Why the World Needs More Muslim and Halal-Certified Beauty Brands
Lyda Djarar Fischer is the founder of Lyda Beauty and a proud Muslim woman. For our column UNTOLD, she is sharing her journey of self-acceptance and why it was so important to become a Halal-certified cosmetics brand. (Editor's note: since our original interview, the range is no longer Halal-certified.) This story was told to Jessica Harrington and edited for length and clarity.
My family and I are originally from Iran and were refugees in Switzerland. When I was younger, having us keep our knowledge about being Muslim and Persian was important, but my family was also really tough on us to respect the new culture that we were living in. It was a battle, because outside I was talking Swiss and trying to be a Swiss girl, but back home, I was a Persian girl.
Growing up, seeing my friends with light blond hair, blue eyes, and fair skin and looking at the magazines, TV shows, and movies, I never really saw anyone who looked like me. I stood out like a coffee stain on white linen. That made me think it wasn't acceptable to look the way I do.
I started walking away from my culture. I felt it wasn't OK to be Muslim or Middle Eastern. I dyed my hair blond, got contact lenses, and wore foundation that was two shades lighter because I just wanted to fit in. But I always felt that something was missing. It felt like this brown little girl inside of me was screaming, "Hey, I'm still here. Don't forget about me," but I kept pushing her away.
When I came to the US at 21 and saw all of the different beautiful cultures, I started feeling accepted — that's something I will always be grateful to the US for. I started talking to my mother more about my religion and culture. I started talking to other people about our culture, and I started realizing, "Hold on a minute. There's something so beautiful about this."
And so, I made it my mission to bring the beautiful side of being Muslim to the Western world. That is something that my brand Lyda Beauty is fighting for and why we became Halal-certified.
As Muslim women, we pray five times a day, and before we pray, we have to wash our hands and face to be clean. Imagine how much work it is for a woman wearing makeup to wash it off and put it back on five times a day. But when the makeup is Halal-certified, that means it's permissible, so you don't have to keep washing it off. This is because Halal-certified makeup is made with cleaner formulas.
Just getting Halal-certified is a huge process. There's a whole list of ingredients that you're not allowed to use, including a lot of animal products. In North America, we are only one of a handful of companies that are Halal-certified. You could probably count them on one hand.
We became Halal-certified for the 900 million Muslim women around the world. I feel like we don't have representation when it comes to my culture.
At Lyda Beauty, we became Halal-certified for the 900 million Muslim women around the world. I feel like we don't have representation when it comes to my culture. When you go to a beauty store, how many Middle Eastern brands do you see? Not many, and I feel like that is something we need to start talking about. There are so many Middle Eastern Muslim women around the world who are looking for representation. Becoming Halal-certified is a step, and it says to my community, "I hear you. I see you. We're doing something about it."
It's not easy to be a Muslim woman or Middle Eastern. And while it's nice to see brands using models who are wearing hijabs, I feel that it is not enough for us. I want to see more Middle Eastern brands being represented in the retail space, to give my community access to buy Halal-certified products. I hope that brown little girls all over the world will look at me, and TV shows, and movies, and beauty stores and be able to say, "Wow, I'm proud of where I come from." I want my community and my culture to walk around being happy and proud of who they are. That's what I want Lyda Beauty to represent.