PRZEMYSL, Poland — For Zaida Saleh, like for many observant Muslim women, manicures have long posed a religious problem.
With prayers five times a day, and a pre-prayer ritual that requires washing the hands and arms, fingernail polish has been mostly off limits because it prevents water from making contact with the nails.
A new “breathable” nail polish by a Polish company, Inglot, is changing that.
The company and some Muslims say the polish is the first of its kind because it lets air and moisture pass through to the nail. A craze has built up around it with Muslim women in recent months after an Islamic scholar in the United States tested its permeability and published an article saying that, in his view, it complies with Muslim law.
“It’s huge,” said Saleh, 35, who hadn’t polished her nails in many years but immediately went out and bought five colors. “I am excited. I feel more feminine – and I just love it.”
The news has spread quickly, giving Inglot a boost in sales of the product, called O2M, for oxygen and moisture.
The nail polish now stands as one of the final life achievements of Wojciech Inglot, a Polish chemist and entrepreneur who developed it to create what he billed as a healthier alternative to traditional nail enamels. He died unexpectedly last Saturday at the age of 57.
Though the Muslim holy book, the Quran, does not specifically address the issue of nail polish, some Islamic scholars have said that water must touch the surface of the nail for the washing ritual to be done correctly.
Some Muslim women might put nail polish on after finishing the last prayer of the day before going out, and then take it off again before dawn prayers.
“This was a huge breakthrough for me,” said Saleh, who was born in Sri Lanka but now lives in Anaheim, Calif. “We are supposed to cover up, but nowhere does it say ‘don’t be fashionable.’ ”
It’s not clear if all Islamic scholars would agree on O2M’s permissibility, or on whether wearing polish falls in line with Muslim notions of modesty.