A Cleaner Soap

clean hands

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have gradually been transitioning to a halal diet over the past several years. For those who aren’t familiar with the term ‘halal,’ it essentially means ‘allowed’, as in ‘not forbidden.’ It’s comparable to the word ‘kosher,’ and in fact many things that are kosher are actually also halal (though not always). Most changes I’ve made to my diet have come following learning of some food that contains one of the primary forbidden ingredients: pork or alcohol.

I am becoming increasingly aware of the fact that — unbeknownst to the common consumer–  animal by-products, and especially PORK by-products are included in a lot of foods. But I was still shocked to recently learn that this not only includes food products, but extends to many non-food products as well.

Vegetarians, Vegans, and animal activists are all generally well aware of the fact that animal by-products are lurking in all kinds of items. I was most of all shocked to find that it is often used in something I had expected to be clean . . . my soap!

The Quran and hadith teach that pork is forbidden, among other things: “Forbidden to you is that which dies of itself, and blood, and flesh of swine, and that on which any other name than that of Allah has been invoked . . .” (Quran 5:3). Many Muslims agree that this also means we cannot use non-food products that contain pork. After all, you skin absorbs what you put on it, so wouldn’t the effect be similar to eating it? In a later post I will discuss further the wisdom behind pork being forbidden.

After doing some research on the issue of pork and other animal by-products, I’ve found that most of the popular soap brands include them. It’s actually hard to know whether they use pork or another animal (even if it’s another animal, it likely wasn’t slaughtered according to Islamic standards), so it’s best just to steer clear of any items using animal by-products. I’ve found that in general, if they don’t clearly mark on the bottle that they don’t have animal by-products, then they probably do. After much frustration over this issue, and after considering buying halal-certified body care products online (which can be very expensive), a friend informed me that many organic grocery stores sell body products that are free of animal by-products and animal testing.

So I recently took a trip to a Sprouts store near my home to see what I could find. There were many options of soaps to choose from, all clearly marked on the labels that they are vegetarian and contain no animal by-products. I picked out a couple to try; they all smell so great, it was hard to choose!

The only down-side to this is the cost– organic and natural products tend to be more expensive. I tried to pick soaps that were on the less-expensive side, including one that was Sprouts’ own brand. I’ll talk about my experience with these in the future and make sure I insert the link here. So as not to be wasteful, I’ve decided not to throw out all my old body care products at once, but will transition as they are used up. I’m curious to see what difference I find in the new products– I’ve been having some skin and scalp issues lately (itchy skin, hives– my skin has always been sensitive and prone to allergies) and I’m wondering if this will help it get better. I’m sure there’s more benefits to this change rather than just there being no pork– less chemicals, for example. Only time will tell!

Has anyone else switched to organic/ natural body products? Have you seen any difference? Do you have any favorite organic, animal by-product-free, or halal-certified brands?

Photo credit: Arlington County / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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About Meditating Muslimah

Sharing my experiences as a new Muslimah, thoughts on religion, things that inspire me, foods I love to make and eat, Islamic fashion, travel, and life in general!
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14 Responses to A Cleaner Soap

  1. hichamislam says:

    عاى الاقل هناك حرص على التميز بين الحلال او الحرام مع البحت المتواصل والجدي .كل هدا الحمد لله جميل بما انه فيه طاعة لله والتوفيق من عند الرب

  2. myninjanaan says:

    I’m so glad that you posted about this topic. I was born a Muslim, but didn’t know until a few years back about animal by-products. It’s a very tricky terrain lol

  3. Tasneem says:

    Is it in the ingredients list? Which soaps would you say should be avoided?

    • Every major brand that I’ve looked into has it: dove, olay, dial, caress, ivory, zest, etc, etc. The ingredient is generally glycerin that is made from animal fat (there may be others, but this is the one I know of; also gelatin). But glycerin is not necessarily only from animals; many organic or natural products use vegeterian glycerin. I would just look for products that state ‘no animal by-products’ or ‘vegetarian.’

  4. I was born Muslim and lived in a country with majority Muslim. I’ve heard about animal by-products but actually have no idea how to read the ingredients. Some major brands you mention above is actually available in my country but I have no idea whether it’s halal or not. I think I should start to sort this out. Great post 🙂

  5. ChaotusInternum says:

    Wow, I was born a muslim and honestly did not know of this until today. I live in India where most of the food products are labelled with a vegetarian and non vegetarian seal making it easier to select halal food, inlcuding cheese. Pork isn’t consumed by many religions here including Islam however there are the occasional yet exclusive amount of shops around for that.
    I have used Olay and Dove in the past and my mother uses Olay face moisturiser. Would you think that it includes body lotions, body wash and shampoos as well?
    I find this bit of information to be really unsettling.

    Nevertheless JazakAllah Khairun for sharing this.

    • Yes this was really shocking to me too– I never thought I’d need to worry about such products. I know that many different kinds of body products contain animal by-products, including hand soap, shampoo/ conditioner, body wash, lotion, toothpaste, deoderant. I specifically started checking into the regular soaps and body washes, and didn’t start checking what was in everything else I have yet. But I’m assuming that if one brand uses it in their soap, they probably use it in eveyrthing else too. One resource I have used to help me is muslimconsumergroup.com. You can also search online a specific product and see what comes up (i.e. asking ‘is olay lotion vegetarian?’)– others many have done research on it. Last resort is, if you can’t find out, you can contact the company yourself, write a letter or email, asking them. Also, some companies might use different ingredients in different countries. I know they do that for food. I wonder if in India they also label body products as vegetarian? I believe animal fat is generally used to make glycerin, which is in soaps and lotions. I just checked several lotions that I have in my home– Olay and Neutrogena do not list all of the ingrdients on the bottle, so you’d have to check online. My Bath and Body Works lotion does state all ingredients, but includes glycerin. I heard that they use vegetarian or fish glycerin though (needs further investigation).

  6. Nanoladoo says:

    Jazakallah for the information sister!
    Some 7-8 years back I had come across an article citing the details and codes for the products that uses pork fat specifically. He wrote his own experience. He was from Pakistan and worked in some cosmetic industry in the west. He later left the job. He stated that in the west pork was eaten too much and the fat was eliminated. People first used to burn it to waste, then they come up with these solutions of using it in cosmetics. It was used in every toothpaste, soap, body wash, deodorant etc. He also mentioned some codes that was included in the ingredients list for the forbidden items. I will try and search the article and will post it here Inshallah.

  7. strawberryquicksand says:

    Could you make your own soap? Maybe you could even make so much soap of your own that is animal-byproduct free that you could sell it to your other muslim friends. I don’t think it’s supposed to be very difficult to make soap, and you can add your own scents etc to it, and it could actually turn out to be really awesome! xo

  8. mrnno92 says:

    JazakiAllah kol khear ….I’ve born Muslim …but I’ve never thought that I have to worry about this thing….I’ll start educating myself more about this thing…thanks

  9. ndutyke says:

    The Unilever’s products in Indonesia, even the soap, are some halal and have achieved halal certificate. For example: Dove, Lux, Lifebuoy. So if you have friends who visit my country, maybe you could ask them to bring some for you. And theyre all cheap.

    • Thank you for the suggestion. I don’t have an friends in Indonesia, however, so for me it is best to just find the brands that are marked as having no animal by-products. There is a great selection at natural stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts.

  10. Oilymomma says:

    I am not a muslim, however I do not consume pork. I have switched my whole family over to as many natural products as possible. On This journey I came across essential oils. Now from my own research the company I choose to use is Young Living. I buy, but often also create my own body products including lip balm, lotions and body soap. I am now a distributor, but will not leave my information here because I do not feel this is the proper forum, but would encourage you to research essential oils DIY. You may be amazed at what you find. Respectfully submitted,

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