Wuduk-friendly cosmetics, modest fashion gaining popularity

More and more Muslim women accepting of wuduk-friendly nail polish and modest fashion 


PUTTING on makeup has always been a tricky issue for Muslim women. As most makeup blocks water from touching the skin, they would have to keep taking it off to perform ablution (wuduk) and reapplying after prayers. 

Although there is demand for hassle-free, wuduk-friendly cosmetic products, it is not easy for businesses to enter the market. 

ELM Beauty co-founder Nurzulkyah Minhad struggled to open up her business in Malaysia when she first started her wuduk-friendly nail polish in 2018. 

“I found that it was very difficult for us to enter the Malaysian market because of people’s mindset here. For example, they were more interested in using henna rather than nail polish. 

“There is also the perception that Muslims cannot wear this, cannot wear that, because of the daily prayers,” she told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR). 

Nurzulkyah was more confident of entering international markets such as Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and South Africa as they were more accepting towards her products. 

“Indonesian consumers are very supportive of wuduk-friendly hair dye and nail polish products, which is why I feel confident enough to penetrate the international market,” she explained. 

ELM Beauty is targeted towards Muslim women, so the company sells halal nail polish that is both breathable and permeable

What Makes It Wuduk-Friendly? 

Performing daily prayers five times a day as a Muslim requires ablution, which involves cleansing the body. 

Nail polish is not allowed as it creates a barrier, preventing water from reaching the surface for proper ablution. In order for the nail polish to be wuduk-friendly, it should be free of impermissible ingredients and allow water to reach the nail beds (beneath the nail plate). 

ELM Beauty’s products are not only halal — which means it does not use ingredients which contain porcine, alcohol or non-permissible slaughtered animals — but also breathable and permeable nail polish. 

“ELM Beauty is targeted towards Muslim women, so we sell halal nail polish that is both breathable and permeable,” Nurzulkyah said. 

The difference between the two is that breathable nail polish can only allow oxygen to pass through, while the permeable ones allow water to enter. She said that the concept is similar to wearing henna, but it forms a layer. 

“When the layer is frequently exposed to water, it will expand, which makes it easier to take off and peel,” she added. 

Unlike conventional nail polish which uses alcohol and expels water, ELM Beauty’s wuduk-friendly nail polish contains propylene glycol which enables it to absorb water. 

Although there are many nail polish that are made of halal ingredients in the market, Nurzulkyah warned that some of them may not be wuduk-friendly. 

One of the ways to check is by testing the nail polish on tissue paper and adding a drop of water onto it once it dries. If the tissue paper is able to soak through then it is permeable. 


Nurzulkyah also aspires to expand the brand to Dubai, the UK and later the US, and is planning to open her own nail care spa in the Klang Valley

Changing Mindsets 

Realising that some Malaysians are not open-minded towards wuduk-friendly cosmetic products, Nurzulkyah decided to educate consumers on her products through ELM Beauty’s TikTok videos. 

“We know that many Muslim women want people to feel good about themselves, from their face to their nails, so we became the game changers and focused on their needs,” she said. 

There are other permeable and breathable nail polish brands out there, but they are from non-Muslim manufacturers which Muslim consumers are not confident with in terms of wuduk application. Hence, Nurzu- lkyah took the opportunity to help Muslim women fulfil their wants and needs. 

ELM Beauty also had the “mualaf” (Muslim converts) in mind, who previously enjoyed wearing the nail polish available in the market. 

Breathable nail polish was first introduced by Polish chemist and entrepreneur Wojciech Inglot in 2009 for a healthier nail polish alternative. 

His brand Inglot became a hit among Muslim communities when an Islamic scholar from California conducted research on whether it is compliant with the Islamic law. The scholar then wrote an article stating that it was acceptable. 

In Malaysia, Nurzulkyah explained that these wuduk-friendly nail polishes have been introduced in manicure and pedicure spas. 

A New Nail Care Spa On the Way 

While other brands focus on skincare and makeup, ELM Beauty dedicates itself to nail care as well. “We have what you call the cuticle care, cuticle oil and cosmetic skincare,” TMR was told. Nurzulkyah also aspires to expand the brand to Dubai, the UK and later the US, and is planning to open her own nail care spa in the Klang Valley.

“We want to encourage Muslim women to come over, try our products and learn about them for themselves,” she said. 

Modest Fashion Breaking Barriers 

Meanwhile, Leinani Hijab founder and CEO Hazwani Huda Hamdan observes that more people are now accepting of modest fashion compared to the 1990s.

“We now see a lot of young influencers sharing their tips on styling with the hijab. These align with their values and provide sufficient coverage without sacrificing style.” 

Thanks to the rise of modest fashion, Hazwani feel that there are now plenty of brands and designers to choose from. 

According to the 2022 State of the Global Islamic Economy Report, modest fashion spending rose 5.7% to US$295 billion (RM1.32 trillion) in 2021 and is forecast to reach US$313 billion in 2022. Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are key markets, but potential is also seen elsewhere with a projected global value of US$170 million. 

The modest fashion trend was started via social media by influencers who demonstrated how to style modest wear and layer trendy items such as mini skirts and tank tops. At press time, the #modestfashion trend on TikTok had over 2.1 billion views, involving influencers from all over the world. 

Inevitably, mainstream fashion brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Mango and Zara jumped on this opportunity. Even Western celebrities like Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and Beyoncé have been seen donning modest attire. 

Leinani Hijab’s Hazwani Huda believes that these world-renowned brands and personalities have made a big impact worldwide. 

“They brought a whole new attitude and look to the world of modest fashion,” she told TMR. 

Easy to Wear Hijabs 

Hazwani kicked off her business when she started wearing the hijab. 

“I noticed that hijab was an issue for young girls; not only for the girls who already wore it and struggled to keep it on, but for girls who did not wear it and had no desire to put it on. 

“So, I created instant and semi-instant hijabs for newbies, mothers and working women,” she explained. 

Emphasis was placed on securing the inside of the shawl that does not need to be pinned. The brand also tries to match the interior with the shawl, so those wearing them are not required to waste their time selecting the right inner shade. 

Thus, their instant hijabs (Aliya and Naira) have become a hit compared to their normal ones. 

Hazwani Huda said Leinani Hijab does not try too hard to stand out from other modest fashion brands. However, it focuses on materials and functionality, as Hazwani noticed that her customers are willing to spend on high-quality materials for their own comfort. 

“We use mostly tie-back inners as they are more comfortable and adjustable for various face shapes. And of course it has to be versatile. Our prices are also mid-range from RM29 to RM48,” she said. 

The brand also strives to look for popular materials such as crepe, jersey and satin. Hazwani explained that there has been a rising popularity in instant hijabs compared to four years ago, when she started the business. 

“One of the key advantages of instant hijab is its ease of use. It can be put on quickly, with no need for pins or complicated wrapping techniques. 

“New users are not afraid to try instant hijab these days, making modest fashion more ‘friendly’ and accessible,” she concluded. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition