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Marketing to Muslims, Part 3

I am always looking for articles on how to market to Muslims. Back on May 12, 2021, I posted the article Marketing to Muslims, Part 2 of 2 in which I stated, "While product quality, function, brand, cost, and distribution are important to Muslims, the number one hurdle is a product must be sharia-compliant or halal." I chanced upon an article with the headline 786 Nail Polish Is Not Halal! Here is Why! So, I bit the hook and was pulled in. I wanted to know why a nail polish was not acceptable for Muslim women.

Muslim women make up a big consumer market, and it's a big deal if a product does not meet the religious requirements for use. There are 1.8 billion Muslims on earth, and I would guess approximately half are women. There are 45-50 dominant Muslim countries with a significant middle-class, meaning they have money to buy nail polish. So, what's wrong with 786 Nail Polish?

Nail polish, and any skin cream/makeup for that matter, must meet two hurdles. First, it must be categorized as halal (permissible) by not containing harem (non-permissible) ingredients, such as animal derivatives, alcohol, and toxic chemicals. Second, it must be wudu friendly. Wudu is the ritual cleansing that Muslims perform before they pray. One of the guidelines of wudu is that water must reach the skin. In other words, the nail polish must easily wash off the fingers or be breathable to allow water through the skin. That means women must use a nail polish that's easily removable and easily reapplied or a breathable and porous polish. Muslims pray five times a day, so taking makeup and nail polish off and putting it back on after each prayer session is a significant irritant. Of course, the third option is not to wear any nail polish. It turns out that 786 Nail Polish did not meet this second hurdle of being breathable or porous.

In late March, a Facebook user wrote that she had done a simple experiment to prove the product was breathable. She supposedly tested to see if water would pass through the dried nail polish, as it is used on her fingernails. She smeared the nail polish on one side of a sheet of paper and let it dry. Then she put a few drops of water on the surface to see if the water would penetrate through the paper. It did not, and a close look at the picture shows a small drop of water on top of the paper painted with nail polish. I will go as far as to say that the test is open to fraud as an authorized non biased testing service did not supervise it. But the point of this article is to show non-Muslims the criteria needed to make and sell products to Muslims.

Let's discuss the first hurdle: a product must contain no animal derivatives, alcohol, or toxic chemicals. Most non-Muslims are familiar that pork and pork-derived ingredients are not permissible. Certain types of alcohol, such as rubbing alcohol, are halal, but the kind used for imbibing is not. A red color used in many makeup products called Carmine comes from crushed, dried-up, processed cochineal insects. All insects are haram to consume. Some products can be absorbed through the skin, while others are inconspicuously consumed through the mouth. In 1990, the National Health and Medical Research Council in Canberra, Australia, noted that the average woman could expect to swallow between 500 to 1,500 grams of lipstick if she was a regular user. Other ingredients could fall either way: halal or haram. For example:

  • Glycerin/glycerol is a moisturizer to treat or prevent dry, rough, scaly, itchy skin and minor skin irritations. It's used in cleansers, aftershave, and diapers; for any product that touches the skin. If obtained from pork fat, it is haram. If its source is vegetable, then it is halal.

  • Gelatin is made from decaying animal hides, boiled crushed bones, and the connective tissues of cattle and pigs. Animal bones, skins, and tissues are obtained from slaughterhouses. Unless you know there was no pork involved, it is haram.

  • Tallow has a long history of being used to moisturize the skin as a base for facial makeup. It also has beneficial healing and soothing properties. It can come from animal fat such as lard from pigs or plant sources. Again, it is haram if it comes from pigs.

  • Collagen is a protein found in connective tissue, skin, tendons, bones, and cartilage. It provides structural support to tissues and plays essential roles in cellular processes, including tissue repair, immune response, cellular communication, and cellular migration, a process necessary for tissue maintenance. If the collagen comes from a pork source, it is haram.

  • Estrogen is a hormone that plays various roles in the female body. As a product, it is extracted from the urine of pregnant horses and used in most perfumes, therapeutic creams, and lotions. It is considered impure and haram.

  • Ambergris is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull grey or blackish color produced in the digestive system of sperm whales. The value of ambergris lies in its role in the fragrance industry. High-end perfumes from houses such as Chanel and Lanvin take advantage of the ability of ambergris to fix scent to human skin. However, whalers hunt and kill whales for this substance, making this substance haram.

  • Squalene increases the absorption of creams, preventing moisture loss in the skin and reducing the appearance of fine lines. These factors make it a highly sought-after ingredient in anti-aging products, though it can also be an ingredient in lipsticks, eye makeup, tanning oils, and foundations. Squalene is an oil frequently harvested from the liver of sharks and used in the beauty, medical, and pharmaceutical industries. It can also be extracted from certain plants such as sugar cane, olives, and fruits. The product can cause unethical harvesting of sharks, so if that is the source, then it is haram.

  • Stearic Acid is an emulsifier, emollient, and lubricant that can soften skin and help to keep products from separating. Stearic Acid is used in hundreds of personal care products, including moisturizers, sunscreen, makeup, soap, and baby lotion. It is very similar to tallow and found in combined form in natural animal and vegetable fats. If it comes from pork, it's haram.

With all the chemicals available to make facial makeup, nail polish, suntan lotions, and so on, it is a tremendous job to source the right ingredients and make sure that these ingredients don't cause certain species of animals to be killed just for our pleasure. The West already acknowledges the problems with elephant poachers that kill for the ivory tusks or ensure that dolphins are safe from tuna nets. Muslims take it a step further.

Essentially, manufacturers that produce halal products are making an effort to ensure that the right ingredients are correctly used to create a safe and effective product for Muslims. Muslim women believe that halal products are better for you and the environment. Focusing on healthy skin-care products will make you appreciate your natural beauty and reduce skin allergies, breakouts, irritations, and other skin issues. Halal products may cost a little more than similar products from the West, but the manufacturer has done the work of sourcing appropriate ingredients to meet religious standards.

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