At Nailknowledge, we frequently receive inquiries about the compatibility of nail polish with Muslim practices. In this article, we aim to answer this common concern and offer insights into the topic.
The central question we address here is: “As a practicing Muslim, I am bound by the restrictions of Islamic law when it comes to the nail polish I can wear. This raises an important question: do you know which types of nail polish are permissible under these guidelines?”
The Intersection of Nail Polish and Islamic Law
To be clear, I am not Muslim, and I do NOT have the qualifications needed to interpret Islamic law, but over the last several years I’ve consulted with several Muslim experts in these areas and I have relied heavily on their expertise.
By combining my scientific knowledge with their expert knowledge about specific Islamic laws, I’ve been better able to determine the facts behind this highly confusing issue, as it applies to wearing nail polish.
Many companies have recently started marketing “Halal” nail polish to Muslim women, which has led to confusion about whether these nail polishes adhere to Islamic law. Most of the confusion exists because the term “Halal” implies that all Islamic requirements have been met, but that is not the case for nail polish. Nail polishes have a separate and different requirement that goes beyond being Halal.
Halal Certification: Its Significance and Application in the Context of Nail Polish
First, let’s discuss what it means to be “Halal certified”. What is that? Halal certified- simply means “permitted or lawful”, under Islamic law. This certification is provided for foods or cosmetics if they can demonstrate that they do not contain any substances forbidden by Islamic law, e.g. drinking alcohol which is called ethanol and pork are typical examples.
Halal certifications are intended for foods, but also include other items that may be swallowed, e.g. mouthwash, toothpaste or lipsticks. This requirement really doesn’t apply to nail polish, yet some marketers are using the term in a confusing fashion and some are misleading many Muslim women.
Halal certification is very easy to obtain. Companies must pay a monetary fee to the governing body, after which they review the list of ingredients for the product.
Nail Polish and Islamic Law Regarding Wudu
Once it is determined that a food or cosmetic product contains no forbidden substances, it can become “Halal certified”. This is very much like the Kosher designation. Both Kosher and Halal have similar goals and requirements. However, nail polish is different from other cosmetics and MUST adhere to another Islamic law that so far has proven impossible for any nail polish to achieve.
This law requires Muslims to wet their nail plates before praying, and this can NOT be achieved if they are wearing nail polish. A “spiritual wash” called Wudu, is required to be performed before every prayer and this is extremely important. This ritual wash is used to attain a state of mental preparation for prayer and help to maintain good physical cleanliness.
Muslim doctrine teaches that practitioners MUST perform a spiritual wash BEFORE they pray. If they do not perform this required spiritual wash, their prayers are considered invalid and do not count. In other words, praying without properly performing Wudu, is like not praying at all. Pretty serious stuff for practicing Muslims.
Nail Polish and its Compatibility with Wudu Requirements
Since Muslims are required to pray five times per day, they must perform the spiritual wash several times per day, which is why most practising Muslim’s don’t wear nail polish. If a Muslim does not get their nail plates wet with liquid water, their Wudu was not properly performed and thus their prayers do not count. Claiming that water “vapors” penetrate through nail polish to the nail plate is not nearly enough; vapors and traces of moisture do not count as a spiritual wash.
I have examined the ingredients and the testing is done on nail polish that claims to allow water to pass through the polish to reach the nail plate. In my opinion, these are nothing more than simple tricks designed to fool the public. I’m speaking specifically about a silly test where nail polish was applied to a coffee filter and then it was shown how water passed through the filter. What? Since when did a coffee filter become a good substitute for the nail plate? This is utter foolishness and trickery, in my view. I suspect that I could make any nail polish pass this silly test, so it proves nothing. I believe this test was adopted to fool people into thinking they could perform a proper spiritual wash without removing their nail polish, but that is a false hope.
The Scientific Perspective: Nail Polish and Wudu Compatibility
As a scientist with more than 25 years’ experience developing nail coating products, I can assure everyone that there are NO known formulations of any nail polish that allow water to pass through the coating to fully wet the nail plate as required. Here is the simple truth; no nail polish is compliant with the requirements of Wudu spiritual washing. Nail polishes that claim to be “Halal” compliant, are simply declaring they contain no forbidden ingredients and that has nothing to do with whether nail polish is Wudu compliant, as is required. Halal cosmetics are fine to wear, just as long as they do NOT interfere with Wudu spiritual washes before prayer.
Nail polish does interfere with Wudu, therefore practising Muslim women who care about water reaching their nail plates should be advised that they will still need to remove their nail polish before performing a spiritual wash and prayers. Marketers should be careful not to over promise what their products can do and should be clear about their limitations.
Exploring the Future: Prospects for Fully Compliant Nail Polish
After 25+ years researching the natural nail, I have a deep understanding of nail coating products and their chemistry, so I’m often asked, “what about the future”? Will there ever be a fully compliant nail polish that Muslim women can wear continuously and still pray regularly? I do believe that someday, a fully complaint nail polish that allows water to pass through the coating to wet the nail plate will someday be developed.
To make such a huge technological breakthrough will require a significant research effort, which now-a-days most cosmetic companies try to avoid. Only the biggest and the best can take on a significant challenge like this, so it’s not likely to happen any time soon and not likely to be developed by a small company. To date, all the money has been spent on marketing of “Halal” certifications and no one has been willing to invest in a real research program to create a fully complainant nail polish. But with approximately 500 million practicing Muslim women of nail polish wearing age, I suspect that sooner or later someone will create a useful and viable solution to great unfilled need.