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Would using a hair removal cream on one's face (such as Nair) be in violation of rounding the corners of one's beard? (Vayikra 19:27)

Namely, would it be akin to use a razor (assur) OR more akin to using a scissor (likely mutar)?

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It is permitted to use depilatory cream (but not on Shabbat).

R Jack Abramowitz writes

The Torah only prohibits using a razor to cut the corners of the beard. There are five such corners and many positions when it comes to the details, so a pious person should not use a razor on any part of his beard, nor even on his mustache or on his neck. There is no difference between an actual razor and a sharp stone that cuts hair: they are equally prohibited. Those who remove their beard using a depilatory cream must be careful not to scrape the cream off with a knife, as that might cut the hair. Instead, they should use something like a wooden chip.

Similarly R Joshua Maroof writes

In the olden days, men who were clean shaven typically used depilatory creams to achieve that look. This involves no prohibition because it is not considered shaving.

  • 1
    See also end of here and there – mbloch Feb 7 at 4:52
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    My great-grandfather was producing such cream for the charedim. They used wooden "knives" to remove it with the hair. – Kazi bácsi Feb 7 at 6:18
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    See nazir 40a סך נשא – kouty Feb 7 at 7:19
  • What value does Judaism see in the commandment if it can be so easily worked around? – curiousdannii Feb 8 at 8:32
  • @curiousdannii you could ask this question separately if a quick search shows it doesn’t exist – mbloch Feb 8 at 8:43
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This is a can of such powder (cream) that Jews would use on the Lower East Side around 100 years ago. If you look closely you will see that it says Mutar based off the teshuva of the Noda B'Yehuda YD 81.

Yellowed label of a can with English and Hebrew/Yiddish words on it, including "Altman's RAZORLESS SHAVING POWDER", and am image of a man at a bathroom sink

Close-up of the above label, with the Hebrew caption of the image circled: " מותר על פי התורה נו'בי יו'ד ס'פא" enter image description here

enter image description here

Yiddish text on top says: א שייוו אהן א רייזאר נור מיט א פוידער איז מותר.

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    How’d you find that? Can your read that? – Dr. Shmuel Feb 7 at 15:15
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    I own such a can,bottom pic is from my can,couldn t upload too big – sam Feb 7 at 15:16
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    Wow. Can you write or photograph what the Yiddish text says? I can only see the partial phrase … ohn a razor nur mit a powder is a… (… without a razor only with a powder is a…). – Adám Feb 7 at 15:37
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    Holy cow! What a find!! #shkoyach – alicht Feb 7 at 15:49
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    +1 Amazing! You bought this at an auction or something? – user6591 Feb 7 at 16:46
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Pischei Tshuva in Yoreh Deah 181 #5 brings opinions that it is allowed, warning however, not to scrape the application off with a knife.

אבל במשיחה הנעשה כעין טיח טיט והחריפות שבו שורף השער מותר דזה הוי השחתה בלי גלוח. אך אם אחר המשיחה נשאר טיח זה על פניהם אין נגררו בסכין אלא ביד ע"ש וע' בזה בתשובת שמש צדקה חלק י"ד סי' ס"א בד"ה לבד זה:

3

This is already mentioned by the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch in 170:2 as being permitted with the caveat of not using something sharp as a scraper.

וְאוֹתָן שֶׁמְּסִירִין שְׂעַר הַזָּקָן עַל יְדֵי מִשְׁחָה מִסִּיד עִם אַוִירעם, יֵשׁ לָהֶם לִזָּהֵר, שֶׁלֹּא לִגְרֹר אֶת הַמִּשְׁחָה בְּסַכִּין, שֶׁמָּא יַחְתֹּךְ שֵׂעָר, רַק יִגְרְרוּ בְּקֵיסָם וְכַדּוֹמֶה (נוֹדָע בִּיהוּדָה תִנְיָנָא סִימָן פ). ‏

Those who remove their beard by means of a cream prepared from lime and avirem, should be careful not to scrape off the cream with a knife, which might cut the hair; but they should scrape it with a strip of wood or something similar.

I heard from Rav Y. Y. Neuwirth זצ"ל that anything sharp enough to cut an apple would be forbidden.

  • 1
    Need to do some research. Kittzur says it's siman 80. The shaving cream can says it's siman 81. And The Pischei Tshuva who should have quoted it, didn't.... – user6591 Feb 13 at 17:38
  • @user6591 - both Teshuvoth talk about related topics. See sefaria.org.il/… (80) and sefaria.org.il/… (81) - 81 talks specifically about shaving-cream. – Danny Schoemann Feb 14 at 11:13
  • Thank you! But it is so weird to me that P.T. didn't bring these. He constantly brings N.B. – user6591 Feb 14 at 11:23

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