"When an animal-based product isn’t halal ("allowed" in Arabic), or contains alcohol, it’s not only forbidden to consume it, but it’s also considered to be impure: you cannot use it on your face, or your skin," said Shaikh Ali Achcar, manning the stand of the Swiss-based Halal Certification Services (HCS) at the in-cosmetics tradeshow, which was held last week in Paris.

The halal cosmetic market is expected to double by 2019, when it will represent six per cent of the global cosmetics market. Photo: © Davizro / Itsock.com

Beside ethanol, the list of products prohibited under the Islamic law mainly includes animal byproducts: pork or pork by-products, animals that are dead or dying prior to slaughter, blood and blood by-products, carnivorous animals, birds of prey, land animals without external ears, etc.

Actually, there are several ingredients that can be of concern to Muslim consumers eager to extend their respect of the Islamic law to cosmetic products. Possibly problematic ingredients include: allantoin, ambergris, collagen, elastin, ethanol, gelatine, tallow and tallow derivatives, snail slime, cochineal extract, etc.

"The majority of the consumers do not know if the product comes from animal-based ingredients or not. So when they see the halal product, they buy it," said Achcar. "In the case of a company that has animal-based products and synthetic ones in the same (factory), we have to understand how they separate the production in order to avoid cross-contamination," he added.

Achcar has begun to build a client base in the cosmetics industry, with HCS charging between 1,500 and 2,000 euros (about US $2,250) for its scientific team to analyse products. HCS also inspects factories to certify them as halal.

$20 billion industry

A few years ago halal cosmetics were a niche market for a few small businesses, mainly in Muslim countries in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. But an industry worth around $20 billion (18 billion euros) in 2014 is expected to double by 2019, when it will represent six per cent of the global cosmetics market, according to the British market research firm TechNavio.

The trend is boosted by the fact that "some countries are developing regulations making it mandatory for cosmetic products to be certified halal," according to Monica Ducruet, who is in charge of regulatory questions for the Swiss group Givaudan’s French subsidiary.

Major beauty products companies are beginning to adapt to the trend. L’Oreal has had hundreds of its ingredients certified halal, and experts have checked its production lines turning out goods for the huge market in Indonesia, which counts 200 million Muslims.

"The fact that halal products can be traced back through the entire value chain is important for them in terms of quality assurance," German chemicals giant BASF said in a recent news release. The company has certified as halal 145 of its German-made ingredients destined for beauty and personal hygiene products.

But Givaudan’s Ducruet said companies were having difficulty standardising the certification. "The problem is a lack of recognition between the different certifying bodies. Some countries, like Indonesia, have made lists of approved halal certifiers, but it’s hard to have a certification recognised in several countries," she said. For instance, there are five large Halal certifiers in Germany, and state based systems in some countries such as Turkey and Iran, making it essential for brands to know their target markets before launching Halal products.