The Muslim consumer market is rapidly growing in size and diversity, driven by a population that is more diverse ethnically, geographically, and economically than ever before. Young, consumer-conscious Muslims are driving demand for halal cosmetics, with the market growing from an estimated 16 billion USD in 2015 to an expected 52 billion USD by 2025. For Muslim consumers, identifying halal cosmetic products can be very challenging, sometimes requiring a strong knowledge of cosmetic ingredients and their potential sources and manufacturing methods.
Halal means “permissible” in Arabic and applies to that which is permissible in Islamic law. Halal is typically applied to permissible food but is also considered for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and business practices. For cosmetics, some products have higher priority or urgent concern. Lipstick, for example, may be unintentionally consumed while eating or drinking, so Muslim consumers may need to carefully research their lipstick of choice. Halal consumers also seek alcohol-free perfumes, since the fragrances are inhaled (consumed) and Muslim dietary law forbids intoxicating substances. Wuzu or Wudu is the practice of ritually washing hands and face which is performed to cleanse and purify before formal prayers or handling and reading the Qur’an. In order to meet Muslim consumers’ needs, not only are halal ingredients require 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.
Under Islamic dietary law, halal (lawful) foods are any foods that are not haram (unlawful). Haram (forbidden) foods include carrion (animals killed other than those intentionally for human consumption), animals killed in a non-halal manner (typically inhumane manner), blood, and food dedicated to another god. Some animals such as pork, predatory mammals, reptiles, insects, and some other animals are also haram. For cosmetic ingredients, the same rules are applied and impact many common cosmetic ingredients. Because of the restrictions on different animals and the requirements for proper slaughter, ingredients derived from animals such as lecithin, glycerol, fatty acids, collagen, and products derived from them are very difficult to verify as halal unless the entire supply chain is reviewed and approved by a respected halal certifying authority.
Some coloring may be derived from insects, which are considered haram, and thus do not qualify as halal. Other ingredients or products of concern include moisturizers and skin creams if they are of dairy origin.The microorganisms used to process dairy raw material may be haram. Rennet, for example is an enzyme that is typically derived from calf stomach. If the calves were not slaughtered in accordance with halal requirements, the rennet and any products made using the rennet are then haram. Vegetable source rennet is the preferred source for verifying halal status.
Modern cosmetic ingredients present many challenges for halal verification. As stated, microorganism or animal-derived enzymes require verification they are from a halal source. Similarly genetically modified organisms (GMO) must be from wholly halal sources. If any of the genetic material used in GMO is from a haram source, the genetically modified organism 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 genetically modified organisms may be haram.
Modern biotechnology leads to other challenges for halal consumers. Stems cells may be used in anti-aging creams or related products. Like genetically modified products, the source of the stem cells could be haram. Although stems 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.
With all the complexities of cosmetic ingredient supply and origin, many Muslim consumers seek only those products that are certified halal by a reputable authority. Similarly, for the cosmetic manufacturer it may seem 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. Manufacturers can be confident that ingredients certified by halal authorities, such as IFANCA (the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America), HFCE (the Halal Food Council of Europe), or Halal Control meet halal requirements. 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.