Growing up down the street from Ulta Beauty’s Chicago headquarters, Jordan Karim always knew she wanted to be a part of the mega-retailer. “I always thought I would work at Ulta,” says Karim. Instead, she became a research chemist who worked with brands like Skinceuticals and Johnson & Johnson. She loved the products she was helping create, but says that as a Muslim, she felt “guilty” using them because they’re not halal—meaning they aren’t permissible for Muslims to use. So she started her own skin-care brand, Flora & Noor. It’s the first halal-certified skin-care brand in the United States, and as of January 22, it’s sold at Ulta.
When Flora & Noor launched in December 2020, it filled a major gap for beauty-loving Muslims living in America. “Because of the vacancy [in the market], we’ve had to DIY, order overseas, or use haram (meaning not permissible under Islamic law) products anyway, and then feel guilty about it—or not feel guilty about it. I personally felt guilty about it, which is why I created Flora & Noor,” says Karim. “When you are praying, which [Muslims] do five times a day, you have to make what’s called Wudu, which is a cleansing practice before you pray. If you have beauty products on that aren’t halal-certified—if you have anything on your skin like makeup, fake nails, or anything not permeable by water—you have to wash it off. With our products, you can still pray five times a day without having to completely remove your whole skin-care routine.”
This moisturizer is one of the products in the brand’s vitamin C lineup. “People always recommend vitamin C for hyperpigmentation, but a lot of times those formulas are not so great for melanin-rich skin,” says Karim. “Either they don’t really work or they have adverse effects when the percentages in the formula are too strong and the outcome may be even more hyperpigmentation. So I created the vitamin C collection to be sensitive-skin friendly.”
In order for a product to earn halal certification, it must follow a strict set of guidelines. First and foremost, all ingredients need to be traceable. “A really, really big part of being halal-certified is that all ingredients are traceable and ethically sourced,” says Karim. Beyond that, formulas can’t contain any animal by-products (Flora & Noor’s also exclude honey, meaning that they’re also vegan) or alcohol. “We can’t use alcohol on our skin or drink alcohol, but it also benefits everyone, because alcohol can be quite drying and most of the time in formulations it is quite unnecessary,” says Karim.
As you can imagine, formulating within these restrictions can be extremely challenging—especially because they extend to every part of the supply-chain process, meaning there can’t be any cross-contamination happening with other products coming from the same laboratories, warehouses, etc. “To create a brand, you have to work with other manufacturers, other chemists, and formulators, and they may have no idea what it means to be halal,” says Karim. “We actually had to bring the Islamic Services of America [one of a number of entities in the U.S. that performs halal certification] to give education to our co-manufacturer, our third-party logistics [partners], and everyone on our team to make sure that everybody understands the mission and exactly what ‘halal certified’ means to make sure we have the formulations to provide for our community.”
Though Flora & Noor was created for Muslims, its stringent ingredient standards have made it increasingly popular among non-Muslims who are looking for “cleaner,” more sensitive-skin-friendly formulas.”Our definition of clean is a bit stricter,” says Karim. The products don’t include GMOs, parabens, or sulfates, “Plus, part of being halal-certified is that we actually cannot have any ingredients in our formula that could be in any way harmful to a consumer. So there are some ingredients that you’ll find in other clean formulations, because based on ratings they have a very small percentage chance of being harmful, but we cannot have any of those ingredients in our formulations. We really do go beyond clean.”
“The berry oxygen mask is my favorite mask because it is extremely exfoliating but still gentle on your skin,” says Karim. “The exfoliation process is with glycolic acid and also cranberry and blueberry pulp. And immediately when you open the jar, you can smell blueberries and cranberries so it smells amazing, and you can physically see the pulp in the formula. It just feels so good on the skin and you can see results almost immediately. It’s actually inspired by pressurized oxygen facials.”
Another driving factor behind Flora & Noor’s creation was the fact that many of the halal-certified products on the market didn’t work well on melanin-rich skin. “I’m a Black Muslim,” says Karim. “When you’re buying beauty from overseas, specifically Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, a lot of the products—even the ones that are halal-certified—don’t address the skin concerns of those with melanin-rich skin. Even though it’s an Eastern part of the world, the goal is a Western beauty standard, so a lot of the products are trying to whiten skin or only target those who have fair skin even though it’s not actually reflective of the population.”
So Karim formulated the products to address skin concerns that are common for people with darker skin. “Think eczema, hyperpigmentation, and melasma,” she says. She also made sure she used ingredients that were gentle enough. Because when using a dark-spot treatment, for example, if the active ingredients are too strong for someone who also has a deep complexion, it can cause irritation that leads to even worse discoloration. “Additionally, a lot of products create a white cast on your skin. And this is something that I’ve seen firsthand in pharmaceutical skincare,” so she formulates to make sure this isn’t an issue.
Flora & Noor first launched on Amazon and is also carried at retailers like Walmart and Thirteen Lune. Ulta is the brand’s largest beauty retail partner and, for now, it’s available exclusively online. “My goal has always been to be involved and partnered with Ulta,” says Karim. “This truly is a full circle moment for me.”
This cleanser is part of the Rose Renewal line. “We use real Egyptian rose petals and hibiscus,” says Karim. The Rose Renewal line is inspired, of course by Egyptian traditions and ingredients.” This cleanser also includes ceramides to strengthen the skin barrier, moisture-boosting peptides, and hydrating aloe and hyaluronic acid.
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