Then and Now: Body Care and Cosmetics in the Time of the Prophet (ﷺ) and Now

Beauty, body products and cosmetics have become a multi-billion-dollar industry and, if you ask just about any woman living in a developed country, most likely she’ll admit to having a whole range of lotions and potions…masks, scrubs, creams, serums, concealers, powders, liners, and more…

Alhamdullilah, taking care of and adornment is a beautiful part of our deen but most of us probably don’t give a second thought to what’s IN the products we use daily, or what effect those ingredients may be having on us.

The thing is, our skin is porous. It absorbs what we put on it…. the good and the bad... 

You might be surprised to learn that there is very little regulation of beauty products and cosmetics, especially in the U.S.

‘The Food and Drug Administration has no authority to require companies to test cosmetics products for safety. The agency does not review or approve the vast majority of products or ingredients before they go on the market.’ The Environmental Working Agency 

‘With the exception of colour additives and a few prohibited substances, cosmetics companies may use any ingredient or raw material in their products without government review or approval (FDA 2005). The Environmental Working Agency

In fact, many of the cosmetics that line our shelves contain potential hormone disruptors (Gray 1986, Schreurs 2004, Gomez 2005, Veldhoen 2006), carcinogens, allergens, skin irritants, formaldehyde-releasing preservatives and neurotoxins.

‘Studies have found health problems in people exposed to common fragrance and sunscreen ingredients, including increased risk of sperm damage, feminization of the male reproductive system and low birth weight in girls (Duty 2003, Hauser 2007, Swan 2005, Wolff 2008).’ The Environmental Working Agency

Looking Back… 

If we look back to personal care products used in the time of the Prophet (ﷺ), aside from using a far smaller selection of beauty/body products, what is immediately apparent is that everything was completely natural.  

Miswak (Siwak) Was Used for Dental Hygiene
Abu Hurairah narrated that, Allah's Messenger ﷺ said: "If it were not that it would be difficult on my nation, then I would have ordered them to use the Siwak for each prayer." Jami` at-Tirmidhi 22

Kohl and Perfume Were Worn by the Women of the Time
'No deceased person should be mourned for more than three days, except a woman should mourn for her husband for four months and ten days, and she should not wear dyed clothes, except for a garment of 'Asb, and she should not wear kohl or perfume, except at the beginning of her purity, when she may apply a little Qust and Azfar.’”Sunan Ibn Majah Vol. 3, Book 10, Hadith 2087

That these were prohibited during times of iddah indicate that they were used outside of these times.

Natural Perfume Was Used for the Body and Hair
It was narrated that Abu Sa'eed said: "The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: "The best of perfume is musk."' Sunan an-Nasa'i 1905

There were also other types of perfumes used but all were 100% natural.

Henna was Used to Dye Hair (and for other things too)
The Prophet (ﷺ) said: The best things with which grey hair are changed are henna and katam. Sunan Abi Dawud 4205

Olive Oil was Used on the Body
It was narrated from ‘Umar that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘Season (your food) with olive oil and anoint yourselves with it, for it comes from a blessed tree.” Sunan Ibn Majah Vol. 4, Book 29, Hadith 3319

A Stark Contrast

This natural simplicity contrasts starkly with what most of us use on an average day, not only in the sheer volume of products we use but also in the massive amount of chemicals that make up those products.
To give you an idea what could be making up your daily beauty regime, I decided to put together a basic list of the ingredients in a random selection of everyday body/beauty items that most of us use each day.

 
NOTE: I have chosen well-known brands but won’t name them as the brand is less important than the fact that most other companies offering the same products have similar ingredient lists. It’s an illustrative exercise so you’ll get the idea…

Let’s have a look…

Starting with brushing your teeth and your morning shower and moving on from there…

Toothpaste: Sodium Fluoride 0.24% (0.15% w/v Fluoride Ion), Triclosan 0.30%, Water, Hydrated Silica, Glycerin, Sorbitol, PVM/MA Copolymer, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Flavor, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Hydroxide, Propylene Glycol, Carrageenan, Sodium Saccharin, Titanium Dioxide.

Body Wash: Water (Aqua), Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Hydroxypropyl Starch Phosphate, Lauric Acid, Sodium Lauroyl Glycinate, Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil or Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Sodium Chloride, Glycerin, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, DMDM Hydantoin, Stearic Acid, Fragrance (Parfum), Citric Acid, BHT, Tetrasodium EDTA, Methylisothiazolinone, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate.

Shampoo: Water, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Glycol Distearate, Sodium Citrate, Cocamide Mea, Sodium Xylenesulfonate, Dimethicone, Fragrance, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Polyquaternium-76, Sodium Chloride, Tetrasodium EDTA, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Panthenol, Panthenyl Ethyl Ether, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone.
Conditioner: Water, Stearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Cetyl Alcohol, Bis-Aminopropyl Dimethicone, Fragrance, Dicetyldimonium Chloride, Benzyl Alcohol, Disodium Edta, Histidine, Panthenol, Panthenyl Ethyl Ether, Citric Acid, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone.

Face Wash: Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Glycerin, Acrylates Copolymer, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Fragrance, Mannitol, Phenoxyethanol, Menthyl Lactate, Cellulose, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Menthol, Propylparaben, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ethylparaben, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Retinyl Palmitate, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Acrylates/Ammonium Methacrylate Copolymer, Triethyl Citrate, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract, Iron Oxides, Titanium Dioxide, Mica, Talc. May also contain sodium hydroxide.

Toner: Water, butylene glycol, PEG-4, polysorbate 20, oleth-30, sodium chloride, methylparaben, propylparaben, disodium EDTA, fragrance, ceteth-15, benzalkonium chloride, panthenol, glycereth-26, sodium PCA, choleth-15

Face cream: Water/Eau, Glycerin, Cetyl Alcohol, Petrolatum, Cyclopentasiloxane, Stearyl Alcohol, Isopropyl Palmitate, Dimethicone, Carbomer, Sodium Hydroxide, Stearic Acid, Peg-100 Stearate, Fragrance/Parfum, Peg/Ppg-18/18 Dimethicone, Titanium Dioxide, Edta, Dmdm Hydantoin, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Mdm Hydantoin, Red 4.

Body Cream: Capric/Caprylic Triglyceride Helianthus Annuus ( Sunflower) Seed OilIsohexadecane Sorbitol ( Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate) Carbomer Sodium Acrylate/ Sodium Acryloydimethyl Taurate CopolymerPolysorbate 80Sorbitan monooleate Xanthan Gum Cetyl Alcohol Glyceryl StearateGlyco Stearate Stearamide Stearic Acid TriethanolamineTitanium Dioxide Silk Powder Hydrolyzed Silk Sodium benzoateImidazolidinyl Urea Potassium sorbate Cyclopentasiloxane Cyclotentasiloxane Cyclohentasiloxane Dimethiconol Dimethicone Methylparaben Phenoxyethanol Propylparaben Sodium PCA Potassium lactate UreaCollagen Amino Acids Lactic acid Fragrance ( perfume)Isomerized Linoleic Acid Water ( Aqua)

Deodorant: Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Gly (15.2%). Purpose: Antiperspirant. Inactive Cyclopentasiloxane, Stearyl Alcohol, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Ppg-14 Butyl Ether, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Peg-8, Fragrance (Parfum), Dimethicone, Silica, Polyethylene, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Steareth-100, Bht, Hydroxyethyl Urea.

Right, we’re clean and dressed – now it’s time for makeup

Foundation: Aqua/Water/Eau, Cyclopentasiloxane, Butylene Glycol, Cetyl Peg/Ppg-10/1 Dimethicone, Talc, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Silica Silylate, Sodium Pca, C12-15 Alkyl Ethylhexanoate, Magnesium Sulfate, Zinc Stearate, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Acrylates/C12-22 Alkyl Methacrylate Copolymer, Bispeg/Ppg-14/14 Dimethicone, Amodimethicone, Laureth-7, Lecithin, Tribehenin, Propylparaben, Methylparaben, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Phenoxyethanol, Trihydroxystearin, Dimethiconol, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Parfum/Fragrance, Xanthan Gum, Propylene Glycol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Propylene Carbonate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Laureth-4, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Sodium Sulfate, Benzyl Salicylate, Linalool, Geraniol, Bht, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Citronellol. [May Contain/Peut Contenir/+/-: Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891), Iron Oxides (Ci 77491, Ci 77492, Ci77499)].

Face Powder: talc, dimethicone, silica, polymethyl methacrylate, zinc stearate, ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, diisostearyl malate, hexyl laurate, triethoxycaprylylsilane, aluminum hydroxide, titanium dioxide, Phenoxyethanol, allantoin, dichlorobenzyl alcohol, magnesium stearate, mica, ci 77891, ci 77492, ci 77491, you 77499

Blush: Talc, Polyethylene, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Magnesium Stearate, Tridecyl Trimellitate, Ptfe, Hydrogenated Polydecene, Methylparaben, Polyglyceryl-3 Diisostearate, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Propylparaben, Butylparaben, [May Contain/Peut Contenir/+/-: Mica (CI 77019), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides ( CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), D&C Red No. 6 Barium Lake (CI 15850), D&C Red No. 7 Calcium Lake (CI 15850), D&C Red No. 30 Aluminum Lake (CI 77360), Ultramarines (CI 77007), Carmine (CI 75470)].

Mascara: Water, Glyceryl Stearate, Stearic Acid, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Montan Wax, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Propylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Triethanolamine, Acrylates Crosspolymer, C12 16 Alcohols, Glycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Retinyl Palmitate, Microcrystalline Wax, Lecithin, Palmitic Acid, Cera Carnauba, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, Methylparaben, Disodium Cetyl Phenyl Ether Disulfonate, Ethylparaben, Panthenol, Propylparaben, PPG 26 Buteth 26, BHA, PEG 40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Arginine (L Arginine Hydrochloride), Hydrolyzed Keratin, Butylparaben, Apigenin, Caffeine, Sodium Hyaluronate, Oleanolic Acid, Biotinoyl Tripeptide 1, Biotin, Bambusa Vulgaris (Bamboo) Extract, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, May Contain (+/-): Iron Oxides (CI 77489, CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), D&C Black 2 (CI 77266), Ultramarines (CI 77007)

Lip Balm: Polybutene, Octyldodecanol, Isopropyl Myristate, Petrolatum, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Polyethylene, Ozokerite, Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Butyrospermum Parkii Butter / Shea Butter, Diisostearyl Malate, Candelilla Cera / Candelilla Wax / Cire De Candelilla, Vp/Hexadecene Copolymer, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Parfum / Fragrance, Calcium Aluminum Borosilicate, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Tocopherol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Alumina, Aroma / Flavor, Silica, Isopropyl Palmitate, Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate, Limonene, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, Calcium Sodium Borosilicate, Benzyl Benzoate, Centella Asiatica Extract, Aluminum Hydroxide, Citral, Linalool, Hexyl Cinnamal, Tin Oxide, Geraniol, Eugenol, Aloe Barbadensis Extract / Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Mel / Honey / Miel, Calcium Pantothenate, Ascorbic Acid, Dimethicone, Sodium Chondroitin Sulfate, Atelocollagen. May Contain: CI 77891 / Titanium Dioxide, MICA, CI 45410 / Red 28 Lake, CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499 / Iron Oxides, CI 15850 / Red 7, CI 45380 / Red 22 Lake, CI 19140 / Yellow 5 Lake. CI 42090 / Blue 1 Lake, CI 15985 / Yellow 6 Lake, CI 75470 / Carmine].

Feeling a little overwhelmed? I know I was putting this together, subhanAllah.

That’s an average woman. Every single day. Before 8:30am! 

Some or all of these might be part of your ‘daily routine’ and, of course then there are the other, more ‘specialised’ products that we may use daily or once in a while

  • Hair dyes
  • Anti-aging creams and serums
  • Skin whitening creams
  • Cellulite/Fat loss creams
  • Hair sprays 

The list is honestly never ending, but you get the idea… 

Of course, many of these ingredients are perfectly safe, some are even natural but, many are not. 

Phthalates, formaldehyde-releasers, parabens, triclosan and triclocarban, retinyl palmitate and retinoic acid and others are common ingredients with established harmful side-effects.

Looking a bit more closely at two chemicals prevalent in body products: 

Parabens

Parabens are very common in cosmetics and ‘“long-chained” parabens can mimic estrogen and disrupt hormone signalling.’1 with studies showing a possible link between parabens and fertility-impairment in women. 

Phthalates

Phthalates could be lurking in your cosmetics as ‘fragrance’ as manufacturers are not required to label the ingredients in fragrances. Reproductive abnormalities in baby boys, reduced testosterone and sperm quality in men and early puberty in girls have been linked to phthalate exposure, and these effects have been further supported in animal studies. 1

So, what’s a girl to do?

Do we need to shun all modern cosmetics and body products? Go 100% au naturelle?

I think there is a middle ground.

Alhamdullilah, cosmetics and beauty products can be wonderful to use and a beautiful means of adornment but, but if we are going to use them, it’s important we educate ourselves and become conscious consumers able to make better choices and avoid ingredients that may be harmful to us.

Personally, I have MASSIVELY simplified what I use over the years and now use very few products at all, and I also wear very little makeup. Alhamdullilah.

I love beautiful smelling creams, scrubs, masks and taking care of myself but I also love simplicity so, for me, it's been about finding a happy medium, making better choices and limiting the chemicals I am exposed to.

One of my favorite homemade products are these natural cleansing grains which take just 2-3 minutes to make and only cost a few dollars but they work beautifully and feel amazing. 

Author: Kate Hepburn, Nutrition Consultant and Founder of Healthy Muslimah


Want to learn more?

If you’re interested in attending an ONLINE weekend workshop where you learn how to make and choose the best natural chemical-free products (for you and your family), LET ME KNOW below. 

  • avoid chemicals that could be harming you and your family. 
  • make conscious and informed choices.  
  • save money while using amazing products!
  • turn your natural products into a beautiful and beneficial natural and sustainable business and join the tribe of sisters making a difference to others! 

References:
1 – retrieved from: https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2014/01/chemicals-should-disappear-cosmetics#.WgksKmiCzIU

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