What beauty treatments are permissible in Islam? Can women pluck their eyebrows?
The beautification and adornment of women goes back to time immemorial. If a woman wants to beautify herself what are the limits?
Beautification can be sinful and can be rewarding. The basic principle in Islam is that beautification in public is not permissible. In Islam, women can beautify themselves within their homes (i.e in front of mahrams) and among women, but in public should remain modest – in their dress and in terms of not wearing bright make-up.
Islam encourages Muslims to stand out among people, readily distinguishable by their dress, appearance and behaviour, so that they will be a good example, worthy of the great message that they bring to humanity. The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) used to look after his appearance, his clothes, his body, his face, his hair and his beard. He loved the smell of Musk. The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said:
‘Indeed Allah is beautiful and loves that which is beautiful.’ [Muslim]
Not Neglecting Appearance
The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) considered an unkempt and careless appearance, and scruffy clothes to be forms of ugliness, which is not loved by Allah. He hated to see people come out in public wearing dirty clothes when they were able to clean them. In a hadith reported by Jabir, the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) drew attention to appearance, Jabir recalls:
The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) came to visit us, and saw a man who was wearing dirty clothes. He said, ‘Could this person not find anything with which to wash his clothes?’ [Ahmed]
Whether they are in public or at home – it is part of the Sunnah to look smart, dignified and not to smell unpleasant. However, when it comes to the beautification of women in public, there are limits which protect women from being objectified.
Islam takes the pressure off women from having to achieve unattainable expectations of physical perfection by which they are bombarded from the media. Islam allows to a woman to be herself and not to ashamed of herself. It liberates women from the constant pressure of looking desirable or attractive and releases them from being an object of desire for the male gaze.
Western feminism oftens equates wearing less as somehow empowering women, when in fact it reinforces the use of a woman’s body to establish her worth and appeal.
A woman is defined by her personality, charisma, goodness and intellect, not her body. Her worth is not linked to her body. Islam allows women to be comfortable in their own skin and to age with dignity.
As society puts pressure on women to remain looking youthful it devalues them as they grow older based on their physical appearance, rather than respecting them even more for what they have gained in experience and wisdom. We end up therefore with a society where women are under pressure to look young, slim and flawless virtually throughout their lives.
In general Allah has forbidden people to:
1) change His creation
2) for women to beautify themselves in public
3) cause harm to the body by beautifying it.
In Islam our aim is not to please society but to please Allah. We have to be strong enough to resist pressure to conform to ideals that have been placed on women without basis. As Muslims, men and women have to have resilience and confidence in themselves and instil this in younger generations.
Are women permitted to pluck eyebrows?
It was narrated that ‘Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، لَعَنَ اللَّهُ الْوَاشِمَاتِ، وَالْمُسْتَوْشِمَاتِ، وَالْمُتَنَمِّصَاتِ وَالْمُتَفَلِّجَاتِ لِلْحُسْنِ، الْمُغَيِّرَاتِ خَلْقَ اللَّهِ تَعَالَى،
It was narrated that ‘Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
Allah has cursed the women who do tattoos and those who ask for tattoos to be done, those who ask for their eyebrows to be plucked, and the women ask for their teeth to be filed for the purpose of beautification, changing the creation of Allah
The Quran tells us that Shaytan said:
وَّلَاُضِلَّـنَّهُمۡ وَلَاُمَنِّيَنَّهُمۡ وَلَاٰمُرَنَّهُمۡ فَلَيُبَـتِّكُنَّ اٰذَانَ الۡاَنۡعَامِ وَلَاٰمُرَنَّهُمۡ فَلَيُغَيِّرُنَّ خَلۡقَ اللّٰهِؕ وَمَنۡ يَّتَّخِذِ الشَّيۡطٰنَ وَلِيًّا مِّنۡ دُوۡنِ اللّٰهِ فَقَدۡ خَسِرَ خُسۡرَانًا مُّبِيۡنًا ؕ
Verily, I will mislead them, and surely, I will arouse in them false desires; and certainly, I will order them to slit the ears of cattle, and indeed I will order them to change the nature created by Allah.’ And whoever takes Shaytan as a Wali (protector or helper) instead of Allah, has surely, suffered a profound loss” [4:119]
There is a big discussion on this topic by scholars. The majority opinion is that it is haram. However, in the Hanbali opinion, if a husband asks his wife to tidy her eyebrows, particularly if they are quite bushy, or masculine or she has a monobrow, then his wife is permitted to pluck them with moderation – without over-plucking and shaping them or making them too thin or arched. Some people will disagree with this, but this is a valid opinion. The opinion is based on the hadith that there should be a clear difference between men and women, therefore a woman whose eyebrows look like a man’s should pluck her eyebrows to look like a woman.
Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:
عَنْ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا قَالَ لَعَنَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ الْمُخَنَّثِينَ مِنْ الرِّجَالِ وَالْمُتَرَجِّلَاتِ مِنْ النِّسَاءِ
The Prophet (peace be upon him) cursed men who imitate women and women who imitate men. [Bukhari]
Permanent eyebrow tattoos are not permissible as tattoos are haram unless one is cancer patient, for instance, and has lost their eyebrows. Dying eyebrows is permissible is the hair has gone white, but not semipermanent eyebrow tatoos ie. creating artificial eyebrows over one’s existing eyebrows is not permissible.
Eyeliner tattoos are not permissible.
Any cultural practice which distorts or disfigures the created body/form is not allowed in Islam.
A woman is permitted to remove any facial hair (other than the excess hair from her eyebrows, as above) or body hair. If she is having body hair removed it should not expose her awrah.
Can you have laser hair removal treatment?
It is permissible to have laser hair removal as long as there are no adverse side effects and that you do not expose your awrah (see below for definition of awrah).
False eyelashes can be worn in ladies gatherings or at home (i.e. around mahrams) but should not be worn in public and should not be worn to deceive suitors for marriage. Unless there is a reason such as a woman has lost her eyes lashes through medical treatment and this is similar to wearing a wig if she loses her hair.
Semi-permanent eyelashes and other eyelash lifts or perms are not permissible because they are changing Allah’s creation, maybe harmful to the body. In addition they cannot be removed when going in public places so they are haram as they would be beautification in public. They also prevent water from reaching the eyes during wudu.
Hair dye is permissible, but should not be used to deceive suitors and if one is married it should be something one’s husband is happy with, as spouses should take care of their appearance for each other, and not change one’s appearance to something that is displeasing for the other. This is mutual respect between spouses.
Hair extensions should not be used to deceive suitors but are permissible if one’s husband does not object.
Hair treatments to condition, straighten or curl hair are permissible as long as they are not damaging oneself.
Women are not to use bright makeup in public. However, teenagers who have spots and acne may use make up to cover up their spots. The makeup should be very subtle.
Nail polish and nail extensions
Women are allowed to wear nail polish as long as they remove it for their wudu before salah. Otherwise if water cannot reach the nails and the wudu is invalid/incomplete. Permeable nail polish which allows water to penetrate it and reach the nail it is permissible, but it is not preferable.
The sunnah is to cut nails every 40 days and for nails to be practical. Longer nails get in the way of simple daily activities, so nails should not be lengthy in any case. Nail extensions are not permissible for women who are praying as they cannot do their wudu properly.
If someone has brittle nails, they should take supplements to strengthen them rather than opting for nail extensions.
Lip fillers, anti wrinkle fillers and Botox
Why would anyone choose to use a filler? If it is to fix a deformity then it is permissible however if it is purely cosmetic and due to a lack of self-confidence then one needs to question one’s motivation and self-esteem.
If the filler is not being used to excessively plump one’s lips but to boost lost volume then it is permissible as long as the substance being used is not harmful. If it is harmful, it is not permissible.
While most fillers are temporary and do not last, silicone fillers are considered permanent and have been found to be unsafe. This makes them impermissible.
Using lip fillers for purely cosmetic reasons is impermissible. Making lips look excessively plump as per fashion trends is impermissible and falls under the prohibition of changing Allah’s creation.
Anti-wrinkle fillers which replace lost naturally existing substances in your skin are permissible as long as the substances being used are not harmful.
Botox is not plastic surgery. It depends on whether or not it is harmful and what is in the injections. If it is harmful to the body, it is not permissible. If it is not harmful, then it is permissible but not to use it with excessiveness.
If a woman is worried about losing her husband’s interest as she ages can have facials or use treatments that enhance her appearance, as long as this does not become excessive.
Can you have plastic surgery in Islam?
Plastic and cosmetic surgery for the purpose of beautification is prohibited as it is changing the creation of Allah (taghyir khalq Allah). This is a no-go area. You cannot pick and choose your body parts – have breast implants, or change your nose etc, because you think you will look better that way.
However, if there is a valid reason for plastic surgery like deformity, or an accident which requires surgery to fix it, then it is permissible.
In some specific scenarios, if a particular feature is causing psychological problems, such as being flat- chested, or having oversized, or misshapen ears or nose, then it would be permissible to have surgery to alleviate the psychological problems. This would require a fatwa from a trusted scholar.
Women may pierce their ears
In general women have had their ears pierced throughout history and throughout the world. Wearing earrings are not considered a mutilation of the female body. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not forbid female companions from wearing them or even say it was disliked.
However, multiple ear piercings would require the consent of the husband as he might find it unattractive in his wife. Therefore it is a matter of mutual consent. (Similarly it is not right for a husband to do something to his appearance which his wife finds unattractive.)
Piercing the nose is acceptable for women, but not for men, as has become trendy among some men. Where the nose piercing is accepted by the culture of the community and causes no harm to the woman, it is permissible.
Body piercings are haram
Piercing parts of the body, other than ears, is not allowed, particularly the new trend to pierce the face, tongue, lips, belly buttons, and genitalia. This is harmful for the body and haram. They deform and mutilate the body.
In Surat al Nisa, we are told that Shaytan beautifies ugly practices for us. Body piercings and other modifications which alter and exaggerate the human form are such practices.
Allah Almighty created the human form to be beautiful, as He said in Surat al Teen:
Indeed, We created humans in the best form. [95:4]
Excessive piercings would be “tagheer khalq Allah‘ – altering the design of Allah.
Moreover our body is an amanah – in other words we are entrusted to look after and protect our bodies. And our body has a right upon us.
In some parts of the world, there are tribal customs in which they stretch the ear lobes using wood, tusks, thorns and larger objects, as they think these are signs of beauty and wisdom. However this is an unacceptable distortion of the human form.
Hammams, Spa days, massages
Treatments are permissible as long one’s awrah* is not exposed. Care should be taken that there is not nakedness and there are many warnings in the fiqh books about revealing the awrah in a hammam and how to avoid that.
What parts of the body are awrah?
The genitals must be covered except between husband and wife, as there is no awrah between a husband and wife. Therefore there is no restriction in Islam on what body parts a woman may show to her husband in private.
A man’s awrah is from his navel to his knees. This area must be covered in front of other men and in front of women and during prayer.
A woman’s awrah depends on the situation:
During prayer, she must be covered from her head to her ankles, excluding her face, hands (and her feet in the Hanafi school).
Among other women a woman’s awrah is from her navel to her knees. This means she can wear a sari, crop top, choli, but not expose her belly button, bottom, thighs down to her knees. Therefore a conventional swimsuit which leaves her thighs exposed, would not be acceptable, nor a bikini.
In front of a male mahram there are differences of opinions in the four Schools of Thought. Some say a woman needs to cover her stomach, back and the area between her navel to her knees. The Malikis include the chest as well. The Hanafis don’t include the chest if it does not evoke temptation (fitnah) and desire (shahwah).
In front of non-mahram men, the entire body of the woman is her awrah, except her face and hands (and feet in the Hanafi school).
Who is a mahram?
A woman’s mahram is a man to whom she is related by blood or cannot marry:
- Father, grandfather, great-grandfathers.
- Sons, grandsons, great-grandsons.
- Brothers and half-brothers (brother with whom one shares one parent).
- Milk brother (brother who was breastfed by one’s mother)
- Paternal and maternal uncles.
- Father in law
One should remember we should look after ourselves, not only because our bodies are an amanah (trust) from Allah, but also spouses – male and female – should make the effort to be well groomed for each other – no matter how long they have been married, as part of marriage is feeling joy in each other’s company.
“And they say, ‘Our Lord, let our spouses and children be a source of joy for us, and keep us in the forefront of the righteous.” [Al-Furqan: 74]
Therefore taking care of one’s appearance is rewarded. And appreciating one’s spouse will increase the love in the relationship.
Shaykh Haytham Tamim – Culture vs Islam (Western Culture) 2020
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