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Beard Oil on Shabbat


Rabbi David Sperling

Av 17, 5778
Is it permissible to apply beard oil on Shabbat? Beard oils are used to groom, soften, and refresh beards, a lovely Shabbati option if it were available. Some potential issues that come to mind are molid (if the oil is scented), memareah, and gozez (if hairs fall off by applying it). Thank you
Shalom, Thank you for your question. After doing some research into beard oil it seems that it is scented oil that is applied in small quantities to the beard in order to give a fresh shine and nice smell. To quote wikipedia “Beard oil acts as a moisturizer that goes straight to the hair follicle and prevents hair from growing brittle, especially in cold, windy environments as these weather conditions cause the natural moisture of the beard area to wick. Hydration around this area helps prevent flaking, dandruff and skin dryness. Some brands of beard oil may contain added vitamins or nutrients such as vitamin E. This moisturization prevents general itchiness and irritation of the skin below the beard. Beard oil also works below the surface of the skin by working as a grooming tool, making the beard itself more manageable, neat and smooth. Beard oil also improves the way your beard looks by giving it a little shine. This makes the beard look healthier as well.” As you mentioned there could be several possible problems with using beard oil on Shabbat. Firstly, if the oil is scented, and one desires the scent, there are those that prohibit it. Whilst there are opinions that rule that adding scent to one's hair is permitted (just as one may put perfume on their bodies on Shabbat), many Rabbis forbid it, comparing the hair to clothing, on which it is forbidden to apply scent. (See Piskay Tshuvot, 322,7). So, if the oil was especially scented (as it seems most are), then one would have to rely on the lenient opinions on this question. Secondly, one would have to take care to only apply a small amount of oil (as is recommended by the manufactures). This would remove problems of “sochet”or squeezing the oil from one place of the hair to another – an act that is forbidden. But if only a small amount was applied, it would seem that there would be no danger of having to squeeze the oil from place to place in the beard. (See Piskay Tshuvot, 303, 19). Also, one would need to take care not to use a comb to spread the oil (as I saw one recommended way of applying the oil). One could rub the oil into their hands and then run their hands through their beard to spread the oil over the hairs. But the use of a comb or brush on the beard is problematic as it generally leads to pulling out stray hairs. Because the beard oil does not stick the hairs together (as traditional hair oils) nor keep it in shape (as do most hair sprays), there is no issue of “boneh”or “building” with the beard oil, as there is with hair oils and hair sprays. All in all, it would seem that there are grounds to allow the use of beard oil on Shabbat (especially non-scented oil, but even scented oil for those who rely on the lenient opinions). However, it would seem that because of the chance of applying too much and having to squeeze the oil from place to place , it would be a good idea to refrain from using it on Shabbat. That is – those who are lenient have Rabbinic opinion on whom to rely; and those who are strict are to be blessed. It is recommend by many beard oil manufactures to apply beard oil once a day after a shower. If so it would seem that one could avoid all Shabbat issues by putting on the oil on Friday afternoon after bathing for Shabbat. Putting the oil on before Shabbat and leaving it in the beard will probably attain the same desired effect, while avoiding all issues of breaking Shabbat. Blessings.
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