UPDATED: Is Breathable Nail Polish Sufficient for Wuḍū’?


UPDATE 8-22-2013: My initial article on Inglot’s breathable nail polish was welcomed by many and severely critiqued by others. One of the main criticisms was that the experiment conducted by one of my students was inaccurate and could not be repeated with success. There were many people who reported successful results while several others who documented failure. Obviously, there are several variables that could lead to the experiment not working as it should. Therefore, I have been pressuring Inglot cosmetics to perform a professional experiment which is well documented, and they finally responded. The results should clear up most misconceptions that people may have had. Keep in mind, this only applies to only one coat of polish and has not been tested with base or top coats. Inglot is continuing experimentation and will be releasing more results soon. The results of the latest experiment is below.

When asked about the use of the coffee filter resembling the flexibility of the human nail, Inglot stated the following:

“We are working on finding a different testing surface, other than a coffee filter,  that would resemble a surface of human nail. For the purpose of future experiments we have invested in purchasing more advance testing equipment. Additionally we have already discussed a cooperation with one of universities to conduct more tests checking the following factors: time, pressure, temperature and a number of layers. We will be working closely to find a different testing surface. We have already taken that issue into consideration during the last experiment. Look at the 1:10 minute of the film when the metal stand is being completed and the filter is being placed. The bottom part, on which the filter is placed, has a metal screen built in, which has the flexibility similar to the human nail. It was intentionally used to prevent from extensive or unnatural bending while rubbing which would cause damage to the filter and let the water penetrate easily.”

UPDATE 07-16-13:  For those who are skeptical about using the Inglot polish because of the variance in experiments conducted by various people, I recommend checking out the Tuesday in Love brand of water permeable polish: http://www.tuesdayinlove.com/how-it-works

UPDATE 04-03-13: I have been contacted by quite a few people from different parts of the world who are claiming that they attempted their own experiments on the nail polish and it isn’t working for them. Here are links to two well-documented experiments performed by others: one and two. Here is a video of another experiment that worked. I am open to feedback and appreciate comments, but please: if you are going to criticize my article, make sure to actually read it first and then specify which part you don’t agree with and why.

UPDATE 03-25-13: Inglot has conducted tests which may reveal that not only water vapor but even a droplet can permeate a single layer of O2M polish. The results are unofficial and will be finalized soon. In the meantime, here is some information which explains how and why the polish works: download here

UPDATE 02-25-13: Mr. Inglot, the founder of the company, just passed away on Feb 23. We were scheduled to meet this week and he was going to share his research on some tests being performed on the O2M polish. The tests will now be delayed for a while. You may download his preliminary findings here.

UPDATE 02-07-13: The permeability may be affected by wearing more than one layer [e.g. a base coat, top coat, etc.] so make sure to either test permeability or wait until Inglot releases the tests that they are currently conducting before using multiple layers.


One of the most common questions asked by Muslim sisters is whether or not they are allowed to wear nail polish. The frequent query about whether nail polish is ḥalāl (lawful) or ḥarām (prohibited) is worded incorrectly. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with wearing nail polish.1 The real issue is that this substance forms an impermeable barrier over the nails preventing water from getting underneath. So when a sister needs to perform wuḍū’ (ablution) in order to pray, it cannot be completed without first removing the nail polish.

Many Muslim women have found a solution: wear the nail polish during their period since they don’t need to pray during those days. Yet many sisters will admit that they wish it would be somehow possible to wear nail polish at any time of the month. First, it is highly fashionable nowadays. Second, wearing nail polish usually indicates to another person that a sister is undergoing her period, which can be very embarrassing for others to know.

Now there is a solution. No, I’m not talking about wearing henna. Most scholars advise it as a substitute while failing to realize just how different henna is from nail polish in the world of fashion and beauty. The urge to wear nail polish on a regular basis has even led some sisters to wear a ‘peelable’ variety, which can be scraped off without any chemicals. But what if there was a nail polish that allowed the water to seep through?

Good news. Inglot Cosmetics, a company from Poland, has released a new line of polish called O2M that it has labeled “breathable nail enamel”.2 It borrows a polymer used in some contact lenses that allows oxygen and moisture to penetrate to the nail.3 One sister wisely decided to call the company and was told that water vapor reaches the nail but not water in its liquid form.4 The question then arises about whether water vapor reaching the nail suffices for wuḍū’. Let’s look at the issue in detail.

Reasoning Behind the Necessity of Washing

There are several sisters who don’t know that nail polish prevents wuḍū’, and probably just as many who don’t care and will wear it anyways. But for those who do care, this analysis might help clarify things.

Muslim scholars have analyzed the issue of impermeable substances in the following manner. This verse of the Qur’an prescribes the wuḍū’, “…wash your faces and your arms…” (Qur’an, 5:6). The points that require investigation are: what is meant by ‘arms’ and what is meant by ‘wash’. Mention of the word ‘arms’ (which includes the hands linguistically in Arabic) indicates that every part must be washed and not a single spot should be left dry. Scholars arrived at this conclusion both through linguistic analysis as well as by analyzing reports from the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him), which emphasize that the body parts must be washed thoroughly. From this they concluded that anything that prevents water from reaching any of these parts must be removed. For example, if someone had dried paint, dough, or wax on their hand while performing wuḍū’, the water would not permeate that substance and the hand would not have been properly washed. The same is true with nail polish which, when dried, forms a solid impermeable layer on the nails. This is why women are instructed to remove their nail polish when performing wuḍū’. Other substances that do not form an impermeable solid layer such as henna, oil, ink, and lotion are allowed due to the ability of water to penetrate through, especially when rubbing over the wet area.5

As to the definition of ‘washing’, it means that water flows over the surface of every body part which must be washed during wuḍū’.6 The bare minimum amount of water that must be used in order to suffice has been a matter of contention among scholars. Some stated that the part being washed must drip off at least one drop of water.7 Other scholars held that water must have reached every area of that body part, but dripping off is not necessary.8

The important thing to realize is that these scholars were trying to precisely define a minimum point at which the body part in question has had water ‘flow’ over it. The first opinion did not imply that drops of water must drip from any particular area but rather from any area of one body part. For example, while washing the arm with the hand elevated above the elbow, it is likely that the water would drop off near the elbow area due to gravitational forces. For our case concerning the fingernails, this opinion (which is the stricter of the two) does not necessitate water having to drip off the fingernails. This makes sense because water usually drips from a small area when it has completely flowed over that region.

Based on this difference of opinion concerning the definition of washing, scholars have differed concerning whether rubbing snow over the body parts suffices for wuḍū’ if no drops fall off.9 At first glance, it might appear to a student of Islamic Law that this example serves as a good analogy to apply to the issue of breathable nail polish. However, upon further inspection the analogy fails because the case of snow involves no drops falling whereas the case of the fingernails does involve drops falling, even if not from the nail area. Keeping this in mind, if the entire hand was immersed in water and water vapor permeated through to the nails, it would not matter whether or not an actual drop of water in its liquid form reached the nail. The entire hand is still considered washed since water reached every area.

A Test Case

One of my students10 decided to perform a test to see whether or not water actually seeped through when using the Inglot O2M nail polish. As a test case, she applied standard pink nail polish and purple O2M on a coffee filter and allowed both to dry. She then placed another coffee filter below the painted one, squeezed two drops of water over the polish, and applied some pressure with her finger.11 After about ten seconds it was clear that the water was prevented from seeping through (even to the back side of the first filter) on the standard polish but clearly went through the O2M and even wet the second filter. This is sufficient to show that the claims made by the manufacturer are correct and water does indeed permeate through to the nail.

Conclusion

It is imperative that issues such as the legitimacy of wearing breathable nail polish while performing wuḍū’ be properly researched both on the scientific level as well as the fiqhī (Islamic Law) level. It appears to me that there is a sound basis for believing the water seeps through to the nail when wearing O2M breathable nail polish. Perhaps not every brand that claims to be breathable meets this criteria and perhaps the nails need to be soaked in water for a few seconds. Nonetheless, the basis exists for permissibility. As for the questions concerning whether or not nail polish should be used by Muslim women in public, which colors may potentially cross the boundaries of modesty (ḥayā’), and whether these cosmetics are an extravagant use of one’s wealth are all beyond the scope of this article and not directly related to the issue at hand. Sisters must consider all those variables before using any cosmetics, but after they have done so, the research on breathable nail polish points to its permissibility.

For more info on contemporary fiqh issues, see Mustafa’s new book: Guide of the Believer

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  1. This is according to the widely-held opinion by several Muslim scholars that cosmetics containing alcohol are allowed to be worn. Also, cosmetics should not be tested in a cruel manner on animals or contain any pork products such as gelatin. The Inglot brand discussed in this article is free from these deficiencies. See http://veggiebeauty.com/cruelty-free-statement-inglot []
  2. http://inglotcosmetics.com/o2m.nail.enamel/products/141/565 []
  3. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/22/fashion/22SkinOne.html?_r=3& []
  4. http://www.reveilingyourself.com/2012/04/halal-nail-polish.html []
  5. It is interesting to note that Ibn ʿĀbidīn [ḥanafī] argues this is not the real reason but substances like henna are allowed due to necessity. See Ibn ʿĀbidīn, Radd al-Muḥtār, 1:154. []
  6. Al-Samarqandī, ʿAlā’ al-Dīn, Tuḥfah al-Fuqahā’, 1:8. []
  7. Ibn al-Humām, Kamāl, Fatḥ al-Qadīr, 1:15. []
  8. Ibid. This is the opinion of Imām Abū Yūsuf. []
  9. Kāsānī, ʿAlā al-Dīn, Badā’iʿ al-Ṣanā’iʿ, 1:3. []
  10. Shabana Haxton lives in California and is an RN, MSN, and CNL. []
  11. The extra drop on the filter paper seen in the picture was an accidental misfire from the dropper and was not taken into consideration during the experiment. []

211 Comments

  1. sarah says:

    how do we order this halal nail polish

  2. Nafisa says:

    Thank-you for this useful article. I love nail polish and have often found it so tiring to remove it every time I need to do wudu. Thanks for helping clarify.

  3. Chandra says:

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  4. Its very nice Article. i think the writer has put much efforts to investigate about Islam. that is the real teaching of Islam.

  5. maryam says:

    It seems that Macy’s seeks it. Herald square, downtown Boston. You may be able to order it online from them.

  6. very good message conveyed by this article good effort made by author appreciate your effort good concept discussed by author may Allah give you more time to clear more concepts like this. May Allah give you more strength to write articles like this article has got a place in my heart. in these days Muslims has gone away from the true teachings of Islam. the authors like you can play a good role to create a society which would be based on the true teachings of Islam. i really appreciate yo very good message conveyed by this article good effort made by author appreciate your effort good concept discussed by author may Allah give you more time to clear more concepts like this. May Allah give you more strength to write articles like this article has got a place in my heart. in these days Muslims has gone away from the true teachings of Islam. the authors like you can play a good role to create a society which would be based on the true teachings of Islam. i really appreciate you.

  7. fatima says:

    The new O2M nail polish is clearly halal, and the strict interpretation that regular nail polish was not halal are ridiculous. A woman’s hands are clean, even if wearing regular polish, after washing them. The intent of the ritual is that you touch the holy book with clean hands, not to soil it. It was not meant to be a ritual preventing women from being fashionable. Overly strict interpretation of rules leads to more harm than good. You could argue that wet nail polish would not be halal as you could stain the holy book.

  8. Nooraan says:

    I would need to state commenting on the reply saying that whudhu is to prevent soiling the Quraan this is incorrect. We have been told exactly how to perform whudhu and that in order for it to be accepted water needs to reach all fardh areas and preferably Sunnah areas too or it won’t be accepted.

    • peace says:

      Nooraan..who said it won’t be accepted? Only Allah is to judge..did Allah explicitly say that or did you find that in the hadith? Isnt the bible the same as hadith? Written by people after the prophet left? Prophet asked to not write down his words..and people did so after his death. So, prayer wont be counted by Allah because of this? Our bodies will not remain but our spirit will..spirituality is above all.

      • Ahmed Saleem says:

        Your comparison of the Bible with the Hadith books is inaccurate. The full names of Matthew, Luke, John and Paul are not even known. Thankfully, we have not only the names, but detailed biographies of the companions and the few generations after the Prophet (saw). This includes place and date of birth, lineage, education, profession, and reputation. This is obviously incomparable to the low standards other communities have applied to their history and religion.

        To put it simply, the people who brought you the Qur’an are the same people who brought you the Hadith. There is no reason not to believe in the narrators because of the overwhelming evidence (by consensus) of their trustworthiness, honesty, and excellent memories (owing to the fact that they come from an oral culture). I hope you now see that believing in the Qur’an while rejecting the Hadith is a bit illogical.

        Going back to the topic, the wudu guidelines are very simple both for men and women. It is, in fact, mentioned in the Qur’an, “O you who believe! When you intend to offer As-Salât (the prayer), wash your faces and your hands (forearms) up to the elbows, rub (by passing wet hands over) your heads, and (wash) your feet up to ankles.” [Al-Mâ’idah 5:6]

        It would be reasonable to think that if there is a barrier between water and the body part, then the water doesn’t touch the body, it only touches that barrier. Therefore, we have not really made wudu because we have not washed our body parts, as specified. Still, it would be possible for someone to misinterpret this ayah as they wish, but we can only interpret the Qur’an according to how the Prophet interpreted it. For this reason, the Hadith is essential, and we know from it exactly how the Prophet made wudu in detail, and we should be performing it like he did.

  9. ANMB says:

    I think that the issue of safety of any nail polish (breathable or not) is of more concern:

    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/02/ask-well-is-nail-polish-harmful/

    • Sachiko says:

      That was actually the inspiration behind making breathable nail polish, to reduce the health risks and eliminate the use of the “toxic trio”

  10. Z says:

    I think this is a fascinating advancement in the cosmetic world, but can someone clarify what makes it ok for wudu’? It takes 15 seconds for water to actually penetrate to the filter (with constant rubbing), as the video shows. That’s also with the surface being flat and a layer of water sitting on top of it the entire time. When you’re making wudu, your fingers aren’t fixed in one position and water easily glides right off your nails. So, how is it guaranteed that water will penetrate to the (entire) nail as it does in the experiment when the positioning and conditions aren’t exactly the same? Also, let’s say that water does penetrate to the entire nail, how is the time duration (15 seconds) not too long of a time if each body part is supposed to be washed/wiped thoroughly before moving on to the next?

    Thank you in advance for clarifying.

  11. Hafsa says:

    Tuesday in Love has been tested by several people and they also have a clinical study proving that their product is water permeable. Inglot however does not seem to work. Based on the experiment above it seems that the lady is just wearing down the coffee filter and therefore the water is going through due to the abrasion.

  12. Lara says:

    You’ll still have to rub each finger for 15 secs though

  13. Luq says:

    is this all not a bit silly? wudu is about psychological cleansing as a preparation for prayer. being so pedantic seems rather ridiculous to me. plus there are better things to worry about than this

    • Z says:

      It’s not silly when you consider the Islamic requirements for a valid wudu’. If the wudu’ is invalid b/c the water isn’t permeating to the nails, then the prayer could be invalid. That’s a pretty big deal.

    • Shalu says:

      I think people make Islam harder then it is. Wudu is more spirutual then physical. Nail is not even part of the skin so why is it a big deal?

  14. Kellie says:

    I’m curious…since fingernails don’t breathe why do you need breathable nail polish? No offense intended, just curious.

  15. Alia says:

    Thanks for this amazing article. It’s comprehensive, scientific, and gets straight to the point.

  16. H.A. says:

    AssalamoAlaikum

    JazakAlah Khair for a great article. I would like to know if this nail polish still allows water to reach nails if we apply double coat. Usually a single coat is not enough to achieve the full colour.

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