When I first found out Honey Nut Cheerios are haram (impermissible), I sat on the kitchen floor and cried for a good 30 minutes before I could accept it. (It was my favorite cereal since childhood, OK; don't judge.) But when I heard that personal care products like lotions, soaps, makeup and so forth must also meet halal standards, I was initially skeptical. If we're not consuming the product, like food, then does it matter if my makeup has haram ingredients like beetle juice in it (as gross as that may be)?
Well, it depends, because...
1. You must understand for whom it's haram and why.
In Islam, there are four madhabs (schools of thought): Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali. Each madhab is valid and correct in its own right, and every single one of them are very similar to each other, except for a few details. It does not matter which madhab you follow; what matters is you choose one and follow it 100 percent, rather than picking and choosing what you'd like to follow from each one.
Since I follow the Hanafi madhab, I consulted Hanafi-specific rulings on cosmetics to find that non-synthetic alcohols and other haram ingredients, such as carmine (extracted from insects' bodies and eggs to obtain red coloring) are 100 percent haram, whether in food or makeup, if there is the possibility of them being consumed. That is why technically, eyeshadows and eyeliners containing carmine are halal (permissible). The presence of synthetic alcohols in small amounts is also considered permissible.
Malaysia's Fatwa Committee, based on the Maliki madhab, has the same rulings regarding alcohol, as does Shafi'i madhab, which also allows the presence of alcohol in self-care products like perfume. The Hanabli madhab doesn't appear to be much different.
Although I wasn't able to find any more verified rulings specifically for cosmetics in any of the four madhabs, one thing acknowledged by all four madhabs remained clear: if there is a difference of opinion as to whether something may or may not be halal, it is better to avoid it than risk the possibility of it not being halal.
Technically makeup is absorbed through the skin to some degree, so I decided to take the taqwa route and follow the strictest and clearest ruling of no haram ingredients at all in any of my makeup products.
And surprisingly, it was so much easier than I thought it would be!
Note: this entire article is based on the assumption that any haram ingredients in the makeup product will render it haram as well.
2. Identify which makeup brands are 100 percent vegan.
Vegans have really paved the way in both food and cosmetics for Muslims all over the world with a whopping 101 cosmetic brands turned vegan and cruelty-free, including high-end brands like Kat Von D and Anastasia Beverly to cheaper alternatives, such as Colourpop and E.L.F.
With ingredient lists containing names like Polyethylene Terephthalate and Yellow 5 Lake, verifying your makeup's halal-haram status seems impossible, but you can cut down on the ingredient lists you'll have to sieve through by pulling aside the brands that are without a doubt made of plant-based ingredients.
Although this does not mean these products can immediately be deemed halal (because we still have to check for alcohol and pseudo-vegan ingredients), it does shorten the time spent to check a few select ingredients. This also ensures that you'll have a list of numerous brands to select from the next time you want to stock up on goods without the stress of sifting through every single name on the ingredients list.
Bless you, vegans; we'll keep you in our prayers.
3. Check the ingredients for this specific alcohol.
Ethanol and all variations of it are haram, including ethyl alcohol, ethylene and methylated spirits. This is because ethanol and all forms of it penetrate the skin to the degree where it actually enters your bloodstream to a measurable amount.
Other alcohols are synthetic, including the ones below, and thus, they are permissible:
- Cetyl Alcohol
- Cetearyl Alcohol
- Denatured Alcohol
- Stearyl Alcohol
- Behenyl alcohol
4. For non-vegan brand products, here's how to identify haram ingredients.
First, know there's a list of animal-derived ingredients you can easily search by pressing Ctrl + F and typing in ingredients from your list and hit enter, checking each ingredient one by one.
Second, there's another list of halal-haram brands and what products from each brand are of concern and why. Though we can't determine for sure if this list is regularly updated, it's a good start to know which products may be haram off the bat and which you'll have to look up some more.
If animal-derived, the ingredient is automatically haram.
Some common ones I ran into were carmine in my Bareminerals loose power eyeshadows, vanilla flavor (which is vanilla extract, which has alcohol in it) in my Palladio lipstick and squalene (which comes from shark livers) in my LA Colors eyeshadow pallets.
Some ingredients may be classified as vegan but you have to call the company to determine if the ingredient is from animal fats or a plant source.
These pseudo-vegan ingredients include:
- Stearic Acid (from pig, cow or sheep stomachs whereas the vegan version is from the animals' fat, so still haram)
- Oleic Acid (from animal fat or may be from plant-derived source like coconut, olives and nuts)
- Glycerin (aka glycerine, may be from animal fat or vegetables like soya, coconut oil or palm oil)
- Casein (aka sodium caseinate or caseinate can be from cow milk or the vegan alternative is plant-based milks)
- Lauric Acid (can be from coconut or palm oil, or it may be from cow or goat milk)
5. For products without ingredients lists, call up customer service, but just know...
...most makeup customer service is totally useless. This step comes in handy when you have any exclusive, special or limited-edition products for which you no longer have the packaging for. The most a company may actually do is send you the ingredients list.
Though they may not be 100 percent vegan, some brands have a vegan products list available on their site or one they can email you upon request, like Wet n' Wild, so it never hurts to ask.
Halal-haram makeup blogs are also great sources of info from fellow Muslimahs who often post screenshots of their email correspondence with certain brands to verify ingredient information so you can stay up to date on the latest makeup to debut on the market.
And when in doubt? Remember, it is better to stay away from that which lacks certainty than risk the possibility of it being a curse for you on the Day of Judgement.
"Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you. Become acquainted with Allah in prosperity and He will become acquainted with you in adversity. Know that whatever surpassed you was not going to reach you, and whatever reached you was not going to surpass you. Know that help comes with patience, relief with affliction, and hardship with ease." [Al-Tirmindhi]