How halal beauty became the industry’s next step for inclusivity

By Zeynab Mohamed

I remember the first time I learnt about Halal, I was five. From that moment, while I didn’t fully understand the nuances of the concept, my enquiries were constant. ‘Mum is this Halal? And this banana? And this bed?’ The Arabic term Halal translates to ‘lawful or permitted’ and for Muslims it’s a sort of a manual for life. A manual I’ve come to rely on.

In a world where you’re inundated with endless choices, Halal makes it a little easier to choose. It’s always at the forefront of my decision making, from the food I eat, to my career, and also my beauty routine. Beauty, like most rituals, is also subject to personal choices, beliefs and desires. For me, as a Muslim beauty consumer, Halal has always been a contributing factor to how I choose my beauty products. I’ve never needed a label to tell me if a beauty product is Halal because once you know the basic foundation, it’s easy to distinguish between what is and what isn’t. As a result, my chosen beauty products have always been Halal, with or without the marketing.

Recently, I began noticing more and more beauty products being labelled up as Halal. As a Muslim I was intrigued, even more so on discovering that the Halal beauty industry is no small beast. Valued at $29.13 Billion in 2020, with no signs of stopping, the Worldwide Halal Cosmetics Market is predicted to increase by 20% by the year 2027. When you think about it, it’s not exactly surprising. According to the Pew Research Center, Muslim consumers make up over 23% of the global population. That’s 1.8 billion people. With consumers increasingly demanding beauty products specifically tailored to their unique needs and a massive existing population with spending power, embracing Halal beauty is a no brainer.

But what exactly is Halal beauty?

The term applies to beauty products that have been manufactured with ingredients permissible under Islamic principles. This means Halal beauty products should not contain ingredients derived from blood, pigs, human body parts, predatory animals, reptiles, insects, and alcohol. It might sound simple to distinguish what products should and shouldn’t be classed as Halal, but you’d be surprised to learn what goes into some of your favourite lipsticks…

But, for Muslims, Halal is not only about ingredients, it’s a way of living. Halal is a loaded term, a religious practice and a daily manifestation of faith. A product may be Halal in terms of its ingredients and yet not Halal in so many other ways, for example in product messaging, in the application process or the brand’s overall ethos. Are beauty brands genuinely trying to create more inclusive products or are they simply co-opting the term for monetary gain without fully understanding its complexity and religious significance? Has Halal become the new sugar-free stamp, ready to be plastered across any beauty product that vaguely complies?

A recent rise in Google searches for ‘Halal beauty’ proves that brands fast-tracking a space for Halal beauty is fulfilling a consumer need. More and more emerging brands like Shade M Beauty, are defining themselves as ‘all Halal’, creating products specifically with the Muslim consumer in mind. And it’s not just niche beauty that’s getting in on the action. Industry giants such as Estée Lauder and Colgate have also gained Halal certification for some of their products sold abroad. This rigorous process weeds out brands jumping on a bandwagon with unofficial labelling from those wanting to genuinely serve authentically Halal products to Muslim consumers. In an industry where labels are often exposed to little scrutiny or regulation and marketing reigns supreme, the certification offers some peace of mind.

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‘We go through a comprehensive assessment process to ensure all our products and their ingredients meet the Choose Cruelty-Free Organisation (CCF) and Vegan Society’s (VS) standards,’ says Polly Roderick, Senior Brand Manager of INIKA Organic. ‘As our products are Vegan and free from any alcohol, they also meet Halal requirements for cosmetic certification.’ For INIKA Organic, the aim is to create a range of products that ‘meet the needs of consumers with a wide range of lifestyles, beliefs, and backgrounds’. Similarly, Lou Stokes, ORLY Brand Ambassador, tells us: ‘We aim for our products to be used and loved by everyone and are therefore proud that our revolutionary breathable nail polish is now certified Halal.’

For an industry long criticised for its lack of diversity, this is a huge step for inclusivity and recognising the different needs of all its consumers. ‘There is a need for beauty brands to be more inclusive and acknowledge Muslim beauty consumers, and the Halal certification is perhaps the best way for this to happen,’ says Farrah Gray, beauty consultant across London and the Middle East. ‘It’s important that brands educate themselves on why this is important so that it doesn’t just become a performative opportunity.’ The line between representation and an easy marketing gimmick can be very thin, so for brands it’s about treading carefully and respecting their audience.

For many Muslim beauty consumers Halal beauty is symbolic of inclusion and solidarity, and a move towards an understanding of their specific consumer needs – inclusivity stepping up its game. Now it’s up to beauty brands to match the integrity of its Halal consumers.

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