The rising demand for halal cosmetics

Hemy Sorfina Halim, founder of halal makeup brand Sorfina Hal, says the perception of halal makeup is highly attached to Islam but people should be aware of the quality that halal products offer.
The Star/Asia News Network

While there is an abundance of cosmetic brands in the market, there used to be limited choice for Muslim women who prefer halal cosmetics.

Times have changed with halal cosmetics and personal care products emerging as the fastest growing consumer segment for Malaysia, according to a report last year on the Ministry of International Trade and Industry website (MITI).

The Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) - under the auspices of MITI - states that there are currently more than 100 certified halal cosmetics and personal care companies. These include Wipro Unza, Southern Lion, Johnson & Johnson, SimpliSiti, Clara International, Eversoft, Safi, Silky Girl and Shokubutso.

Datuk Dr Sirajuddin Suhaimee, director of the Halal Hub Division of Jakim, confirms that Jakim (Malaysian Islamic Development Department) has seen an increase in applications by local and foreign cosmetic brands seeking halal certification.

"Halal cosmetics and personal care products, including the accessories, are products permitted under Shariah law and must fulfil certain conditions," he explains.

Those conditions, he says, include "not containing any human parts or materials derived from it; being free of ingredients derived from animals that are prohibited for Muslims by Islamic law or from animals that are not slaughtered the halal way; being free of any genetically modified organisms (GMO) materials that have been declared as unclean (najis) according to Islamic practice."

He added, "During the preparation, processing or manufacturing, there must be no contact (with non-halal material). Halal also means the product does not harm customers.

"To apply for Jakim's halal certification, the applicant needs to ensure that their product has been registered and has the approval letter from the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau (NPCB)."

According to Dr Sirajuddin, halal certification complies with the MS2200: 2008 Consumer Good - Section 1: Cosmetic and Personal Care - General Guidelines, the decision of the National Fatwa Council for Islamic Affairs and other related guidelines and regulations.

He said there must also be compliance with the NPCB's Guidelines for Control of Cosmetic Products in Malaysia and Guidelines on Cosmetic Good Manufacturing Practice.

How are cosmetic products reviewed before a halal certification is given? "The cosmetic products are tested by the Department of Chemistry in Petaling Jaya, an authorised laboratory, and it only happens if there is doubt over the ingredients. A brand that introduces new products must re-apply for the halal certification," he says.

When buying halal cosmetic products, Dr Sirajuddin says that consumers should look for the Malaysia Halal Logo with the Malaysia Standard (MS) number and the file reference number (the last 10 digits). For international cosmetic products, they should look for the foreign halal logo recognised by Jakim on the product packaging.

The growth of Malaysian halal beauty brands

In a report on the MITI website, HDC says Malaysia's export value for halal cosmetics and personal care as of the third quarter of 2015 topped RM1.7billion (S$545.6 million), reflecting 5.5 per cent of total halal exports.

It's no wonder that the lucrative beauty industry has seen the emergence of independent local beauty brands.

Among them are Cocomess, Sorfina Hal, Duck Cosmetics, Kamelia Cosmetics, Marcella & Co, Chaco, Orkid Cosmetics, Naelofar, Nita, Dida, So.lek and Imaan Suci.

Hemy Sorfina Halim, founder of halal makeup brand Sorfina Hal, says "the halal cosmetics market is valued at US$230bil (S$311 billion) and while there is a rising demand, there is a lack of supply in the market."

Sorfina Hal - which offers halal colour cosmetics - is a brand under the Cosmetics division of DNA Biosciences, a pharmaceutical, medical and cosmetics distributor.

"In Malaysia, the perception of halal makeup is highly attached to Islam but it should not be that way. Instead, people should see the quality that halal products offer," Hemy says.

"Halal certification means premium ingredients, hygienic manufacturing and processing facilities, high quality logistics, et cetera."

"Sorfina Hal's standpoint is about offering high quality halal makeup and is on par with organic or natural products. With our brand image we don't tie ourselves to a religious point of view. We resonate with people of all backgrounds who have an appreciation for pure and natural products," Hemy explains.

Dahlia Nadirah Juhari, founder of So.lek, says in her Instagram that the most asked questions are whether So.lek is halal, approved by the Health Ministry and solat-friendly.

She says they are in the midst of getting halal certification, and are approved by the Health Ministry.

"I'm not so comfortable to say whether it's solat-friendly as it depends on you as a consumer. Some say as long as the ingredients are halal you can pray while wearing the makeup. Some say 'nope, you'd have to take it off.' That is why we always emphasise that our products are easily applied and removed," Dahlia adds in her Instagram.

Founder of Cocomess, a local haircare brand, Nurfazwena Rusli Somers - better known as Ena - says, "There weren't many halal hair products available in the market that contained natural and organic base ingredients, so it was important for us to get halal certification."

Obtaining Jakim's halal certification can take a year or more according to Ena, and it's a tedious process as Jakim needs to approve each ingredient.

"Halal cosmetics are not exclusive to Muslims as they are associated with ethical consumerism and can appeal to non-Muslims. Halal has also become a worldwide symbol for quality assurance and a lifestyle choice," Ena says.

Personal healthcare giant Guardian has announced that it is in the process of rolling out its new packaging with the Jakim halal logo on its own-brand halal products.

"Guardian's own-brand went through a relaunch in March this year. The halal certification is part of an exercise to offer customers quality they can trust," says Alfonso Roderos, corporate brand director for Guardian Health and Beauty Sdn Bhd.

Roderos says that the halal certification applies to selected ranges of Guardian's own-brand products.

"The Jakim halal certification ensures that stringent standards are met at all stages of the product manufacturing process. The certification should add another layer of assurance for consumers and help us gain their confidence and trust. Our move will let Muslim customers access a much wider range of products, at prices they will love," Roderos says. 

A one-stop halal marketplace

Previously, local halal brands were marketed through advertisements in Malay female publications or you'd see the odd billboard ad of a local beauty brand.

So there wasn't a place where Muslim women could find and buy halal cosmetics.

To meet that need, - a beauty and skincare retail portal dedicated to halal-certified products founded by Tunku Datuk Indera Kaiyisah and Natasha Ozeir - was born.

"As business partners, Tunku Kaiyisah and I are always looking for opportunities. While she was presented with an idea to trade local organic spa products, she saw a gap in the market for halal beauty and shared this idea with me to develop a marketplace for halal cosmetics and skincare," says Natasha. was launched in May with 26 brands onboard and according to Tunku Kaiyisah, sales are constant and they are receiving requests for more brands to come onboard.

For their in-house products they are considering the opening of a flagship store in Kuala Lumpur in the second quarter of 2018.

"Initially we were only shipping locally but we kept getting demands from Singapore, Brunei, Britain, Germany and the Gulf states. So now we ship worldwide," says Tunku Kaiyisah.

She says each country has their own halal certification bodies and they are on a list that is recognised by Jakim.

"The rise in global demand for halal cosmetics is possibly due to more access through e-commerce. Muslim fashion and lifestyle is also breaking barriers globally with Nike, Lancome, Dolce and Gabbana embracing modesty in their collections, which also helps the halal beauty movement spread its wings," says Tunku Kaiyisah.

"Conscientious consumers like to identify themselves with an ethical brand. From a halal beauty standpoint, that means safety, cleanliness, and cruelty-free and animal byproduct-free products. Halal also stresses upon cleanliness during manufacturing, packaging and storage - attributes which many appreciate and it's not just what Muslims want," Natasha adds.

"We feel that halal cosmetics should transcend all customers, which is why we stress upon quality whenever we test for new brands and products that want to come onboard."

"Halal cosmetics are another option for all beauty lovers who want safe and convenient beauty products," Tunku Kaiyisah says.

Makeup for Muslims

As a professional makeup artist KL-based Naliza Othman, 22, frequently stocks up on makeup products.

"I'm a big fan of Sephora and I usually buy from them or from boutiques of global brands. As a Muslim, I am concerned about halal products but I also trust global brands," says Naliza who has been a professional makeup artist for five years.

"None of my Muslim clients ask whether the makeup I use on them is halal. When they learn that I use branded cosmetics, they are happy as they are familiar with the brands. All this while, people have been using international brands and no one has questioned its ingredients.

"I think the sudden demand for halal cosmetics is because people are concerned about a product's origins. Also, for local brands, a halal certification is a marketing benefit," Naliza says.

For peace of mind, homemaker Rubinur Afni Jamaludin, 34, buys her cosmetics only from local brands.

Better known as Rubi, she says, "It's important that I use halal products so that I feel confident when I'm doing my prayers five times a day. Halal products gives me 100 per cent assurance that I'm clean."

"A halal product means the production processes are clean and non-permissible ingredients are not used in the factories that produce halal products."

Sharmilla Abdullah, 32, who quit a banking job and is now pursuing a Masters in Counseling, likes buying her cosmetics over the counter, but never online.

"My regular purchases are foundation, compact powder, eyeliner, lip colour, cleanser, moisturiser and night cream. It's not really important that a product has halal certification, as long as it serves its purpose well. However,

I might be apprehensive if I knew that a particular brand is known to be non-halal."

She notices that there are more cosmetic choices locally especially with the arrival of new local beauty brands. and sheShe feels that the younger generation are more conscious buyers while Muslims have larger buying power today.

"I would like to see more choices o ffor cosmetic products - whether it is eco-ethical, organic, skin colour inclusive or halal certified," Sharmilla points out.