Dr. Luke Grocholl
The Muslim consumer market is rapidly growing, driven by an increasing population that is more diverse ethnically, geographically, and economically than ever before. Young, product-conscious Muslims are driving this demand for halal cosmetics, with the market growing from an estimated 20 billion USD in 2015 to an expected 54 billion USD by 2022.1 For these consumers, identifying halal cosmetics can be very challenging, requiring a strong knowledge of ingredients, their sources and manufacturing methods.
Halal means ‘permissible’ in Arabic, and describes what is allowed under Islamic law. Halal is most recognized for its application to food, but is also applied to cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and even business practices. For cosmetics, some products are of greater concern. Lipstick, for example, may be unintentionally consumed while eating or drinking, so Muslim consumers may need to carefully research its ingredients. Halal consumers also seek alcohol-free perfumes because fragrances can be inhaled incidentally, and Muslim dietary law forbids ingesting intoxicating substances.
Under Islamic dietary law, halal (lawful) foods are any foods that are not haram (unlawful). Many animal species are considered haram, including hogs, predatory mammals, reptiles, and insects. Even animals acceptable under halal requirements must be slaughtered in a prescribed manner called ‘dhabīḥah’. This process involves isolating the animal so no other animals witness the slaughter, then slicing the throat and arteries in the neck in a single, swift motion while invoking the name of God. Blood is considered haram, so the animal is then suspended and drained of blood. Fish and seafood are generally considered halal, but are not held to the dhabīḥah slaughter requirements.
Cosmetic products may be made with animal products, but only animal-derived ingredients from halal species slaughtered in accordance with dhabīḥah are permissible. Common animal-derived ingredients in cosmetics include lecithin, glycerol, fatty acids, and collagen. Some coloring is derived from insects, which are considered haram and thus do not qualify as halal. Other ingredients and products of concern include moisturizers and skin creams containing dairy because the enzymes and microorganisms used to process dairy raw material may be haram. Rennet is one such enzyme typically derived from calf stomachs. If the calves were not slaughtered in accordance with halal requirements, rennet and any products made using it is then haram. Vegetable source rennet is therefore preferred to ensure halal status.
Modern cosmetic ingredients present many challenges for halal verification. In addition to microorganisms, animal-derived enzymes require verification that they are from a halal source. Similarly, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) must be from wholly halal sources. If any of the genetic material comprising a GMO is from a haram source, the resulting GMO is also considered haram. Some common GMO-derived cosmetic ingredients include starches, oils, and many other agriculturally derived botanical ingredients. Unless the origin of the genetic material is known and confirmed as halal, the products derived from the GMOs may be haram.
Modern biotechnology leads to other challenges for halal consumers. Stem cells may be used in anti-aging creams or related products. Like GMOs, the source of the stem cells could be haram. Although stem cells could be of botanical origin, halal certifiers may reject stem cells in cosmetics as haram unless full, traceable documentation is available to demonstrate they are of halal origin. This is typically provided by a halal certificate from the ingredient supplier.
Halal consumer demands on cosmetics may go beyond the origin of the ingredients. The Muslim practice of ritually washing hands and face known as ‘wuzu’ or ‘wudu’ is performed to cleanse and purify in preparation for formal prayers or handling and reading the Qur’an. In order to meet Muslim consumers’ needs, not only are halal ingredients required for hand products, but they must also be washable to meet the requirements of wudu. Cosmetics like nail polish are often designed to resist water and washing, leading to the added step of removing these cosmetics before wudu even where halal ingredients are used. Muslim consumers therefore desire wash-off, halal nail polish so they can properly perform wudu.
Because of the challenges of modern cosmetic supply chains and the requirements to meet Muslim consumers’ needs, cosmetic manufacturers and cosmetic ingredient suppliers should seek formal halal certification by a recognized halal certification body. The Indonesian Ulema Council is the top Muslim authority for certification in Indonesia. This council, called MUI from the Indonesian name Majelis Ulama Indonesia2, sets a halal standard that many other global halal certifying organizations follow. Many manufacturers therefore rely entirely on halal certification bodies that are recognized by MUI. Other popular global standards for halal include the Malaysian-based halal authority JAKIM from the Malaysian, Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (Department of Islamic Advancement of Malaysia).3 Another important halal authority is the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Halal Certification Scheme (UHCS).4 Obtaining halal certification from a halal certification agency recognized by MUI, JAKIM, or UHCS will help ensure global acceptance for halal ingredients and cosmetics.
With all the complexities of cosmetic ingredient supply and origin, many Muslim consumers seek only products that are certified halal by a reputable authority. Cosmetic manufacturers may find it a daunting task to determine which ingredients meet halal consumers’ needs. Fortunately, reputable halal certifying authorities employ food scientists, religious scholars, and other experts to navigate and interpret the impact of ancient texts on modern science and products. Where certified ingredients are not available, statements from suppliers can help confirm the ingredients are halal. Such statements or questionnaires should include information on not only the raw materials used, but also solvents, microorganisms and enzymes, genetic origin of GM products as well as cleaning procedures and cleaning agents.
By thoroughly reviewing and documenting their ingredients, cosmetic manufacturers can provide their halal certifiers with the evidence they need to place their halal symbol of approval on the end-product assuring firms access to this lucrative and growing customer segment.
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