The rise of modern Muslims looking to nail polish for adornment, artistic relish or self-care has given rise to a plethora of permissible nail polish variations on the market today, with Southeast Asian brands such as So.lek and Zahara leading the charge.
In April 2017, author and speaker Yasmin Mogahed streamed one of her spiritual healing talks live on Facebook—which went well, with the exception of what took place afterwards. The Muslim scholar later posted a Facebook status mentioning one distraction at hand: “What I’m about to say, I say out of love and concern for my people. I spoke in depth about how to understand pain and loss and then how to rise again. Folks, my talk was about trauma, and 60 per cent of the comments were about my nail polish!”
Why are Muslim women who paint their nails shunned and side-eyed? In Yasmin’s case, it proves that some pockets of society still perceive that wearing nail polish as a Muslim equals a straight disregard of faith and values. There is of course the fear of snap judgements from those who believe that nail polish renders a Muslim woman less devout. This stems from the belief that the presence of nail polish, of any kind, obstructs the proper cleansing of the hands and nails.
What is Wudu and why does it matter?
To the uninitiated, performing solah or obligatory prayers, five times a day, is a key pillar of the Islamic faith. Prior to these prayers, Muslim women must first perform wudu, a purification or ablution ritual which involves using water for the careful cleansing of, but not limited to, the face, arms and feet. For wudu to be done correctly, water needs to be spread throughout the skin, nails and strands of hair. It is an essential ritual done in preparation for prayers—also before handling or reading the holy Qur’an, which means that mindlessly or improperly going through the steps may render the prayer invalid. Muslim women are also required to perform ghusl—a mandatory full-body cleansing done after intercourse or completing menstruation. Like wudu, ghusl is a means to spiritual and physical cleansing that requires water to permeate and thoroughly shower one from head to toe.
What to look for in a Muslim-friendly nail polish: it doesn’t hinder your pre-prayer wudu
Author and public speaker Dr Tamara Gray states her concern about nail polish being the barrier that blocks water from reaching the skin and nails. She reminds, “The controversy revolves around how the prayers do not count if wudu is not valid.” With this in mind, ensuring water permeability is the responsibility of the wearer. This isn’t to say that non-permeable polishes are haram—unless they contain haram ingredients, that is. The good news is that it’s fine to dial up your digits with these permeable polishes, as long as you’re committed to removing them before cleansing. Ultimately, non-permeable nail polish also comes with its own set of obligations and calls for the removal of the polish before wudu. That means carrying a mini bottle of nail varnish remover or hassle-free wipes to make cleansing swift. Better yet, cleverly coordinating the application of polishes with your period, when solah is prohibited. Remember that permeable or breathable nail polishes, on the other hand, must not be layered in a way that hinders or blocks water flow when worn daily. When in doubt, removal is always the safest option, which is why it pays to have a nail remover handy at times you’re coated.
It’s free from non-permissible ingredients
Breathability on its own is not enough. The ingredients of halal nail polish, for starters, should never be tied to what’s haram or forbidden by Islamic laws, such as porcine-based ingredients. It’s also of great importance that the lacquer of choice is clean throughout: it steers clear from unethically-sourced ingredients and is not formulated in combinations that can harm or disfigure nails—no corrosives or deterrents like phthalates, toluene or formaldehyde. Any trace of these should strictly deem a product haram in any way and must be avoided at all costs. The Malaysian Mufti of Federal Territory’s official website has thoroughly addressed halal cosmetics in issue #88 of its Bayan Linnas series. All that is halal is encouraged—the Quran notes so in Surah Al-A’araf, and we quote: “Make lawful for them the good, and prohibit for them the evil”.
It does not encourage unhealthy or unhygienic habits
Scholar and speaker Ismail ibn Musa Menk, famously known as Mufti Menk addresses the use of nail polish in a YouTube video. His concern? The lengths a Muslim woman would cross to safeguard her lacquer. As wudu is considered invalid through bodily fluids and other emissions urination, gas, light bleeding and intercourse (except after ghusl is practiced). If one’s nail polish purposely restrains oneself from washing up or even passing wind, then it’s prohibited. For Mufti Menk, polishes should never get in the way between faith and beauty. Thankfully for modern Muslims, the rise of brands offering wudu-friendly nail polishes means that faith can go hand-in-hand with beauty. Here are our picks of vanity table brands are right on top of the list.
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Singaporean brand Zahara‘s nail polishes are top-notch—formulated to glide on and off nails swiftly. They dry quickly on the digits without leaving them brittle nor dried out. While the brand’s ingredients and manufacturing processes are halal-certified, brand founder Amira Geneid also notes that Zahara’s permeability is determined through filter and hygrometer testing. The available 13 shades are finalised through many iterations for high performance, all while being vegan and cruelty-free.
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The brainchild of siblings Dahlia Nadirah and Luqman Hakim, So.lek is inspired by their late grandmother, who loved traditional eyeliner. This Malaysian brand’s line of nail polishes, which go by the name of Kilat (Malay for ‘shine’ and ‘lightning’) debuted in 2018 following the release of their bestselling lip products. Everything is water-permeable, breathable and peelable—meaning that removing your nail polish is as easy as applying the, with no remover necessary. Their fast-drying water-based polishes, which range from nudes to bolder options are also child safe.
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A class of its own, Lena’s pride is in making elegance and style accessible to its customers without sacrificing faith. The brand champions the notion that Muslim women are able to enjoy and experience fashion without holding back—hence the release of nail polishes in hundreds of shades, from everyday earthy tones to fun, glittery picks. Glossy and long-lasting, Lena’s halal, vegan nail polishes are sent to the brand’s trusted independent lab for water permeability.
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Although not a Muslim-owned brand, this Singaporean label’s philosophy fits right into the modern woman’s manicure must-haves’ list. Scent- and hassle-free, Freshly Wrapped promises quality in convenience, not to mention an excellent line-up to choose from; be it sparkles, sleek or sweet with a dash of quick nail art. An alternative to traditional nail polish and a gem for the time-starved, the nail wraps have no drying time and take no more than 15 minutes to put on – simply peel, stick and file to achieve desired results. The nail wraps decorate without damaging the cuticles. For easy removal whenever necessary, one can either soak hands in warm water for a few minutes (to soften the adhesive) before peeling off the wraps or proceed with a nail polish remover.
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Made in France and manufactured with love from London, broker-turned-entrepreneur Sonia Hully’s nail polish brand envisions breathability without sacrificing colour vivacity nor overall longevity. Nailberry’s products are ’12-free’—which means that each manicure delivers healthier results sans harmful ingredients like phthalates and camphor. Therapeutically addictive, these L’Oxygéné manis are vegan and gluten-free too. Nothing but the best for your digits.
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Add Vivre to your list if you’re into an enriching manicure from the comforts of your own crib. Each mani-maker coats your nail comfortably while bursting good-for-nails ingredients like argan oil and vitamins B5 and C. Non-GMO and cruelty-free, Vivre Cosmetics’ breathable nail polish range are thoroughly tested at SGS Labs in France for adequate permeability. All for guilt-free painting? This USA-born brand ensures up to two permeable polish coats with no under-water rubbing needed.