PARIS • A bearded imam may have seemed out of place at last week's In-Cosmetics expo in Paris, an annual showcase for the world's leading beauty and personal-care products.
But Shaikh Ali Achcar's presence points to a growing demand for make-up that adheres not just to the face - but also to Muslim rules.
"When an animal-based product isn't halal 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 Achcar, manning the stand of Swiss-based Halal Certification Services (HCS).
"That's why it's increasing the need for halal products in cosmetics," said the Brazilian, who heads HCS' office in Madrid.
As Islam prohibits the consumption of pork and alcohol, lard-based lipsticks and many perfumes are among beauty products that are off-limits to strictly observant Muslims.
Thanks largely to a 2013 European Union ban on animal testing and a skyrocketing demand for vegan cosmetics, many new make-up products contain no animal by- products at all. However, labelling is not uniform and can be confusing.
"The majority of consumers do not know if the product comes from animal-based ingredients or not. So, when they see the halal product, they buy it," says Achcar.
The almost 800 exhibitors at the In-Cosmetics expo were showing not only beauty products, but also laboratory equipment and other necessities for testing and regulatory compliance.
Achcar has begun to build a client base in the cosmetics industry, with HCS charging between €1,500 (S$2,285) and €2,000 for its scientific team to analyse products.
HCS also inspects factories to certify them as halal. "Some of our competitors are a lot more expensive," said Achcar, adding that the certificates must be renewed every year.
A few years ago, halal cosmetics were a niche market for a few small businesses, mainly in Muslim countries in South-east Asia such as Indonesia and Malaysia.
But an industry worth about US$20 billion (S$26.8 billion) in 2014 is expected to double by 2019, when it will represent 6 per cent of the global cosmetics market, said British market research firm TechNavio.
This is because "some countries are developing regulations making it mandatory for cosmetic products to be certified halal", said Ms Monica Ducruet, who is in charge of regulatory questions for Swiss perfume 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.
A source familiar with the industry said: "Some of the countries realised how much money they could make with the halal certificates. For a lot of people, it's more business than religion."
But Ms 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."