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HomeNewsIslamic beauty: Can halal cosmetics outgrow their niche?

Islamic beauty: Can halal cosmetics outgrow their niche?

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ON OCTOBER 6 at a luxury, Pharaonic-themed spa in Dubai. Emirati women, colorful eye makeup contrasting with their black robes, wait by a bronze statue of a smiling Cleopatra for their weekend beauty treat.
 
The mineral-based skincare range used at the spa is free of pork and alcohol derivatives. Supplier Charlotte Proudman hopes to register it as compliant with sharia, or Islamic law, tapping into a growing trend for “halal cosmetics” in the mostly-Muslim Middle East and among the world’s estimated 1.6 billion Muslims.
 
“I really want to put this onto our packaging so that our clients can be reassured that our products are halal, and that they can feel consistent in their religious beliefs,” Proudman said at the spa, which uses the range she launched in 2008
 
“I really feel that halal cosmetics have a future. I don’t think that a Muslim man or a Muslim lady should compromise their beliefs for a skincare range that will work well for them.”
 
The word halal, Arabic for permissible, is often used to describe meat slaughtered and prepared in line with Islamic law.
 
Halal beauty products, are made using plant extracts and minerals rather than the alcohol and pork ingredients that are banned in Islam but often found in cosmetics.
 
The appeal of halal cosmetics mirrors a global trend for ethical beauty products that are not tested on animals and do not use animal derivatives, as well as booming demand for ranges based on natural ingredients that are kind to hair and skin.
 
It is a trend that could appeal strongly to Muslims living in Europe, where a buzz already surrounds all things green.
 
“It is part of the permissibility of cosmetics that they be safe. So substances that have heavy metal and other carcinogenic or otherwise harmful substances would be impermissible,” New-York based Islamic scholar Taha Abdul-Basser said.
 
“Substances that are tested on animals in such a way as to cause unnecessary pain or that pollute the environment would be avoided by religious educated and conscientious consumers… There are significant overlaps between the halal consumer and the ethical and environmentally-conscious consumer.”
 
Morocco’s Amys Group is another start-up that smells opportunity in the exotic fragrances of halal beauty.
 
One of the many problems that could restrict the growth of halal cosmetics is the lack of a unified global halal certification body to regulate the nascent industry.
 
Halal products are usually approved by local, regional or national certification agencies to ensure they meet Islamic rules, but there is little to stop some producers from labeling their products halal without an official seal of approval.
 
There are 138 different certification bodies around the world, according to the International Halal Integrity Alliance, a group based in the Islamic finance hub of Kuala Lumpur, which is also a magnet for firms seeking the halal stamp of approval.
 
In Malaysia, the halal certification body is a government department, rather than a private body as it is in most of the world, which avoids the marketing nightmare of having one halal board approve your product and another reject it.
 
Even in Europe, the European Halal Development Agency is trying to harmonize standards for halal certification.
 
“It’s very hard to come up with a global standard as there is no single authority, there is no hope. The Muslim world itself is fragmented and there are various differences in interpretation of the holy text and modern technology,” Darhim Hashim, the chief executive of the IHI Alliance, said.

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