(These halachot work similarly on Shabbat and on Yom Tov. For the sake of brevity, we will sometimes simply refer to “Shabbat”.)
A chatzitzah (barrier to mikveh immersion) is something that either covers a majority of a woman’s body or that she is particular to remove. Makeup covers only a minority of a woman’s body, and she usually wishes to have it on for the sake of beautification. Therefore, makeup—especially if it does not stand out from the surface of the skin—may not be considered a chatzitzah.
Nevertheless, makeup should usually be removed prior to immersion, for two reasons:
- Ideally, a woman should remove everything from the body before immersion, even items that are not technically considered a chatzitzah.
- The mikveh water itself may affect the makeup during immersion, making it a chatzitzah if it’s less than beautifying.
We’ll discuss the halachic parameters for applying and removing makeup on Shabbat, and then lay out possibilities for Shabbat immersion for women who use makeup.
On the one hand, there is a halachic value to looking one’s best on Shabbat. On the other, makeup application raises issues of memarei’ach, smoothing, and of tzovei’a, dyeing. (According to a minority opinion, applying eyeliner may be considered koteiv, writing.)
Halachic authorities generally consider tzovei’a with makeup to be a rabbinic-level prohibition, rather than a Torah-level prohibition, because the effects are not mitkayyem (long lasting).
Many authorities permit the use of powder cosmetics on Shabbat as long as they do not stick to the skin or remain on it for a significant amount of time, even if the powder is colored. A powder also is not subject to concerns of memarei’ach. This has led to the development of Rabbinically approved Shabbat powder makeups, which are oil-free to prevent adhesion. Other authorities prohibit use of such products, since they remain on the skin for some time (even if significantly less than regular makeup).
Using a skin-tinted product may be considered dyeing if the intent is to even out the appearance of the skin. Whether adding shine is considered tzovei’a is a matter of debate. So, an untinted face or lip oil or clear mascara might be permissible for use on Shabbat as long as the consistency is fairly liquid, to avoid concerns about memarei’ach.
It is widely permitted to remove makeup on Shabbat, because removing a dye is not considered a prohibited melachah (act of labor). Even so, to avoid questions of tzovei’a, it is preferable to wipe off makeup with materials that are not usually dyed, like disposable items. Out of concern to avoid sechitah, wringing, women typically apply water or cleanser to the face directly. Some halachic authorities, including this site’s Rabbinic Supervisor, Rav Kenneth Auman, permit using cleansing wipes for makeup removal.
Shabbat or Yom Tov, Makeup, and Immersion
When a woman’s immersion is scheduled for Shabbat or Yom Tov, there are a few different ways to handle the situation:
Immersing without makeup. This is the preferred course of action, and can be accomplished in a few different ways.
- Some women forgo makeup altogether on a Shabbat or Yom Tov when they immerse.
- Some women might go into Shabbat or Yom Tov with full makeup and attempt to schedule mikveh for after the evening meal, so that they can remove the makeup just prior to immersion. (Many authorities, including this site’s Rabbinic Supervisor Rabbi Auman, permit a woman to eat meat in this situation, as long as she cleans her teeth well prior to immersion.)
- Some women start Shabbat without makeup, immerse, and then apply Shabbat makeup afterwards. Given the importance of the mitzva of immersion, some authorities are more lenient with Shabbat powder makeup application after mikveh than at other times. A woman choosing this option should be careful to use Rabbinically-approved powder makeup, with clean brushes, and without mixing it with oils or blending colors, and should break up the powder before Shabbat.
- In some extenuating cases, a woman might receive permission to immerse shortly before candle-lighting (not seeing her husband until after nightfall) and then apply makeup after immersion but before Shabbat has begun.
Immersing with makeup. Some women immerse with long-lasting, waterproof makeup. In this case, a woman should check in advance that the makeup will hold up to dips in the water.
Postponing immersion. Halacha strongly encourages immersion on time. However, it is permissible for a couple to come to mutual agreement to postpone mikveh immersion.