Keratin hair products: halaal or not?

A simple hair-straightening product has caused a stir in the South African Muslim community as there are concerns around whether the product is halaal. Alina Hardcastle investigates whether hair-straightening treatments do, in fact, clash with bathing rituals.

The controversy started two weeks ago when the South African National Halaal Authority (SANHA) said in the Weekend Argus that Brasil Cacau, the largest and most widely used keratin-smoothing brand in South Africa, had been banned as it did not comply with the obligatory ablution (wudu) and bathing rituals (ghusl).

The ban came after SANHA spokesperson, Ebi Lockhart revealed that the organisation had received queries from many Muslims with regards to the properties of the treatment which led to further investigations.

At first, the evidence appeared to show that the product was not halaal. SANHA had been informed by the manufacturer that Brasil Cacau Keratin hair treatment coats the hair shaft semi-permanently and forms an impermeable coating around the hair cuticle which takes three months to wear off. This lead SANHA to believe that this would negate the ablution, obligatory bathing rituals wudu and ghusl.

However, hairdressers and consumers who have had first-hand experience with the product came to its defense and argued that it is water permeable as the absorption of water is experienced when bathing; and that the requirements for the bathing ritual, ghusl, is accepted as long as water reaches your scalp, and not your hair.

At the beginning of this month, the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) had approved the use of the hair straightening treatment. MJC Halaal trust director Sheikh Achmat Sedick informed the Daily Voice that after he had considered the information that he had been provided with, he found nothing wrong with Muslim’s making use of the treatment.

A hair salon owner, who wishes not to be named, believes the treatment’s properties contains halaal friendly ingredients, and in order for your hair to be water resistant the treatment would have to contain synthetic compounds like paraben, which is generally not present in professional hair products.

She informs us that hair is naturally made up of keratin, and that the keratin used in professional hair products is derived from agricultural produce i.e. wheat and animal products such as hydrolysed keratin from sheep’s wool. The product mimics our hair which is partly why it is so effective.

Final thoughts…

Experts have pointed out that if the treatment created a partially impervious coating, water would run off your hair and it would still remain dry. However, this is clearly not the case as your hair still gets wet despite the keratin treatment. So in light of this the product should be deemed halaal.

The ban on these products is merely a guide. SANHA have clarified that they do not enact, promulgate, legislate or enforce any laws banning products, services or establishments. They simply act us a constituent advisory body in keeping within its mission as a Halaal regulator by continuing to advise members of the Islamic community on matters pertaining to Halaal products or services in order to assist them in upholding religious obligations.

Ultimately, if you doubt that the products are halaal, it’s best to be cautious and avoid using the product altogether. There are alternative hair straightening treatments after all so cutting out keratin should be easy.

But this could be more expensive in the long run. As Leon De Jagger, owner of E’quip Hair and Beauty points out there is no other substitute to keratin smoothing. Therefore, while other products may create a straight look, they may not last as long or be as effective as the keratin treatment. So bear this in mind when setting aside money for your hair care.

*Since the MJC’s comment in the Daily Voice, we are currently unable follow up and get further commentary as neither MJC nor SANHA are currently in office due to Eid-ul Fitr celebrations.