Applying Cosmetics on Shabbat and Yom Tov – Part Three by Rabbi Chaim Jachter



In the last two weeks we have reviewed the strict and lenient approaches articulated by the twentieth century Poskim regarding the application of makeup on Shabbat and Yom Tov. This week we shall conclude our discussion by discussing the detailed issues regarding how exactly a woman may apply make-up on Shabbat and Yom Tov according to the lenient opinion.

Lipstick and Lipgloss

Rav Moshe writes (in his first responsum on this issue) that lipstick is forbidden because it violates Tzovei’a and Memacheik (smoothing the lipstick bar; similar to our practice not to use bar soap on Shabbat, see Mishnah Berurah 326:30). However, Rav Heber reports that there are commercially available powders made for Shabbat use that are not long-lasting and meet Rav Moshe’s criteria of Eino Mitkayeim Klal. There are some Rabbanim who object to the use of these lip powders claiming that the powder mixes with saliva and makes it long-lasting. However, Rav Heber reports that he consulted with three cosmetic chemists who all agreed that the saliva does not make the lip powder long-lasting. 

Rav Moshe writes that even liquid lipstick is forbidden on Shabbat and Yom Tov because of Tzove’ia. Rav Bleich explains that Rav Moshe refers to lipgloss. This appears difficult, as untinted and clear lipgloss only produces a shine but does not color the lips. The answer is that the Mishnah Berurah (327:12, as explained by Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata 14: footnote 152) writes that he believes that there is concern for Tzovei’a even if one creates only a shine.

Thus, both Rav Moshe and Rav Shlomo Zalman rule that clear lipgloss is forbidden to be used on Shabbat and Yom Tov (unless it is Eino Mitkayiem Klal, in which case Rav Moshe would permit its use). Interestingly, Rav Heber reports that when Rav Moshe was shown clear lipgloss he responded that it is forbidden because it creates a shine. However, Rav Moshe remarked that some authorities were lenient regarding this issue. Indeed, the Mishnah Berurah does not cite a source for his assertion that creating a shine constitutes Tzovei’a, and he only writes that there is a concern for Tzovei’a, perhaps indicating that the Mishnah Berurah was not thoroughly convinced of his assertion. Nonetheless, I have not discovered any prominent Poskim who disagree in writing with the strict ruling of Rav Moshe and Rav Shlomo Zalman.

Loose Powder

Rav Moshe writes (in his second responsum on this topic) that the make-up powder must be  repared before Shabbat. Rav Moshe does not present a reason for this requirement, but Rav Heber reports that Rav Moshe explained to his Talmidim that there is a problem of Tochein (grinding) if one removes the powder from the cake on Shabbat. Tochein is the Av Melachah forbidding the breaking of an item into a very small item.

Rav Moshe’s ruling is somewhat debatable in light of the fact that the powder was ground before it was formed into a cake during its manufacture. Thus, it would seem to be permitted for the consumer to grind the makeup cake as she would be grinding an item that was
previously ground. In fact, the Rama (O.C. 321:12) specifically permits crumbling bread into crumbs to feed one’s animals on Shabbat, since the bread was ground during its production and we apply the rule of “Ein Tochein Achar Tochein,” (one cannot violate the prohibition of Tochein more than once on the same item). The same rule should, at first glance, apply to makeup powder.

However, the principle of Ein Tochein Achar Tochein does not appear in the Gemara nor is it a self-evident principle. The Ran (32a in the pages of the Rif s.v. Amar Rav Papa) and the Yereim (274) present this idea, which is supported by the Tosefta (Shabbat 13:12). However, the Chayei Adam (Hilchot Shabbat 17:4) notes that a minority view does not subscribe to this principle (see the Rishonim cited in the Encyclopedia Talmudit 19:179, footnote 334 who seem not to subscribe to this notion). Indeed, the Chayei Adam urges us to avoid relying on this leniency.

Thus, the principle of Ein Tochein Achar Tochein is a Chiddush (and is subject to some debate) and therefore some Acharonim seek to limit its application. In fact, the Ketzot Hashulchan (129:16) cites Acharonim who argue that the principle of Ein Tochein Achar Tochein applies only to food items. Thus, since the Rama’s Chiddush is presented in the context of food (crumbling bread) perhaps one should not extend the Chiddush beyond the Rama’s ruling (Ein Lecha Bo Ela Chiddusho). Rav Heber, in turn, reports that Rav Moshe explained to his Talmidim that one should be strict regarding makeup since he believes that the Rama’s ruling that Ein Tochein Achar Tochein does not apply to non-food items. However, since this is a debatable matter, perhaps one could be lenient in case of very great need, such as if one forgot to remove the powder before Shabbat. One should consult her Rav for a ruling. 

Moisturizers and Mimareiach

Rav Moshe cautions women (in his second responsum on this topic) to avoid violating the Melachah of Memacheik when applying makeup. A prime example of this is the application of moisturizer on Shabbat and Yom Tov. Rav Heber reports that almost all varieties of moisturizers are in a cream form and their application constitutes Memareiach, a subcategory (Toladah) of Memareiach. 

Memareiach (as defined by Rav Ribiat, The Thirty Nine Melochos, 3:913) refers to smoothing soft, pliable substances that may be pressed or molded to a shape. A prime example of this is the Mishnah (Shabbat 146a) that forbids spreading wax to seal a hole in a barrel. The Gemara (Shabbat 146b) records a dispute between Rav and Shmuel whether this prohibition applies to spreading oil to seal a hole in a barrel. 

Rav asserts that it is rabbinically forbidden to spread oil lest one come to spread wax, whereas Shmuel permits this activity as he does not believe in the necessity of creating such a G’ezeirah (rabbinic enactment). The Halacha follows Rav (Rambam Hilchot Shabbat 23:11 and Shulchan Aruch O.C. 314:11) as is the usual protocol in the context of ritual matters (Issurei). Rav Ribiat (The Thirty Nine Melochos 3:919) writes that rouge creams, eye-shadow creams, petroleum jelly, and hand creams such as Nivea and Desitin are included in this rabbinic prohibition.

However, it appears that even Rav concedes that this rabbinic prohibition does not apply to all substances. Rashi (ad. loc. s.v. Mishcha) adds that this prohibition applies only to thick oil. The Shulchan Aruch (ad. loc., as emphasized by the Mishnah Berurah 314:46) rules in accordance with Rashi. The Mishna Berurah explains that since thick oil may be spread a bit, it is similar to wax and hence the Gezeirah is appropriate. The question, though, is how to determine precisely which items are included in this rabbinic prohibition. A classic illustration of this problem is the question of the permissibility of using liquid soap on Shabbat. The Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 326:11) and the Ketzot Hashulchan (146:32) permit the use of liquid soap on Shabbat. They believe that liquid soap is not comparable to thick oil and thus the prohibition of Memareiach does not apply. Dayan Posen (Kitzur Hilchot Shabbat p. 74) notes that common practice is to follow this lenient ruling. Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata (14:16) essentially rules in
accordance with this approach. 

Defining Memareiach – Rav Moshe, Dayan Posen and Rav Heinemann

Based on this ruling, Dayan Posen (ad. loc.; p. 145, 32:19) sets a standard for what items are included in the rabbinic prohibition of Memareiach. He writes, “Anything that is thick to the extent that it cannot pour, does not flow by itself, and needs to be smoothed out is similar to Memareiach and is forbidden. Liquid soap is permissible as it pours, flows by itself, and does
not need to be smoothed out.” Dayan Posen adds that since the classic Poskim present no objective standard regarding this issue and that since this is only a rabbinic prohibition, one has the right to adopt a limited definition of the rabbinic level prohibition of Memareiach. Rav Ribiat (The Thirty Nine Melochos 3:920) essentially adopts this approach as normative. He discusses this at length in a Hebrew footnote (3:682-685). Rav Ribiat writes based on this standard, that baby oils, lubricating jellies (such as KY jelly) and olive oil are permissible to use on Shabbat. 

On the other hand, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe O.C. 1:113), while noting the lenient practice of many to use liquid soap on Shabbat, expresses serious reservations about this lenient approach. He is concerned that even liquid soap can be spread and thus should be included in the rabbinic level prohibition of Memareiach. Based on this ruling of Rav Moshe, Rav Binyamin Zilber (Brit Olam) rules that any item that is even just somewhat thick is included in the rabbinic level prohibition of Memareiach. Rav Ribiat notes the practice of some to water down their liquid soap before Shabbat in order to accommodate the strict approach and Shmirat Shabbat Kehilchata (ad. loc.) writes that it is “good” (but not required) to accommodate Rav Moshe’s strict opinion. 

Rav Heber reports that Rav Moshe Heinemann, the Rabbinic Administrator of the Star-K,  adopts a compromise position between Rav Moshe and Dayan Posen. Rav Heber reports that he and Rav Heinemann (a major Poseik who is renown for being highly mechanically adept) devoted a number of hours testing the viscosity (the property of resistance to flow in a fluid, that is measured in units called centipoise, cP) of various liquid soaps. Rav Heinemann concluded that only oils with a viscosity of 600 cP or less are not included in the rabbinic prohibition. Thus, he forbids the use of Softsoap Liquid Hand Soap on Shabbat since its viscosity is higher than 600 cP. On the other hand, he permits Ultra Dawn Concentrated Dish Liquid / Anti-Bacterial Hand Soap, because its viscosity is 600 cP. He notes, though, that this measurement applies only when the room temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit; the lower the temperature, the higher the viscosity. One might question the use of a viscometer regarding this issue, if Chazal and the classic Poskim did not use such a machine. Chazal and classic Poskim clearly used common sense perception to reach conclusions regarding this matter. One might reply that each generation is required to use the tools that are available at the time in rendering Halachic decisions. This is an example of a broad Halachic issue that has numerous applications in a wide range of issues: whether common sense judgment or accurate measurement is necessary. For further discussion of this issue, see my Gray Matter pp. 182-184 and my essay in Beit Yitzchak 33:450-453. We should note that a benefit of Rav Heinemann’s standard is that it helps cosmetic chemists develop products that are permissible to use on Shabbat and Yom Tov. Thus, a precise technically accurate definition is beneficial regarding this issue. 

In sum, three standards exist regarding the definition of Memareiach on Shabbat – Rav Moshe, Dayan Posen and Rav Heinemann. One should consult his Rav for a ruling regarding which opinion to follow. This dispute impacts the question of the permissibility of using moisturizers, as a specially prepared watered down moisturizer is potentially permissible to use on Shabbat and Yom Tov. The question is how much must it be watered down in order to render it permissible for Shabbat and Yom Tov use.


Many cosmetics are forbidden on Shabbat and Yom Tov according to all opinions. No consensus, though, has been reached regarding the permissibility of the use of temporary makeup on Shabbat and Yom Tov. Undoubtedly, it is best to avoid applying any makeup on these days. However, as a Talmid of Rav Soloveitchik, I believe that if a woman feels that it is essential for her to apply makeup on Shabbat and Yom Tov, she has the right to follow the lenient opinion if she strictly adheres to Rav Moshe’s guidelines. This is especially true in light of the fact that the Rambam, Beit Yosef, Magen Avraham, Mishnah Berurah and Aruch Hashulchan all agree that the prohibition of applying makeup is only rabbinic in nature. However, only products that a competent and trained Posek has permitted for use on Shabbat and Yom Tov may be used even according to the lenient opinion. It is also strongly recommended that a woman who follows the lenient approach consult Rabbi Heber’s essay (available at for a lengthy description of how to avoid the numerous pitfalls involved in applying makeup on Shabbat and Yom Tov. A woman should consult her Rav for a ruling regarding all of the matters that we have discussed.


It is evident from these past two essays that contemporary (and classic) Rabbanim are  extraordinarily sensitive to the need that many women have to apply makeup on Shabbat and Yom Tov. Rabbanim such as Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Moshe Heinemann devoted many hours to insuring that women have an opportunity to use makeup on Shabbat and Yom Tov in a permissible manner. This follows the tradition of Chazal of being exceedingly sensitive to the needs of Bnot Yisrael.

The Building and Maintenance of Mikvaot – Part 1 by Rabbi Chaim Jachter

Applying Cosmetics on Shabbat and Yom Tov – Part 2 by Rabbi Chaim Jachter