal Council (WHC) actually audit production facilities and conduct extensive product testing. Brands that seek halal certification have to meet strict guidelines, undergo annual audits, and pay extra fees—all for the sake of appealing to customers who want to buy healthy, natural, cruelty-free, and vegan products.

It may sound like a lot to go through for little payoff, but the reality is that the global halal cosmetics and personal care market is expected to grow by 14% between 2018 and 2022. By 2025, the market could be valued at $52 billion, which means cosmetics brands can’t afford to miss out on this opportunity.

The hoops companies have to jump through to achieve halal certification are numerous, but it can be done, and it’s not merely a realm reserved for Muslim-owned brands. Australian brand INIKA Organic decided to opt for this certification to promote their already established values, which happened to be shared by many Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Judging from their worldwide success, it’s clear that those ethics are attractive to consumers regardless of religion, age, or background. The common factor is that consumers want products that are natural, ethical, and healthy—and that’s something just about every brand can get behind.


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