Nishmat's Women’s Health and HalachaIn memory of Chaya Mirel bat R' Avraham

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Nails and Mikveh

Nails and Immersion

A part of a woman’s body, like a nail, is not generally considered a chatzitzah (barrier to mikveh immersion).

However, a portion of a nail that is soon to fall off or be removed may be considered a chatzitzah, and dirt on or under the nail should be cleaned off prior to immersion.

Over time, a strong custom developed to file and trim nails prior to immersion to avoid such issues. Accepted practice is for a woman to file off anything jagged and to trim the nails so that they are not visible above her fingers when she looks at her hands from the side of her palm. However, immersion with longer nails is considered valid.

Toenails should also be trimmed and cleaned prior to immersion. However, where women are less meticulous about toenails than fingernails, halacha allows for more leeway.

Manicures and Immersion

A chatzitzah (barrier to mikveh immersion) is a substance that either covers a majority of a woman’s body or that she is particular to remove. Nail polish covers only a minority of the body, and women usually wear polish for the sake of beautification. Therefore, it would seem not to be a chatzitzah.

Even so, it is customary to remove nail polish prior to immersion, for three reasons:

  1. Polish removal can be considered part of thoroughly cleaning the nails of any foreign substance.
  2. Ideally, a woman should remove everything from the body before immersion, even items that are not technically considered a chatzitzah.
  3. According to some opinions, if something in place for beautification has independent substance, then it is considered a chatzitzah.

However, some halachic authorities do permit immersion with nail polish, so long as it is fully intact (as after a fresh manicure) and thus actually beautifying. There is also more room for leniency if the polish will not be removed for at least a week after immersion, or if it requires professional removal. As above, there may be extra leeway with a pedicure.

In some communities, it has become the norm for women who have manicures at all times to immerse with nail polish.

In many communities, removing polish and trimming nails remains the halachic norm and is strongly encouraged. Even in these communities, local authorities may permit immersion with polish for women for whom this is very difficult, especially those who would prefer to skip or delay immersion rather than remove polish for mikveh.

For immersion with polish to be valid, there must be no easily visible gaps or chips, and the nails must be well cleaned.

Since mikveh policies vary, a woman planning to immerse with polish in place should check with the mikveh in advance.

Manicure Types

There are a wide range of manicures, some of which are simpler than others when it comes to mikveh immersion.

Bare manicures

A bare manicure, like a Japanese or dry gloss manicure, employs substances that are absorbed into the nail. This type of manicure usually poses no issues for immersion.

Easy-to-remove manicures

Easy-to-remove manicures that can be removed at home prior to immersion are advantageous. These include polish, breathable polish, soft gel, and some hybrid gel products, as well as self-adhesive nails and press-on nails with dissolvable glue. These types of manicures also have the advantage of being easily touched up or reapplied at home.

Hard-to-remove manicures

Hard-to-remove manicures that often require professional assistance for removal—dip powder, acrylic, and gel (and extensions)—pose more of a mikveh challenge, because a woman needs to coordinate an appointment for removal with mikveh night. Removal at home can damage the nail and often results in incomplete, unaesthetic results.

For women with a monthly mikveh cycle, it is difficult to synchronize immersion with a roughly three-week manicure cycle. Even women planning to immerse with a long-lasting manicure in place face scheduling challenges, since the manicure typically won’t be fully intact and beautifying past three weeks. Further complicating scheduling, women are advised to take periodic breaks from these types of manicures, to protect nail health.

These types of manicures also tend to have additional thickness, so that they are difficult to fill aesthetically as they grow out. (If they lift, this can also pose issues for cleaning.) Depending on the timing, a woman who seeks to immerse with an intact manicure of this sort may need to see a professional for a truly beautifying fill.

In a pressing situation, as when a manicurist is unavailable, a woman might be able to immerse with a hard-to-remove manicure that is growing out, depending on its condition and whether women would usually be particular to touch it up to look their best. In this case, some halachic authorities recommend adding a coat of regular, matching polish over new nail growth (or the whole nail), if it improves the aesthetics. A woman should reach out to a halachic authority with any specific question.

As mentioned above, there is more room for leniency to immerse with a manicure that requires professional removal. On the other hand, removing or filling this type of manicure on schedule for mikveh can present significant challenges. We would usually recommend that women who seek a longer-lasting manicure consider other options that combine almost gel-level results with easier at-home removal.

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All health and health-related information contained within Nishmat's Women's Health & Halacha Web site is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for consulting with your health care professional. The advice is intended to offer a basis for individuals to discuss their medical condition with their health care provider but not individual advice. Although every effort is made to ensure that the material within Nishmat's Women's Health & Halacha Web site is accurate and timely, it is provided for the convenience of the Web site user but should not be considered official. Advice for actual medical practice should be obtained from a licensed health care professional.

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