A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the
week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.
SELECTED HALACHOS RELATING TO PARSHAS TETZAVEH
COSMETICS ON SHABBOS
QUESTION: Are there any cosmetics that a woman is permitted to use on
DISCUSSION: There are two forbidden Shabbos Labors which might be
transgressed when using makeup; one is Memareiach, smoothing, and the other
is Tzoveia, coloring.(1)
All poskim, without exception or debate, agree to the following:
Any cream makeup, liquid makeup, lipstick,(2) or makeup of any sort which
contains cream or oil is strictly prohibited to use.
These forms of makeup may not be applied even on top of existing makeup to
touch up. etc.
However, when it comes to face powder or powdery substances which have no
cream or oil base - such as certain brands of blush and eye shadow - there
is some ambiguity among contemporary halachic authorities. The basis for the
confusion is a responsum written by Harav M. Feinstein in 1957,(3) in which
he writes that "to throw (sprinkle) across the face white powder which does
not last at all is not a violation of the prohibition of coloring." Some
interpreted his words to mean that all powders which do not contain cream or
oil may be used since they do not cling to the skin for long.(4) But it
remains highly doubtful whether that is what Harav Feinstein meant. In a
subsequent responsum, written in 1984,(5) he clarifies that in his original
responsum he was referring to "simple white powder called talc which is made
without oil and does not last."(6) He also writes that "most of the powders
which are sold as makeup are oil-based, and that some of them last
temporarily, and therefore using most of them is a question of Coloring." It
is stretching things, therefore, to attribute to Harav Feinstein a blanket
heter (dispensation) to use any powdery makeup on Shabbos.
While Harav Feinstein's view remains somewhat unclear,(7) Harav S.Z.
Auerbach(8) leaves no room as to his opinion on this question. He writes
that "so long as the purpose is to color [the skin], even if it lasts only a
short while, there is no basis to be lenient. This is especially true when
the powder was intended for makeup and women color their faces in this
manner, we find no source to be lenient."
There are yet other poskim who prohibit using any tinted powder but permit
using white powder.(9)
Based on all of the above, the practical halachah is as follows: As a rule,
women should not apply any makeup on Shabbos. But since not wearing makeup
is a personal issue which could, under certain circumstances, affect
relationships, etc.,(10) it is recommended that those who find themselves in
such a situation consult a rabbi for guidance.
1 In this case, where the coloring is being done to a person's skin, the
prohibition is Rabbinic in nature; Mishnah Berurah 303:79. See Shulchan
Shelomo 303:16, that using nail polish may be Biblically forbidden.
2 Colored or colorless.
3 Igros Moshe O.C. 1:114.
4 See Yechaveh Da'as 4:28, who infers from this responsum that all non-
oil-based makeup is temporary and does not last. See also Ketzos ha-Shulchan
146:20, who writes that as long as the color does not become "attached" to
the face it is not considered Coloring. But even according to this lenient
interpretation, it remains unclear whether the makeup powders available
today, which adhere to the skin for a long time when applied normally, are
5 Igros Moshe O.C. 5:27.
6 Even when powder is permitted to be used, it must be in powder form before
the onset of Shabbos; ibid.
7 In addition to the written responsa, there are several unsubstantiated and
unclearly understood oral rulings reported by individuals who discussed this
matter with Harav Feinstein.
8 Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 14:59 and Tikunim U'miluim. See also Teshuvos
Beis Yisrael 56, who prohibits all powdered makeup.