The Prohibition to Color One’s Face on Shabbat
In the previous Halacha we have mentioned the words of the Talmud Yerushalmi that if one applies red color to one’s lips on Shabbat, one is liable for the Torah prohibition of dyeing/coloring on Shabbat.
We have also mentioned in the aforementioned Halacha that this only constitutes a rabbinic prohibition, not a Torah prohibition. The Halacha indeed follows this opinion and thus, if a woman colors her face on Shabbat as women usually do, she transgresses a rabbinic prohibition of coloring on Shabbat. If she uses cosmetics which are cream-based, there are some situations where she will transgress the prohibition of smearing as well. It is therefore imperative for women to take care and only apply makeup on Shabbat in a permissible fashion, as we shall soon delineate.
Similarly, the Baraita states (Shabbat 95a): “Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar says in the name of Rabbi Eliezer, a woman may not apply red color on her face on Shabbat for this constitutes coloring.” Clearly, just as there is a prohibition to color on Shabbat, it is likewise prohibited for a woman to color her face on Shabbat. Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 303, Section 25) rules likewise: “A woman may not apply red color to her face on Shabbat due to the prohibition of coloring. For the same reason, a woman may not apply blue color around her eyes (eyeliner) on Shabbat.” Based on the ruling of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, it is clearly prohibited to apply lipstick on Shabbat because of the prohibition of coloring. It would seem that applying powdered cosmetics to one’s face (such as blush and bronzer) should likewise be prohibited on Shabbat, for it is also similar to the prohibition to apply red color to one’s face.
Applying Dry Powder to One’s Face
Indeed, the Acharonim deal with this matter at length with some permitting it and some forbidding it. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes (in his Responsa Yabia Omer, Volume 6, Chapter 37) that there is room for leniency regarding face powder, for the red color that the Gemara prohibits to apply to one’s face on Shabbat involves actually coloring the face, whereas powder does not actually stick to one’s skin and eventually evaporates (or wears off) after a while (like talc and other such powders) and is not considered coloring at all. It is thus permissible to use such cosmetics on Shabbat. Hagaon Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l rules likewise.
Clearly, this only applies to cosmetics which are made of only dry powder. However, if the powder is mixed with cream, it is forbidden to apply it on Shabbat, for this constitutes coloring. Hagaon Harav Avraham Chaim Na’eh zt”l rules likewise in his Sefer Ketzot Ha’Shulchan. The same applies to all other forms of makeup that if they consist of only dry powder, it is permissible to use it on Shabbat.
The last time we had discussed the laws of applying makeup on Shabbat several years ago, it was brought to our attention that most powder-based cosmetics that women use are mixed with some cream-like ingredients and these products are certainly forbidden for use on Shabbat.
Applying Powder on Top of Foundation Makeup
Based on this, it is likewise forbidden to apply foundation makeup to one’s face on Shabbat, for this is exactly like applying red color to one’s face. It is therefore forbidden to apply powder on top of foundation makeup even if the foundation was applied before the onset of Shabbat, for the foundation makes the powder stick to one’s face and it will thus be tantamount to cream-based powders which we have written are prohibited for use on Shabbat.
We should also point out that it is forbidden for a woman to apply nail polish on Shabbat. It is likewise forbidden to remove nail polish on Shabbat.
The Bottom Line
Any G-d-fearing woman should take care not to apply cosmetics on Shabbat. Even if one is under tremendous pressure to do so, one should take care not to transgress the prohibitions of Shabbat desecration, G-d-forbid. If there is a need to do so, a woman can apply long-lasting makeup before the onset of Shabbat or specially-approved Shabbat makeup on Shabbat. The same applies to combing one’s hair on Shabbat. According to Halacha, combing one’s hair with a comb or brush is forbidden on Shabbat, for this causes hairs to be plucked out. When Maran zt”l guided young students in Torah and fear of Heaven approximately seventy years ago, before they got married, he would instruct them to teach their fiancés about the prohibition to comb one’s hair on Shabbat. These righteous women eventually gave birth to great and precious Torah scholars who illuminate the world with their Torah and good deeds until today.