Cuticles & peeling skin
21 October, 2009
1) Regarding peeling skin where there are small pieces of hanging skin: How much skin does one have to remove for the mikvah? How does one make a boundary between what one is makpid to remove and what one is not? Sometimes one would remove it but one would not remove all the skin as this would take hours.
2) If one doesn't remove or soak the peeling skin, is the immersion valid?
3) Are cuticles around the nails a problem if one immersed without removing them?
4) How does one remove small cuticles around the fingernails? These can take hours to remove.
There is no definitive boundary of what one is makpid (particular) to remove. Flaky skin may be bothersome, but that does not mean one is makpid to remove it. Most women are not makpid about tiny peeling pieces of skin. Large pieces should be removed. Tiny pieces need not be removed. Soaking in hot water beyond what is normal for mikveh preparation, or excessive scrubbing, should be avoided since it will generally make the skin peel even more. It may help to use heavy moisturizing cream for a few days prior to mikveh to help smooth the area. Cream should not be applied so close to immersion that a residue remains on the skin.
Cuticles that are intact are part of the body and are not a chatzitzah (barrier). They do not need to be removed or cut. Hanging cuticles are a chatzitzah and should be removed. Just as with hanging skin, tiny little pieces of hanging cuticle that are difficult or painful to be cut off do not need to be removed. Larger pieces should be cut off, but one does not have to cut them so close to the skin that they may bleed or be painful.
Preparations for mikveh should not take much more than an hour. A woman should try to remove all chatzitzot; she is expected to do her best but no more. It is important to remember that the Sages enacted many protective layers and stringencies to safeguard the law, so a woman who followed the normal preparation procedures can generally be confident that her immersion was valid.
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