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                             Pesach Cosmetics & Medicines

                                                          Rabbi Dovid Horwitz

When cleaning our homes for Pesach, we need to know which items which do not have “Kosher for Pesach” supervision need to be discarded or sold and which do not. Believe it or not, there are certain items that contain chametz that can not only be kept in one’s possession over Pesach but can even be used during the holiday. The halacha tells us that only chametz which is considered to be edible by an animal needs to be discarded or sold. Consequently, any chametz mixtures that are  totally inedible do not need to be discarded and can even be used on Pesach.  In light of this leniency, the Poskim rule that soaps, shampoos, detergents and the like do not need to be sold and can be used regularly throughout Pesach. Thus, seeking out soaps and detergents with “Kosher for Pesach” labels is a stringency that need not be adhered to.

Likewise, non-ingested medicines and cosmetics do not need to be kosher for Pesach as the chametz in them has been rendered totally inedible before Pesach. Consequently, all ointments, creams and the like can also be used regularly. Although the Mishna Berura writes that women’s makeup is considered to be chametz and therefore needs to be discarded, this does not apply to the makeup of today which is considered totally unfit even for animal consumption. Regarding medicines and cosmetics that are ingested or may be ingested, such as pills, vitamins and lipstick, although they are considered to be inedible, as swallowing a pill or swallowing a bit of lipstick as it wears off does not constitute an act of eating, there is room to be more stringent since one is giving importance to the chametz by ingesting it. Nevertheless, the contemporary poskim rule that technically this does not pose a halachic problem since one is not swallowing the pill for the sake of the chametz, which usually only serves as a binding agent. Since one is not deriving any direct benefit from the chametz and the pill or vitamin is considered to be inedible, it is therefore permissible to swallow on Pesach. Still, the poskim encourage, whenever possible, to purchase kosher for Pesach pills and vitamins since we try to be more stringent when it comes to chametz which is actually ingested into the body. However, even if the required medicines cannot be obtained with Pesach supervision, one is allowed to continue using the required pills, vitamins, etc. For these reasons, lipstick should also have a kosher for Pesach label.

Medicines such as syrups, that have chametz flavorings in them are not to be used on Pesach since in such a case there is benefit derived from the chametz ingredients. Therefore, children’s acamol syrup should be purchased with a “Kosher for Pesach” label. In addition, because it is ingested as a drink, syrups with chametz flavorings are considered fully edible and therefore cannot even remain in one’s possession during Pesach. It is for this reason that every year a list is published under the supervision of leading Rabbis which enumerates all the medicines which do not contain chametz or kitniot which may not have been labeled “Kosher for Pesach”. In cases where a child becomes seriously ill and the only medicine that will heal him or her is a syrup containing chametz, one is of course allowed to give the child the medicine as it is a matter of pikuach nefesh. However, because we are not allowed to be in legal possession of chametz, one would need to declare the medicine hefker, ownerless, and keep it in a closed area to minimize the risk of anyone else coming into contact with it. If one’s child becomes ill chas v’shalom on Pesach and the need arises to purchase a medication which contains actual chametz, one should seek the guidance of a competent Rabbi who will explain both how to acquire the medicine and where to store it for the remainder of the holiday.

Perfumes that contain grain alcohol are chametz and should be sold together with the rest of one’s chametz. Although it is doubtful that perfume is considered edible, many Poskim maintain that since the alcohol can be distilled out of the perfume, it should be treated as edible chametz and therefore either discarded or sold.

While technically, toothpaste does not require Pesach supervision as it is not considered edible, the custom in Israel is to purchase a “Kosher for Pesach” toothpaste since it is used in a person’s mouth.

Chag kasher v'sameach!
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