Updated February 2024
Ezra Hasofer established ten takanos (laws) covering a wide spectrum of Jewish life.1 The purpose of these takanos was to enhance Torah study, Shabbos, the Jewish communal court system, and the sanctity of the Jewish home and marriage. One of the takanos was that salesmen should travel from town to town to supply perfume and fragrances to the women of each community.2 It is clear that these items were important in Jewish life since ancient times.
The STAR-K hotline receives numerous inquiries relating to cosmetics and halacha. One must know the answers to questions regarding these products that are commonly used. Does lipstick require kosher certification? During Pesach, may one use perfume or makeup that contains chometz? Are any cosmetics permissible for use on Shabbos and Yom Tov?
Because these halachos are complex, it is important for consumers to have a clear grasp of the numerous issues and how to proceed in practice (halacha l’maaseh). The following are halachic guidelines of cosmetic use based on the psak of Rabbi Moshe Heinemann shlit”a, Rabbinic Administrator of STAR-K.
We are familiar with the Torah law prohibiting one from eating non-kosher food. This halacha only prohibits the consumption of non-kosher food. One may, however, derive benefit from non-kosher food.3 The “minhag haolam” (custom) is to include in this category the application of non-kosher cosmetics to the skin.4 For example, it is permissible for one to apply facial creams or lotions containing animal derivatives. One may even apply non-kosher ingredients to one’s lips (e.g. lipstick, lip balm). This is true even though one may inadvertently swallow traces of lipstick that mix with food. These trace amounts of lipstick are batel b’shishim (1:60 or less).5
If there is no intention to swallow a non-food product (e.g. toothpaste, mouthwash, floss), one need not worry about the ingredients.6 Nonetheless, it is a hiddur to use kosher products if they might inadvertently be swallowed. If a product is intentionally swallowed (e.g. breath spray and breath freshener strips), the product requires kosher certification.7
On Pesach, one may not consume, own or derive benefit from items that contain derivatives of the chameishes minei dagan – wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye.8 This halacha applies to all such items that are fit for human or canine consumption, including perfume and other products containing ethyl alcohol. Therefore, one may not use such products on Pesach until the source of alcohol is determined.9
According to halacha, if a makeup is unfit for human and canine consumption, it may be used on Pesach even if it contains chometz ingredients. Nonetheless, many individuals are strict and avoid using creams, lotions and liquids that contain chometz.10 This is especially true for lipstick11 which one may inadvertently swallow.
III. Shabbos Issues
There are various halachic issues related to the use of cosmetics on Shabbos and Yom Tov.12
A. Tzovaya – One may not color on Shabbos. Therefore, one may not apply makeup, including lipstick, on Shabbos.13 This is true even if it is applied lightly, on top of existing makeup, with one’s finger, or with a special brush. Included in this prohibition is mixing or blending two different colors together.
B. Schita/Libbun – One may not squeeze out or use a wet cloth on Shabbos. One may also not use a wet cleansing pad or sponge. Similarly, pouring toner or other liquids onto a cotton ball or adding water to a cloth is not allowed. One may not use a brush to apply liquid makeup, as this may constitute schita.
C. Memarayach – This melacha is a tolda of memachek. The following guidelines apply:
1. Solids and Ointments – One may not smear cream or ointment, or use bar soap, stick deodorant, or toothpaste on Shabbos. Similarly, one may not apply lipstick on Shabbos. This is true even if the lipstick is applied lightly.
2. Viscous Fluids – Thick oils and creamy hand soaps that are viscous14 and pour slowly are also subject to this prohibition.15 For example, Softsoap Liquid Hand Soap may not be used on Shabbos due to its thickness.16
3. Fluids with Low Viscosity – Oils that pour faster (with a viscosity of 600 cP or less) are not subject to this prohibition. For example, STAR-K tested Ultra Dawn Concentrated Dish Liquid/Anti-Bacterial Hand Soap17 at room temperature (70°F)18 and determined that it is permissible to use on Shabbos. Regular liquid dishwashing soap may also be used.19 Liquid deodorant in roll-on or spray form may also be used on Shabbos.20
4. Diluting Thick Fluids – One may use a diluted fluid if the viscosity of the diluted product is 600 cP or less.21 For example, Softsoap Anti-Bacterial Liquid Hand Soap with Light Moisturizers that is diluted one part water into two parts soap (i.e. 2/3 soap-1/3 water) is permissible for use on Shabbos.22
D. Tochain – One may not grind on Shabbos. Some are of the opinion that one may not break up clumps of blush or take powder from a cake of blush on Shabbos.23
F. Additional melachos that are prohibited and at times may be relevant to this matter include: Molid Rayach – Applying fragrance to clothing, and Gozez – Shearing.
Due to the various halachic issues regarding makeup and cosmetics on Shabbos, it is advisable for one to apply all makeup before Shabbos begins. All makeup may be applied on Erev Shabbos, even if it will remain on well into Shabbos.27 This includes long-lasting lipstick. This lipstick is sometimes referred to as “Shabbos lipstick,” since it lasts for up to 24 hours. This “Shabbos lipstick” may not be applied once Shabbos has begun (this would constitute tzovaya and memarayach) and should not be confused with “Shabbos makeup” in powdered form that some authorities permit on Shabbos, as will be discussed.
IV. “Shabbos Makeup”
HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt”l was of the opinion28 that one may use powdered makeup that is not long lasting. This circumvents the problem of tzovaya. This powder is commonly known as “Shabbos makeup.” Rav Moshe only allows the use of certain powders that have been carefully tested to ensure they are not long lasting. HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l29 disagrees and opines that all makeup may not be applied on Shabbos regardless of how long it lasts. This opinion is more widely accepted by Poskim. According to Rav Shlomo Zalman, all makeup, even “Shabbos makeup,” is forbidden to use on Shabbos. One should consult a Rav to determine which opinion one should follow.
To conform with Rav Moshe’s ruling, Shabbos makeup may only be used under the following conditions:
A. Tested – It has been tested by a reliable Rav or certifying agency to confirm that it is “temporary” enough to meet Rav Moshe’s standards. The product that one wishes to use on Shabbos must be specifically endorsed by the Rav or certifying agency. General statements should not be relied upon.
B. Dry Face – One may not apply makeup onto a wet area (this will cause the makeup to stay on too long). Therefore, before applying makeup, one’s face must be dry and clean. When using “Shabbos moisturizer” (i.e. it is specially prepared and approved for use on Shabbos), one must wait until it has completely dried before applying Shabbos makeup.
C. No Mixing – One may not mix cosmetic colors, because of tzovaya. Therefore, a separate brush must be used for each color. One may not apply Shabbos makeup on top of non-Shabbos foundation or makeup30 (that was applied before Shabbos). However, one may apply “Shabbos blush” on top of “Shabbos foundation” or re-apply Shabbos makeup over existing Shabbos makeup that is the same color.31
V. Practical Applications on Shabbos
A. Skincare34 – On a weekday, before applying makeup, women often apply cleansers, toners and moisturizers. On Shabbos, the following halachos apply to the usage of these skin care treatment products:
1. Cleansers – One may not apply cream or gel (memarayach) or wet pad astringents (schita). However, one may apply a watery liquid cleanser with one’s fingers. A cotton ball or cotton pad may not be used. To remove the cleanser on Shabbos, one should rinse it off with water or use a dry towel or facial tissue. One may not use a wet paper towel, pad or sponge.35
2. Toner – A liquid toner, used to freshen skin or to clean the pores, may be applied directly (e.g. by spraying) onto one’s face (without a cotton ball). One may not use a wet paper towel or sponge to rinse it off.
3. Moisturizer – Almost all varieties of this product are in a cream form and therefore may not be used on Shabbos (memarayach). This is true for those dispensed by pump or from a jar. One possible substitute is a specially prepared watered down spray or roll-on moisturizer.36 One must first confirm with a Rav that the product is watered down enough so that its usage does not constitute memarayach.37
4. Deep Cleansing Treatment, including facial scrubs, peels, and masks, are not permissible for use on Shabbos since they are always in cream form and constitute memarayach.
B. Makeup – The following are halachic guidelines regarding the use of different makeups on Shabbos. Note: Whenever a reference is made to Shabbos makeup, this refers to powders that have been tested by a reliable halachic authority to meet the standards of Rav Moshe zt”l (as addressed in section IV). As previously noted, according to Rav Shlomo Zalman zt”l, no color powders may ever be used on Shabbos.
1. Foundation/Concealer – This product is used to even out skin tones, smooth away the appearance of fine lines and imperfections, and apply a hint of color.38
a. Moisturizing Foundation with oil is usually a liquidy cream. Due to its thickness it may not be used on Shabbos (memarayach).
b. Water Based Foundation has a less thick consistency, but may still not be used on Shabbos (memarayach).
c. Pressed Cake Foundation that must be applied with a damp sponge may not be used on Shabbos (schita).
d. Powder Foundation – Powder foundation generally may not be used on Shabbos (tzovaya). However, there are Shabbos makeup powdered foundations available that are not long-lasting and may be used according to Rav Moshe zt”l, under the conditions listed above (section IV).
2. Blush/Rouge – These powders are used to add color to one’s face and to enhance cheek color. Regular powdered blush may not be used on Shabbos (tzovaya). However, as previously mentioned, there is “Shabbos makeup” powdered blush available that is not long-lasting and may be used according to Rav Moshe zt”l, under the conditions listed above (section IV). Blush in cream or stick form may not be used on Shabbos (memarayach and tzovaya).
3. Eye Makeup – There are four areas of the eye to which women apply cosmetics to highlight and enhance the appearance of the eye: the eyebrow, eyelid, eyeline, and eyelash. Applying eye makeup in the form of cosmetic creams, regular non-Shabbos powders, cake (powder that one mixes with water), pencils, and liquid eyeliners, is strictly forbidden on Shabbos.39
Besides the normal conditions of Shabbos makeup, according to some opinions, eye makeup poses additional concerns regarding blending colors (tzovaya).40 The following are halachic guidelines when using eye makeup. Note: These conditions are in addition to the general Shabbos makeup conditions listed in section IV.41
a. Eyelid – Typically, women apply two or three colors of makeup to the different areas of the eyelid. It is preferable to avoid doing this on Shabbos, since these colors will touch one another and blend. Therefore, it is best to apply only one color of “Shabbos makeup” powder to the eyelid.
b. Eyebrow and Eyeline – Women typically use cosmetic pencil/liquid eyeliner on these areas. As indicated previously, these may not be used on Shabbos. However, there are Shabbos makeup powdered eyeliners available that are not long-lasting and may be used according to Rav Moshe zt”l, under the conditions listed above (section IV).
If the Shabbos eyebrow or eyeline powdered makeup color is different from the eyelid makeup color, it is preferable that the two colors do not touch.
One may not tweeze eyebrows on Shabbos.
c. Eyelashes – Mascara is used to color and lengthen eyelashes. The use of this product with or without a brush on Shabbos is forbidden.42
4. Lip Makeup
a. Lipstick/Lipliner – One may not apply lipstick or lipliner on Shabbos, as, according to all opinions, this constitutes tzovaya and memarayach.43 This is true even if it is applied lightly or on top of existing makeup. As previously indicated, one may apply regular or extra long-lasting lipstick on Erev Shabbos.
b. Lip Powder – According to some Poskim, non long-lasting Shabbos makeup powder may be used on the lips44 under the conditions listed above (section IV), based on the opinion that non long-lasting powdered blush is permissible. Nonetheless, there are other Poskim who say even those who use non long-lasting powdered blush should not use powder on their lips.45 According to these opinions, women who wish to have makeup on their lips should not apply powder on their lips on Shabbos, but rather use long lasting lipstick on Erev Shabbos – v’hamachmir al zeh tavoh aleha bracha.
c. Lip Gloss – This product may not be used on Shabbos (tzovaya). This is true even if one applies untinted/clear lipgloss, as the Poskim consider this a form of tzovaya.46 If one uses a brush, it also creates the problem of schita. Lip sealer on top of existing makeup is also not permitted.47
d. Chapstick and Vaseline – These may not be used on Shabbos, as their use constitutes memarayach.48
C. Makeup Removal – If makeup must be removed on Shabbos, the following guidelines apply:
1. One may not use cream, petroleum jelly, or thick makeup removers (memarayach).
2. One may use liquid eye makeup remover, liquid cleanser, or baby oil in order to remove makeup. These products must have a watery consistency, and one must apply them by finger. One may not use a wet cotton ball or wet Q-tip to remove the makeup, as this constitutes schita.
D. Perfume – One is permitted to apply perfume and fragrances onto one’s body. One may not apply perfume or any fragrance to clothing or sheitels to make them smell nice. It is prohibited because it is molid rayach.
E. Nails – One may not clip or file nails on Shabbos (gozez). One may not apply nail polish (tzovaya). Colorless nail polish may also not be used.51
One may do all of these activities before Shabbos begins. If a woman needs to remove nail polish, it should be done before Shabbos. If one inadvertently left some nail polish on when Shabbos began, in preparation for tevilah, one may use nail polish remover on Shabbos. However, one may not pour the remover onto a cotton ball. Rather, one should pour it directly on the nail and rub it off with one’s finger.
VI. Permanent Makeup
In the process of applying permanent makeup, also known as micro pigmentation or cosmetic tattooing, a needle deposits colored pigments made from iron oxide below the top layer of the skin. This procedure, applied on lips and around the eyes, is a form of tattooing and is thus prohibited52 by the Torah (ksoves ka’aka). The prohibition of ksoves ka’aka applies even to makeup that is “semi-permanent” which only lasts for several years.53
The cosmetic industry has greatly changed since the days of Ezra Hasofer. The traveling salesmen of yesteryear have been replaced by the multi-billion dollar cosmetic industry of today. What hasn’t changed are the dinim and the importance of knowing and understanding the halachic guidelines of cosmetics that affect women.
The author wishes to thank Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst, Rabbi Dovid Weinberger, Dr. Yossi Scheller, Mrs. Shaindee Kelman and Mrs. Raizel Halon for their assistance in preparing this article.
1 Bava Kamma 82
2 Also see Midrash Tanchuma Vayishlach Siman 5 – “Rabanan Amri, etc.”
3 However, one may not derive benefit from milk and meat mixtures heated while in an edible state above yad soledes. There are different opinions, ranging from 110°F – 120°F, as to the temperature of yad soledes. HaRav Aharon Kotler zt”l was of the opinion that it is 120°F. In general, one may also not derive benefit from products containing non-kosher wine or grape juice.
4 See Biur Halacha 326:10 “Bsha’ar” who states this is the minhag haolam (unlike the opinion of the Gr”a).
5 It is also a davar she’aino mischaven with no psik raisha.
6 It is not fit for human consumption and there is no achshivay.
7 If one is ill and requires non-kosher medication, see “A Kashrus Guide to Medications, Vitamins, and Nutritional Supplements“.
8 The Ashkenazic custom is also not to consume kitniyos (legume products, including corn) on Pesach. However, one may own and derive benefit from these items. Therefore, makeup containing corn starch and other kitniyos derivatives may be used on Pesach.
9 Wheat alcohol is chometz. One may derive benefit from alcohol derived from corn and petroleum.
10 Examples of chometz ingredients include wheat protein, wheat germ, avena, beta glucan, oat extracts, and triticum vulgare. To assist those individuals who wish to be strict, STAR-K, in conjunction with Kollel Los Angeles, annually publishes an informational guide to Passover Medicines and Cosmetics, prepared by Rav Gershon Bess. For a full discussion see Pesach Medication & Cosmetics: The Halachos & Lists article.
11 Powdered products (e.g., powdered blush and foundation) and pencils containing chometz may be used even by those who are generally mehader since they are not ra’uy l’achila and there is no sicha k’shtiya when using these products.
12 Unless otherwise indicated, wherever Shabbos is referred to, Yom Tov is included, as the halachos regarding cosmetics are identical. On Chol Hamoed, all of the activities regarding makeup that are addressed are permissible l’tzorech hamoed (for Chol Hamoed or Yom Tov).
13 Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 303:25 and Mishna Brura 303:79
As to whether applying makeup is tzovaya d’oraysa or d’rabanan, see Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, Number IX, pg. 68. This essay by Rabbi J. David Bleich also addresses issues relating to the use of “Shabbos makeup.” This topic will be addressed in the next section.
14 Viscosity is the property of resistance to flow, in a fluid. One unit of measurement is a centipoise (cP). Water has a viscosity of 1 cP. The viscosity of olive oil is 84 cP. The viscosity of store-bought honey at room temperature (70°F) is 8500 cP (this is a sample figure, other factors [e.g., type of honey, water content] may change the viscosity).
15 We measured the viscosity of various liquids using a viscometer. Our results indicate that products with a viscosity higher than 600 cP are subject to memarayach.
16 Our tests indicate that this product has a much higher viscosity than 600 cP. If one is concerned about illness (e.g., Covid), and only has such liquid soap available, there are grounds for leniency. See Kitzur Hilchos Shabbos (29:18) who says there are some lenient opinions regarding liquid soap.
17 This product is used for both washing hands and washing dishes and has a viscosity of 600 cP. See also Igros Moshe Orach Chaim 1:113 who has a different opinion regarding this matter.
18 It should be noted that as the temperature decreases the viscosity of the product increases.
19 Since the viscosity is less than 600 cP. “Regular” liquid dishwashing soap refers to liquid soap intended for washing dishes only.
20 This only applies to deodorant – however, anti-perspirant may be considered refuah. This explanation answers the contradiction between Shulchan Aruch 303:15 and 328:36 as discussed in Bris Olam – Tochain 71.
21 According to some opinions, one should dilute the liquid hand soap before Shabbos.
22 Our testing indicates that the dilution lowers the viscosity of this product to less than 600 cP. It should be noted that this ratio of 1:2 does not necessarily apply to all products. Some formulations may require a greater dilution with water. In addition, it should be noted that on the contrary, some products, when diluted with water, become even more viscous. [An additional factor in the discussion of memarayach is the effect of surface tension on the flow rates of liquids. This complex topic is beyond the scope of this article.]
23 This opinion is said in the name of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l. This issue is dependent upon the guidelines of “ain tochain achar tochain” as addressed in Ktzos Hashulchan, Chapter 129, footnote 16.
24 This was decreed by Chazal lest one come to grind herbs to make medicine (shchikas samimanim). The gezeira does not apply to maachal briyim – food items used by healthy people (e.g., one may drink tea for a sore throat). In addition, this gezeira only applies to one who has a maychush. A choleh she’ein bo sakana (one who is ill, whose life is not in danger) and certainly a choleh sheyaish bo sakana (one whose life may be in danger) may take medication on Shabbos and are not subject to this gezeira.
25 This halacha also applies on Yom Tov, but does not apply on Yom Tov Sheini (i.e., the second day of the Shalosh Regalim [Pesach, Shavuos and Sukkos], the last day of Pesach, and Simchas Torah). For purposes of this halacha, the second day of Rosh Hashanah is not considered Yom Tov Sheini and this halacha applies.
27 There is no concern of mar’is ha’ayin (i.e. we are not concerned someone may think this makeup was applied on Shabbos.)
28 Igros Moshe Orach Chaim 1:114 and 5:27. A similar opinion is found in Yechaveh Da’as 4:28.
29 Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchasa Chapter 14, footnote 158.
30 Ktzos Hashulchan 146, footnote 20 – This may cause the Shabbos makeup to stay on longer.
31 In regards to applying Shabbos blush on top of Shabbos blush that is a different color or allowing different colors of Shabbos powdered eye makeup to touch, the following guidelines apply: Cosmetic chemists informed us that when two “Shabbos makeup” colors mix on one’s face, the new color is still a davar she’aino miskayem. Therefore, it would not constitute tzovaya. Nonetheless, since under certain circumstances blending colors could constitute tzovaya, according to some opinions, it is best not to allow different colors of powdered blush or eye makeup to touch even in a davar she’aino miskayem scenario – k’dei shelo asee lidei takala.
32 See footnote 23.
33 The powder should not be left on the cake, but rather stored elsewhere.
35 Removing makeup will be discussed later (section V-C).
36 In regards to using Shabbos makeup after applying Shabbos moisturizer, see guidelines above (section IV-B).
37 These guidelines were addressed above (section III-C)
38 Therefore, tzovaya may apply. As will be indicated, other melachos may also apply.
39 All involve the melacha of tzovaya and other possible prohibitions including schita and memarayach.
40 For a further explanation of this issue, see footnote 31.
41 As previously indicated, what is listed as permissible in this section is only according to Rav Moshe zt”l when using approved Shabbos makeup. Rav Shlomo Zalman zt”l holds it is not permissible.
42 The liquid application from the brush is schita and tzovaya. Coating lashes without a brush is also prohibited as it is tzovaya and may lead to schita.
43 Igros Moshe Orach Chaim 1:114.
45 K’dei shelo asee lidei takala.
46 Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchasa 14:58 in the name of Rav Shlomo Zalman zt”l. This is also stated in the name of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l.
47 It is something that is miskayem.
48 An additional problem may be refuah (see III-E). It should be noted that a choleh she’ein bo sakana may dab on creams or ointments without smearing them. One whose lips are bleeding or a baby with diaper rash are included in this category. A choleh sheyaish bo sakana may apply creams and ointments in a regular way, if necessary.
49 See Tzitz Eliezer, Volume 9, page 76 (Chapter 2, Siman 17 – 18:31-32).
50 See Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchasa, Chapter 14, footnote 79, in the name of Rav Shlomo Zalman zt”l.
51 Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchasa, ibid. 57.
Both the derma-technician who applies the permanent makeup and the one upon whom the permanent makeup is applied would be transgressing this prohibition (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 180:2 and Shach 180:4).
For a discussion regarding whether other types of cosmetic surgery are permissible, see Igros Moshe Choshen Mishpat 2:66.
53 Shraga Hameir 8:44 and L’Horos Nasan 10:64 – We have also heard this from other poskim.