The term halal refers to any object or action that is permitted by Islamic law. Most discussion of halal products centers around food. Halal food, for instance, can not contain any pork, alcohol, or blood. Additionally, the process of how the food is prepared is also considered. That is, the animal must be slaughtered according to Islamic methods. Processing facilities are kept to certain standards so as not to contaminate products with any of the forbidden materials. The Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA) is an agency that certifies products as halal for Muslim consumers. Their halal certification holds great value and is well-recognized throughout the USA, Europe, and even the Middle East.
For Muslims, what you put in your body is important. Scrutinizing food ingredients to ensure they meet the requirements of Islamic law is commonplace. But what about those products you put on your body, such as lipsticks or lotions? Cosmetics are absorbed into the body via the skin, so the ingredients in those products are also important for Muslims to consider. While conducting research for a case study about cosmetics in graduate school, Shamalia Mohamed discovered that the contents of mainstream cosmetic products did not meet halal requirements. A Muslim American woman of Pakistani descent with entrepreneurial experience in the beauty and fashion industry, Shamalia was astounded by her discovery. The options for Muslim women who wanted to wear makeup in line with their religious beliefs were nonexistent, so Shamalia contacted chemists to develop her own line of halal cosmetics. Her company, Amara Cosmetics, is the first makeup company in the USA to be halal-certified by IFANCA.
When she first launched Amara Cosmetics in 2010, Shamalia’s biggest challenge was promoting awareness about halal cosmetics to customers. She recalls, “Some consumers were unaware of ingredients, like pig fat and other animal byproducts, being used to create cosmetics. Many people initially thought that ‘halal cosmetics’ was just another gimmick to make money.” Once informed, however, many women were appreciative of the information and interested in the product. “Each country,” Shamalia says, “is slowly getting into this niche business.” Since creating Amara Cosmetics, several other halal makeup lines were launched by Muslim women in the UK, India, and the Middle East.
When asked how changes in the global political environment affect her business, Shamalia remains optimistic. “Nothing yet. It’s still too early to tell.” The company is not in any of the major department stores. Shamalia ponders, “Perhaps they are reluctant to carry products in the mainstream that cater to the Muslim community.” Interestingly, Shamalia’s rapidly growing customer base includes not only Muslim women who want to follow the requirements of Islamic law but also Non-Muslim women who wish to buy cosmetics in line with various beliefs and requirements. Amara Cosmetics products are plant-based and gluten-free, contain no alcohol or harsh chemicals, are not tested on animals, and manufactured in the USA.
So what exactly are Amara Cosmetics customers loving at the moment? Shamalia confided, “Anything that is a little more brown toned has done well for the company.” The best seller has been lipsticks by far – with Berry and Rosewood being popular shades amongst customers in the US and UK. Currently, pressed powders and liquid foundations are available in a range of Light, Medium, Medium Olive, and Dark. Future plans involve developing more shades that match the beautiful and varied hues of Muslim women around the world. Readers can order Amara Cosmetics online at amaracosmetics.com.