When clearing their homes of unleavened products before Passover, most people remember to rid the cupboards of rye bread and to empty the leftover challah from the freezers.
Something that is forgotten by many, however, is the checking of makeup for traces of chametz.
But it shouldn’t be.
Though it may come as a surprise to some, many facial scrubs, lipsticks and eye shadows contain at least one of the five cereal grains — wheat, barley, oats, spelt and rye — that Jews are prohibited from eating during the holiday.
“Every Passover, I go through the makeup to make sure none of those grains [is] in my line,” said Shaindy Kelman, owner of the Baltimore-based ShainDee Cosmetics. The line consists of kosher-for-Passover products that also can be used on the Sabbath and on holidays — times when, according to many rabbis, typical makeup application is not allowed.
Under the supervision of rabbis Avrohom Blumenkrantz and Moshe Heinemann of Star-K Kosher Certification, Kelman’s products come with detailed instructions on how to apply makeup on holy days, e.g., using separate brushes for each color so as not to blend shades.
A former biochemist, Kelman conceived of the line after it occurred to her that Jewish women look great all week, but come the Sabbath or holidays, “we look like ghosts.” And since those are prime husband-hunting times, she knew she had to do something about it.
In fact, her line has gotten so popular with the religious set that two years ago, three hours before a Seder, a woman contacted Kelman to say she’d forgotten to order Passover makeup. The woman begged her to choose a lipstick — any lipstick — and ship it to her.
“She’d thought of everyone but herself before the holiday,” Kelman said. “So I chose one and put it in the mailbox. It was one simple thing to make her happy for Passover.”
But while many women are grateful to Kelman for devising a product that can finally make them feel pretty while eating a diet of matzo and bitter herbs, others just don’t see a need for it.
“I’ve never even heard of Pesach makeup,” said Mireille Baum, a Modern Orthodox homemaker from Brooklyn.
“But that doesn’t matter because I wouldn’t use it anyway. I think it’s all a con, since it’s not food. You’re not eating it, and the whole issue is eating chametz on Passover. I don’t eat my makeup.”
Others agree that buying makeup specifically made for Passover use is somewhat extreme, but they still insist on purchasing new brand-name makeup that they can continue using post-Passover.
But how is a Jewish girl to know which products she can trust?
“I buy whatever the book says to buy,” said Yocheved Lauwick, a Modern Orthodox nurse practitioner living on New York City’s Upper West Side.
The book she refers to is “The Laws of Pesach,” self-published in 1981 by Blumenkrantz of Star-K. It’s a comprehensive guide to anything and everything Passover related. In the chapter headed “Cosmetics During Pesach,” Blumenkrantz — who also provides ShainDee Cosmetics with its kosher certification — gives readers a product-by-product rundown of what makeup is treyf and what’s okay for Passover. Popular brands like M•A•C, Clinique and Maybelline are featured on the permitted list.
“I guess I could check the book anew each year, but that’s such a hassle,” Lauwick said. “It’s so much easier to just pull out my sealed Ziploc bag and know my CoverGirl eye shadow from last year is still safe for Passover.”
So whether you buy some new tubes of your tried-and-true standbys or get some made-specifically-for-Passover stuff, there’s no real need for makeup lovers of the world to panic when Seder-plate time comes around. It’s a mitzvah to hide your bread products — not your face.
Leah Hochbaum is a freelance writer living in New York.