Vegan, Cruelty-Free And Halal-Certified New Brand Muskaan Takes Its Seals Seriously And Lipsticks With A Smile
You don’t have to trust Muskaan that its ingredients pass muster. The new beauty brand has the certifications to prove it.
Muskaan is verified Halal, vegan, cruelty- and gluten-free out of the gate, and in the process of securing Ecocert approval to communicate to customers and retailers that it’s serious about its products being up to snuff. Muskaan turned to the certifiers Halal Transactions of Omaha, PETA, Leaping Bunny, Vegan Action and Gluten-Free Certification Organization for its seals. It also combines commerce with charity by allotting a percentage of proceeds to non-profits with every purchase.
“I wanted to invest in making sure people could buy Muskaan with the knowledge the product is clean and green. Someone may be looking for a vegan and gluten-free product, but not all products are gluten-free, so they shouldn’t have to deal with that when shopping with Muskaan,” says founder Sabeen Zia, adding, “My purpose in certifying Halal isn’t to target toward a specific community, but more [about] the process of certifying Halal. They inspect all the raw materials confirming there is no animal byproducts or alcohol in the raw materials as well as inspect the manufacturing facility.”
Muskaan is launching with four $29 lipsticks – violet Bougie Brunch, nude Burkini Beach Day, red Cerise Nights and fuchsia Weekend Escapades – containing antioxidant- and vitamin-packed oils and butters. Zia developed the lipstick formulas, which are 70% organic and 25% natural, to be rich in pigment while not drying. Muskaan will expand its assortment to 10 shades in January with the unveiling of six lipsticks centered around the theme of female empowerment.
“My purpose in certifying Halal isn’t to target toward a specific community, but more [about] the process of certifying Halal. They inspect all the raw materials confirming there is no animal byproducts or alcohol in the raw materials as well as inspect the manufacturing facility.”
“From a new brand, my experience is that people are willing to try out a lipstick first rather than a foundation or skincare,” says Zia. Ultimately, she continues, Muskaan could push into skincare if it’s successful with its early products. Zia’s goal is to sell 500 to 600 lipsticks of each shade for the remainder of this year, a period expected to be heavily dependent on a direct-to-consumer model.
Beyond selling its own website, Muskaan’s distribution strategy at the outset is to focus on local stores in Pennsylvania, where Zia lives and works in Philadelphia, and neighboring states. Retailers specializing in natural beauty such as Credo, Shen, Follain and Aillea are on her distribution wish list, too. Further in the future, Zia specifies Ulta Beauty, Nordstrom and Sephora as dream distribution partners.
The brand name Muskaan comes from the Urdu word for smile and, in the spirit of smiling, Zia was adamant its packaging not be dour. Muskaan uses blue on the outside of its lipstick tube accented with a pop of red from the outline of a heart. Inside the tube, there’s the slogan, “Smile with heart,” in white against a shiny black background. The exterior boxes are white, adorned with red and blue watercolors, and imprinted with a white heart.
“I wanted Muskaan to look upscale and cute at the same time. Matte black looks amazing, but it’s overdone, and I don’t feel black looks great in a green beauty setting because green beauty is so fresh-looking. I thought about where I wanted my product to be and how it would present there.”
“I wanted Muskaan to look upscale and cute at the same time. Matte black looks amazing, but it’s overdone, and I don’t feel black looks great in a green beauty setting because green beauty is so fresh-looking,” says Zia. “I thought about where I wanted my product to be and how it would present there.”
Customers shopping Muskaan merchandise will be able to support a local or global charity with their makeup buys. Currently, Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and Heroic Hearts, an organization that helps war-ravaged communities, are the chosen charities for the so-called Mission Muskaan program. Zia plans to switch charities frequently to provide customers with various options for their support.
“It sounds a little cliché, but I want to make a difference, and the reason I want to change the charities is because I believe there isn’t just one important cause. There are a lot of different causes, and I want to make sure we reach as many causes as we can,” she says. “One cause may be more important to me than it is to you. I want people to have choices.”
“It sounds a little cliché, but I want to make a difference, and the reason I want to change the charities is because I believe there isn’t just one important cause. There are a lot of different causes, and I want to make sure we reach as many causes as we can.”
Zia’s path to Muskaan can be traced back to jobs at Bath & Body Works and Sephora she had during college and high school. “I didn’t wear lipstick until I started working at Sephora. My co-workers would put lipstick on me, and tell me to try this color or that color. I tried fuchsia and red, and thought, ‘Wow, they look good,’” she says. “That gave me the confident to try colors I was scared to try.”
After Sephora, Zia joined L’Oreal as an associate chemist for several hair-care lines, including Garnier and L’Oréal Paris EverPure, before moving on to the mineral makeup brand Colorescience as a quality control supervisor initially and later a lab production supervisor. Prior to creating Muskaan, she was product development and marketing director at Beauty Elite Group-owned blowout authority Blowpro.
“I got lucky with the employers I had. They gave me an opportunity to go from production to quality control to marketing. A chemist doesn’t usually get to see the marketing side of things, and it was great to do that at Blowpro, but I knew I wanted to start something on my own. I wanted to work on a brand that filled gaps that I saw in the market and gave back,” says Zia. “I have been working on this for two years, and the reason it has been two years is that I didn’t want to rush into it. I want to make sure everything is done properly because I don’t want to fix it later.”