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Halcos – Celebrating Halal Cosmetics

April 7, 2010

Next week Kuala Lumpur will be buzzing with the whirr of intelligent discussion, scientific investigation and market analysis as the first ever conference for  Halal cosmetics is launched – HALCOS.  I was delighted to receive an invitation to speak at this prestigious event about the scientific challenges that this niche market may face. However my passport status has proved to be a bit of a problem – it didn’t have the required six months validity left and has therefore gone in for replacement, never to be seen again.   Very sad but I have to suck it up and give my presentation virtually!

Anyway, enough of my calamities and onto some serious stuff.  What are Halal Cosmetics?

The current situation with Halal cosmetics is similar to that faced by those seeking to meet ‘natural’, ‘organic’ or ‘fair trade’ certification to a point.  Standards do already exist and these standards are all based on the same underlying law and principles which make it very clear about what is and what isn’t allowed. However, turning this into a  practical global standard that people making complex and sometimes scientifically ground-breaking products can use as a working document is not quite so easy.  

For example, many Muslim and non-Muslim’s would know that Halal Cosmetics should be alcohol (ethanol) free and would therefore check the label to ensure that they do not purchase such a product. But what happens when you can’t read it on the label because it is only there as a trace chemical left over from a laboratory process?  Does this count?  Is Halal black and white or does it have shades of grey? It is not possible for me to answer that question but it is possible for me to present examples of where this may occur to those that can answer this question.

Secondly we (the general public) may also be aware that Muslim’s do not want Pork products in their cosmetics. You could say that nobody want’s that but you may be surprised at how many of our cosmetic ingredients COULD come into contact with porcine juices. Before everyone starts throwing out their products and screaming NOOOOOOO  let’s put this into perspective.  Some Collagen, Elastin and Hyaluronic Acid is pork derived but nowadays most is not. Gelatin is sometimes used in cosmetics (but not often) and glycerine can be produced by the saponification of animal fat but since the BSE scare in Europe most Glycerine is now plant-based.   Then there’s the ‘mixed medium’  culture plates used in laboratories to grow various micro-organisms that are needed in the manufacture of some bio-technology derived actives.  Yes the exposure to animal bi-products is small but that doesn’t matter.  Finally we have to consider the quality control and safety aspect of ingredient manufacture.  Some legislated safety tests don’t yet have animal-free substitutes meaning that innovation often comes at a price (I’m talking ingredients rather than products here as animal testing on finished products has been banned since 2004). 

As you can see above, these two seemingly straight forward areas can turn into a paper-trail nightmare, especially when you take into consideration that the goal posts keep changing with every new ingredient that comes onto the market.  And this is just a couple of examples in a sea of opportunity and challenge. 

I got involved in this area when I responded to an article in an industry magazine stating that “Halal Cosmetics are to be the next big thing” as if to say that everyone should slap a ‘Halal’ sticker on their shampoo and watch the dollars roll in.  I found that sentiment quite offensive and flippant as “Halal” is not a ‘trend’ or a ‘fad’  and is definitely not something that should be exploited.  My motivation here is to support those seeking a standard that is authentic and all-encompassing by presenting some scientific information and considerations.  If money is to be made it should be made cleanly and honestly rather than as part of a ‘flash-in-the-pan promotion’. I don’t think I am alone in thinking this way.

From my research I am confident that a global Halal standard would be a great thing for the cosmetics industry and for Muslim and non-Muslims everywhere.  The Halal standard has the chance to go further than any other standard with regard to its impact on animal testing, on ingredient manufacturing standards, on laboratory practice, on innovation and on market positioning.  I am thrilled to be a small part in this global think-tank and am keeping my fingers crossed that my passport turns up tomorrow.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Malika permalink
    May 14, 2010 10:32 pm

    are interested in interviewingthe CEO of OnePure Halal Beauty Layla Mandi? http://www.onepureonline.com She is a featured speaker at BeautyWorld Middle East http://www.ameinfo.com/232308.html and OnePure is the market leader in Halal Beauty and is sold on Saudi Airline and in the famous French department store Galeries Lafayette.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      May 15, 2010 9:39 am

      Dear Malika,
      I would love to talk to Layla as I did try to contact her when I was researching this piece. If you could put me in touch it would be most appreciated. Thanks!

  2. Sana permalink
    April 15, 2011 7:14 pm

    That is just the answer. You have talked about every aspect. Avery good piece of work.

    Thank a ton.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      April 16, 2011 12:13 am

      Thank you. It is our pleasure to be of assistance.

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