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Building a Halal Cosmetics Brand: The Story of Muskaan Makeup

4 min read

Born in Karachi, Pakistan but raised in the States, I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of both western and eastern worlds. As we moved around within the United States, my parents taught us both religion and culture, and I learned how to appreciate where I’m from while sharing my diverse background with friends.

Getting my bachelor’s degree in toxicology from Northeastern University, and my master’s degree in cosmetic science from Fairleigh Dickinson University allowed me to work for companies like L’Oreal, Colorescience and Blowpro before going full time to create my line, the gluten-free, halal certified, cruelty free Muskaan Makeup in Philadelphia.

Why Halal Makeup Is Growing In Demand

“Halal” refers to what is permissible or lawful in traditional Islamic law. What is halal and what makes it halal is also different within the Muslim community—to each his own. The term is most commonly known in the food and beverage industry. However, halal cosmetics are in increasing demand in Asian countries and in the United Kingdom, both because of the certification process and because of the gap in the makeup market for darker skin tones.

My retail experience at Sephora allowed me to learn more about the market gaps and discover the lack of quality brands for darker skin tones. When I was pursing my cosmetic chemistry degree, I also learned more about ingredients in personal care, and realized that there was a need for cleaner products that were also halal certified.

That’s when I created Muskaan Makeup. “Muskaan” translates into the Urdu word “smile.” I wanted to take all of my personal and professional experience and put it in a brand. Muskaan products are halal because I wanted cleaner products and to diversify the definition of clean beauty—not because I am a Muslim girl.

What makes a cosmetic halal is the inspection of cross contamination of animal byproducts, alcohol and GMOs in raw materials, production, manufacturing and storage. It’s an annual certification process a brand’s products have to go through, and requires an inspection when there are changes to the formulas. We have to go through the rigorous process in order to put the certification logo on our products.

Building a Halal Brand and Catering to Everyone

As I was building Muskaan’s portfolio, many advised me not to use that name because people may not understand it or be able to pronounce it. Then, when I added the “halal” term to the list of certifications, a lot of people gave me pushback, and said that I may lose sales because people may link the brand to, for a lack of a better word, “Islamaphobia.”

But, I wanted a brand that catered to everyone and my gut was telling me to do it. Even if I’m not as religious as my mom would like me to be, I still have family and friends who would prefer halal cosmetics that could be available in the U.S. Most importantly, I felt like I had a message to send out—while the term “halal” is definitely linked to Islam, it is not limited to it.

A halal-certified product should peak the interest of anyone interested in green beauty, and anyone who wants a product that was manufactured and processed free from cross contamination of animal byproducts, GMOs and alcohol. Being halal certified also sets the brand apart in the competitive beauty market. My hope is that brands follow our lead, making halal products common, just as green beauty should be.

All the pieces that make up Muskaan are in place so that we can cater to all lifestyles, cultures and ages. Lots of brands now are focusing on making products available for more skin tones (thank you!), but I want to make products that are versatile for every skin tone. The colors will look good on me and my darker skin, but they’ll also look great on my lighter-skinned bestie, who befriended the only brown girl in class. I’ve come across people with nearly every skin tone who have said, “These colors will not work for me.” Believe me when I say they will. I’ve tested them—on myself and my friends with different types of skin tones and hair colors! They’re the colors I’ve used to boost my confidence.

No, you do not need makeup to look beautiful. Your smile does that for you—but adding a little color never hurt! My goal is to unite the world and make people smile, together.

About The Author

Sabeen Zia

Sabeen Zia

Sabeen was born in Karachi, Pakistan and moved to the States at age 5, where she then lived in many parts of the county from New Jersey, Boston, Houston, and now in Philadelphia, where she currently resides with her husband. She received a Bachelor's degree in Toxicology from Northeastern University, before getting her Master’s degree in Cosmetic Science from Fairleigh Dickinson University. She used those credentials in her work for companies like L’Oreal, Colorescience and Blowpro, before going full time to create Muskaan Makeup in Philadelphia.