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Fri 11 Sep 2009 09:06 AM

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Canadian Muslim creates 'halal' cosmetics line

Cosmetics aim to offer luxury feel minus the elements banned under Islamic law.

Canadian Muslim creates 'halal' cosmetics line
COSMETICS LINE: Layla Mandi, Canadian makeup artist who converted to Islam, shows her cosmetic line OnePure. (AFP)

For Muslim women who feel they are violating Islam's teachings by using skin creams with alcohol and pig residues, Layla Mandi has the answer: religiously-correct "halal" cosmetics.

The Canadian makeup artist who converted to Islam is marketing cosmetics called OnePure, which she says have the luxury feel of international brands minus the elements banned under Islamic law.

"There are pork derivatives and alcohol in most cosmetics products, so Muslims should really use something else," Mandi said.

From Islamic banking to alcohol-free hotels, products tagged as halal have become popular among devout Muslims - who pray five times a day and perform other rituals.

Under the concept of halal - which means "lawful" in Arabic - pork and its by-products, alcohol and animals not slaughtered according to Koranic procedures are all forbidden.

Strict Muslims the world over only buy halal food but the market for halal cosmetics is still in its infancy in Asia and a mere novelty for Muslims in the Arab world.

Such products are not usually sold across the counter but can be bought on the Internet from online stores in Malaysia, Jordan and Britain.

"Muslims don?t want to go around and pray five times a day having pork residues on their body," said Mandi, in her early thirties and swathed in a slim black abaya, or cloak, with wisps of blond hair sticking from under her head scarf.

"I came to the Middle East to learn more about people?s needs. Most were pretty shocked when I told them there were pork products in their skin care items so they were very interested."

According to Mandi, fatty acids and gelatin used in moisturisers, shampoos, face masks and lipsticks as well as other items are often extracted from pigs.

Determined to create a halal product, Mandi brought together a dermatologist and a chemist and told them the deal: cosmetics and skin-care products free of pork and alcohol.

OnePure is guaranteed to be just that, she said. And to get a foothold in the highly competitive business, Mandi is offering products that come in glitzy wrappings.

"I wanted the packaging to be really luxurious, to speak to young people and old people, to everyone. I didn?t want people to say ?I?d really like to buy a halal product but the packaging doesn?t look cool,'" she said.

Touted as the first halal cosmetics brand in the Middle East, OnePure products are certified in Malaysia by an Islamic body that also certifies meats and other consumer goods for Muslims.

So far Mandi has been selling them online, on Saudi Airlines - her first customer since July - and a small boutique in the upscale Souk al-Bahar in the Burj Dubai complex that houses the world?s tallest tower.

"It?s most specifically designed for women in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council). I plan to launch a line for men but for now, it?s just women," Mandi said. "There is appetite for it in this region."

But some in the make-up industry have expressed skepticism about halal cosmetics, dismissing ideas such as Mandi's as marketing ploys that feed on the need of some for religiously-correct products.

"I feel it?s more about marketing," said Noura Hamdi, marketing manager at a Body Shop boutique in Dubai.

"We are not using any animal products in our products anyway," said Hamdi, adding that the alcohol contained in the cosmetics and skin-care products sold in her shop "is not pure alcohol."

"The customer is not going to drink it. It?s something to apply on your body or clothes so it?s not related to halal or haram or religion," Hamdi said. "The issue is not whether it?s halal or haram, it?s more about the benefits of the product."

But a senior cleric at the United Arab Emirates' Dar al-Iftaa, which issues fatwas, or religious edicts, disagreed.

"If any of the cosmetic products contained pig derivatives or alcohol they should not be used because this is contaminated and one does not want to apply contaminated (products) on one?s body," said the cleric, who is not authorised to identify himself in his task in answering Muslims' queries by telephone.

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Del 10 years ago

Pork products in shampoos and moisterisers? Did'nt realise that. Could also be good for vegetarians as well as muslims

C.B.Osborne 10 years ago

I would be pleased to have it confirmed on authority that pork products are used in makeup. Many skin fresheners contain alcohol but this could go on and on. Novel idea though. Good luck to her.

Serge 10 years ago

Pork fat has not been in cosmetics since the industry entered the Middle East and discovered that in the heat the fat went sour very quickly and put consumers off. That was in about 1970. Furthermore, the use of animal fats was discouraged by regulatory bodies, plus alternatives became economically viable and easier to use. Cosmetics from some small manufacturers around the 3rd. world still use animal fats, but then they are controlled by the import authorities in the GCC. All products have to be registered by the health and municipalities, depending where they fit in the market. Alcohol, has many variants. Most of them are not for drinking and would not have the same effect. Some are laboratory generated, some industry generated such as from petroleum products. You may use them as anti freeze or coolant but never to drink. In cosmetics they are used as a carrier. They deposit the cosmetic on the skin and eveporate. Chances are they will be of a very high quality. They are used as preservatives so as to deliver a long life to the products. Bearing in mind the need for higher quality products as well as delivering performance to the consumer, how will Mandi achieve this? Cosmetic companies do not use ingredients just to poison consumers or undermine their religious beliefs, they do so because they want their products to perform and be safe. I hope Mandi is ready for the level of analysis her products will go through as some of her statements if reported correctly have laid her products wide open to scrutiny.

B Elbassiouni 10 years ago

Thw islamic rules forbiding drinking Alcohol and eating Porc. and cosmatics has noting to do with food and drinks!!! then why the hell they are making drama about islamic cosmetics or just to promote their products.

C.B.Osborne 10 years ago

Thank you for yr interesting reply Serge. One thing though. You say it is too hot for pork fat to be used in the Arab World (regulations not withstanding) but does this mean pork derivatives are used in cosmetic in cooler countries ? The whole idea of `halal cosmetics` seems a bit `precious` to me but who knows - Saudi Arabian Airlines is already a customer. The product will either make her a fortune or be a flop. Be good to get a comment from someone such as Clarins.

Serge 10 years ago

Osborne=Historically cosmetics were made of all sorts of products. The industry was small and very focussed on satisfying a hope/wish. With time the industry moved and changed. In the early days all sorts of animal fats were used, including fish products (do not forget the poor sperm whale). With the growth of markets, the industry realised that with a few changes, a wider audience could be reached and so a larger market. No one asked what products were made of until Saudi Arabia started to control cosmetics and food products more and more. With that development laboratories were set up and SASO came into being and they invested in the technology to test and obtain quick results as to whether products contained or had been in contact with pork and alcohol. They did not only check for these two potential ingredients but also checked that the products were safe for human consumption or use. However, in the 20's and 30's no one saw any problem with pork. Also do not forget that Halal also refers to the method of slaughter/preparation. Again there was no way of guaranteeing that the animal fat used neven if it was not pork, had been Halal slaughtered. Another requirement of islam.

C.B.Osborne 10 years ago

Thanks again for further explanation. I am familiar with `halal` having visited 35 Muslim countries. In the end, it will depend how good her product is. http://www.worldreligions.co.uk

budiono setiawan 10 years ago

Brothers Muslim and Friends, Again this is wrong information about Islam. Halal referring to what we eat and it does not apply for external application such as cosmetic. Don't go overboard.

Waz! 10 years ago

Budiono...I will only say that Halal doesnt only refer to what we eat..its a very diversified concern for MUSLIMS and it refers to everything whether its foood, our earnings, oue activities and our gestures...

C.B.Osborne 10 years ago

Halal refers to diet, what is lawful/permitted, regarding ingestion (as well as the halal method of slaughter). You may wish to interpret the word in an extreme sense, Waz from Abu Dhabi, and while the Holy Qur`an outlines rigorous guidelines for righteous living, as some else has said in their comment: don`t get carried away.