Special Edition: Halal cosmetics developments

Can nail polish be halal? Concerns over breathable and water-permeable claims of wudu-friendly nail polish

By Amanda Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

Concerns remain surrounding the breathability and water-permeability of wudu-friendly nail polish products. [GettyImages]
Concerns remain surrounding the breathability and water-permeability of wudu-friendly nail polish products. [GettyImages]

Related tags: Halal cosmetics, Nail polish

Concerns remain surrounding the breathability and water-permeability of wudu-friendly nail polish products, leading some to question exactly how halal nail polish can be.

As the knowledge that what you put on your skin is as important as what you eat grows, the halal consumer is now demanding more sophisticated product to cater to their personal care needs.

Halal beauty and personal care products must not contain components like porcine ingredients, or any ingredients derived from animals that have been improperly slaughtered. Products that do not follow these rules are considered haram, or impermissible.

According to the State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2019/20 report by DinarStandard and Salaam Gateway, halal nail polish was touted as one of the hottest sectors for growth in the halal beauty space.

In its latest report, halal nail polish demand was said to have dipped due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic along with halal colour cosmetics, sun care and fragrances.

Overall, ­­​Muslim spend on cosmetics increased by 3.4% in 2019 to $66bn. The figure was forecasted to drop by 2.5% in 2020 due to COVID-19.

However, the report noted that Muslim spend will continue to grow at a five-year CAGR of 2.9% to reach $76bn by 2024.

Why nail polish raises concerns

One of the essential duties as a Muslim is to perform the five daily prayers, all of which require the individual to perform wudu, or ablution, an act of cleansing the body beforehand.

The practice requires all parts of the face, head, arms and feet to be covered entirely by water to be valid. By this rule, nail polish is forbidden as typical formulas create a barrier over the nail, preventing water from reaching the surface, rendering the wudu incomplete.

As such, for nail polish to be halal, it has to fulfil two major requirements: it must be free of impermissible ingredients and must allow water to reach the nail beds for proper wudu.

In the past few years, we have seen a number of wudu-friendly halal nail polish from brands ranging from Polish cosmetics company Inglot Cosmetics to innovative new brands like Canadian halal beauty brand Tuesday In Love.

“To properly complete the wudu – and in turn, properly pray – practising Muslims will need to remove their nail polish each and every time. With traditional nail polish, this is inconvenient and very unhealthy for our nails. But with a water-permeable solution, we can perform the wudu properly without having to worry about removing our nail polish,”​ said Dr Umar Dar, CEO of Tuesday in Love.

Dar stressed that water-permeable nail polish was not the same as breathable nail polish, which is often tagged with halal claims but was not technically wudu-friendly.

“Many companies entered the scene claiming they offer breathable nail polishes that allow water and air to reach the [nail surface]. The scientific validity of their experiments is often flawed and result in false positives.”

In the case of Tuesday in Love, the brand’s water-permeable nail polish has passed halal certification tests of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), including a valid water permeability test.

This debate is possibly why some halal experts are sceptical about the permissibility of nail polish at all.

According to cosmetics consultant and halal expert Mawarni Hassan, the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia, also known as JAKIM, has stated it would not specifically certify nail polish.

She explained that according to Islamic teachings, Muslims should refrain or avoid any food or product that have any uncertainty. “When there is uncertainty or doubt, it is better not to use it, especially when it comes to prayers.”

Even though nail polish will not carry the JAKIM seal of approval, Mawarni noted that Muslims were free to buy the products.

“JAKIM is very conservative it’s not likely that it will certify nail polish as halal. Of course, it is up to Muslims to make their own choices.”

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