May one apply oil onto his body on Shabbos?

May one rub oil onto his body on Shabbos?

It used to be widely practiced in previous times for people to smear oil on their body for purposes of enjoyment and pleasure. While today this is not as common, people occasionally wish to rub oil on their body for medicinal purposes, or to pamper their skin. Smearing oil on one’s body on Shabbos touches upon the following possible prohibitions, that need to be analyzed and negated, in order for it to be allowed.

  1. The smearing prohibition.
  2. The medicine prohibition
  3. The prohibition to apply good scents to the skin.


Unscented oils:

For pleasure purposes:[1] It is permitted to smear oil one one’s body for pleasure purposes. [Unlike a common misconception, there indeed is no smearing prohibition at all involved in rubbing liquid oil on one’s body, as this prohibition is limited only to thick substances that need to be evened when on top of a surface, such as melted wax, lard, and various creams.]

For medicinal purposes:[2] It is forbidden to apply medicine to one’s body on Shabbos, if it is recognizable that one is doing so for the medicinal purposes. Accordingly, it is forbidden to smear oil on one’s body for medicinal purposes if it is uncommon in one’s area to smear oil on the body for pleasure purposes [as is the case today[3]], as it is hence clearly evident that he is intending to apply medicine to his skin on Shabbos. It goes without saying that it is forbidden to apply special medicinal oil to one’s skin on Shabbos.[4] However, one may place [even medicinal oils[5]] on his skin by the side of his wound and have it flow and drip onto the wound, as when this is done it is not recognizable that one’s intention is for healing.[6]


Scented oils:

It is forbidden to apply scented oils onto one’s skin on Shabbos if one intends to create a new smell on his body through doing so.[7] However, if one has no intent at all to create a new smell on his body and is simply smearing it on his skin for pleasure, then this is allowed.[8] If it is smeared for medicinal purposes, then it follows the same law as above in A.



May one smear thick oil on one’s body?[9]

No, the above allowance only applies to liquid oil, as in such a case there is no smearing prohibition applicable.

May one take a suntan on Shabbos?

Coming up in a future Halacha!

May one give an oil massage on Shabbos?

Coming up in a future Halacha!

May one rub medicinal oil on his skin for pleasure purposes?[10]

Yes. This may be done even in places in which oil is only smeared for healing purposes.


May one smear oil on cracked or dry skin, such as chapped lips?[11]

No, as this is clearly evident that it is being done for healing purposes. However, one may smear the oil near the dried skin, and have it flow onto the dry area, as explained above. [Thus, for dried lips, one may eat a vegetable dipped in oil and thus consequently oil his lips.]


May one smear oil over itchy skin?[12]

It is permitted to do so if the skin does not have any externally apparent ailment, and the skin is not cracked and dry [13]


In our provinces is oil considered something that is only smeared for healing purposes?[14]

Yes. It thus may never be smeared for healing purposes, unless done away from the wound, having it flow there, as explained above.

May one smear oil on a baby for healing purposes [such as he has a rash and the like]?[15]

Yes.[16] [However regarding a cream see “The Laws of Medicine” Chapter 2 Halacha 6 if at times doing so may involve the Biblical prohibition of smearing.]


[1] Admur 327:1-2; Michaber 327:1-2; 328:22; Mishneh Shabbos 111a and 134b and 147a

[2] Admur 327:1 and 328:28; Michaber 327:1; Mishneh Shabbos 111a

[3] See Q&A!

[4] Admur and Poskim ibid regarding rose oil

[5] So is evident from the Halacha there in Admur, and so rules M”B 328:77; Ketzos Hashulchan 136:13, and footnote 20

[6] Admur 328:28; Michaber 328:22; Shabbos 134b

[7] Admur 511:7; Taz 511:8; Halachos Ketanos 1:19; Ben Ish Chaiy 2 Tetzaveh 11; Rav Poalim 2:51; Shoel Umeishiv Tinyana 2:7; Minchas Yitzchak 6:26 [see below in opinion of M”B]; Poskim in Kaf Hachaim 128:44 and 511:44 and so concludes the Kaf Hachaim ibid; Magen Avraham 511:11; 128:8  prohibits placing the scent into the water, although he does not mention if this prohibition applies even if the scent was placed from before Shabbos.

The reason: As this case is no different than the case mentioned there of washing ones hands with scented water in which although the main intent is not for the scent, nevertheless since one does also intend in absorbing it, it is thereby forbidden. 

Other Opinions: Some Poskim rule the prohibition of Molid Reiach does not to one’s skin being the smell does not last, and it is hence permitted to place perfume/cologne on the body on Shabbos. Thus, if one placed the perfume in the water from before Yom Tov it may be used. [Chacham Tzevi 92; Elya Raba 128:8; Ginas Veradim 3:16; Nechpah Bakesef 4; Shaareiy Teshuvah 511:4; Mishneh Berurah 128:23 and so is implied from 511:28; Beir Moshe 1:34 rules one may be lenient by skin, although one who is stringent is blessed; SSH”K 14:32 rules leniently that perfume may be applied anywhere on one’s body, as learns the Chacham Tzevi, as brought in M”B] These opinions can draw proof for their ruling from Michaber 327:1 and 328:36 in which the Michaber allows smearing rose oil on the body, and chewing scented gum in the mouth. Admur and the Poskim ibid however learn that the scented oil is permitted because one has no intent for the scent, while the gum is permitted because its intent is only to remove the bad smell.

According to the M”B may one add smells to other parts of one’s body other than the hands? In M”B 128:23 he rules that one may be lenient like the Chacham Tzevi and Elyah Raba that one may wash hands with perfume water. However the Minchas Yitzchak 6:26 explains that the M”B himself only allows this to be done to ones hands and not to the rest of one’s body, as perfume on ones hands rubs off quicker then on the rest of the body. To note however that the Minchas Yitzchak himself there leans to be stringent like Admur and the other Gedolei Haposkim which prohibit perfume on any part of the body. However Rav SZ”A [brought in SSH”K 14 footnote 92, and so they rule in Halacha 32] learns that the M”B permits applying perfume to any part of one’s body.

Placing oil on one’s hair: Is forbidden according to all opinions being that hair is considered like clothing to which all agree there is a prohibition of Molid Reiach. [Piskeiy Teshuvah 127:1, Beir Moshe ibid, see Minchas Yitzchak ibid.]

[8] Admur 511:7; Rashal Beitza 2:34; Taz 511:8; Implication of M”A 511:10; Kuntrus Achron 511:1 based on proof from many Rishonim [Ramban; Ran; Rosh; Rif]; Neziros Shimshon; Mamar Mordechai; So rule regarding rose oil, that it may be smeared for pleasure purposes, thus proving that it does not contain a prohibition of creating a new smell if that is not one’s intent: Admur 327:1; Michaber 327:1; Mishneh Shabbos 111; So also brings Piskeiy Teshuvos 327:1 in his understanding of Admur in this Halacha

The reason: As Holadas Reiach is a light prohibition and is hence permitted if one does not have intent to do so. [Machatzis Hashekel 658:2 in explanation of Rashal; Implication of Admur in Kuntrus Achron ibid] Others however explain the reason is because these Poskim rule one may be lenient by a Pesik Reishei of a Rabbinical prohibition, and especially if Lo Nicha Lei. [P”M 321 M”Z 7 and 511 M”Z 8; Chemed Moshe; Nehar Shalom; Shaar Hatziyon 658:6; as rules Terumos Hadeshen, brought in M”A 314:5; Shaar Hatziyon 316:21; See Beis Yosef brought in Taz 316:3; Admur 314:3 regarding bees] This however is incorrect as Admur rules stringently regarding Pesik Resihei Delo Nicha Lei even by a Rabbinical prohibition, as brought in 316:4 and 320:24]

The ruling of the Gemara and Rama in 511:4: The Gemara Beitza 23a rules one may not place a cup of incense on clothing due to the prohibition of Molid Reiach, and so rules Rama ibid. They do not differentiate between whether one intended to do so or not.

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule it is forbidden to create a smell in clothing even if one does not intend to do so, and it is hence forbidden to place spices on clothing. [Implication of Rama 658:2; Maharil; Rokeiach 219 as explains M”A 658:2 and Admur in Kuntrus Achron 511:1; Implication of Rashi Beitza 23a as brings Admur ibid; and so rules M”A 658:2; Elya Raba 658:3; P”M 511 A”A 11; Chayeh Adam 141:20; Kitzur SHU”A 137:7; Moed Lekol Chaiy 23:46; M”B 658:7 and Kaf Hachaim 658:8 are lenient in a time of need] The reason this opinion is stringent is because we hold that Pesik Reishei is forbidden even by a Rabbinical prohibition. [Chemed Moshe; Nehar Shalom; Shaar Hatziyon 658:6; As rules Admur 316:4; M”A 314:5; 316:9; Taz 315:3; M”B 316:17 regarding bees]

[9] SSH”K 14:27

[10] See M”B 328:70; Ketzos Hashulchan 136 footnote 20; Piskeiy Teshuvos 327:1

[11] Piskeiy Teshuvos 327:2, and so is implied from Ketzos Hashulchan 136:20 where he doubts whether one is allowed to apply oil to ones feet which have peeled skin in order to prevent the socks from sticking onto his skin and thus causing him to get a virus. [Thus if even then there is doubt, certainly when ones intent is to heal the skin it is not allowed.]

[12] Ketzos Hashulchan 136 footnote 20, and Piskeiy Teshuvos 327:2, SSH”K 34:12, however there he brings Rav SZ”A which rules that this may not be done as he says it is not similar to the final healing process of a wound in which the smearing is merely done for pleasure and not to remove itching.

[13] As this is similar to applying oil to a wound which is in its final stage of healing, which is allowed even though that there too it normally still itches, as explained above.

[14] Ketzos Hashulchan 136:13 and footnote 20

[15] Beir Moshe 1:36, brought in Piskeiy Teshuvos 327:1

[16] As a child is considered like an ill patient of which it is permitted for one to give them medication on Shabbos.

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