NEW YORK — Wojciech Inglot, a Polish chemist and cosmetics executive who developed a ‘‘breathable’’ nail polish that found an unexpected market among Muslim women, died Feb. 23 in Przemysl, Poland. He was 57.
The cause was internal hemorrhaging, said Marek Skulimowski, director of US operations and marketing for Inglot Cosmetics.
In 2009, more than 20 years after Inglot started his company in Cold War Poland, he introduced O2M, a nail polish he hoped would improve nail health because it let oxygen and moisture pass through it.
Yet the product was expensive, $14 per bottle, and for several years its sales lagged even as the success of other Inglot products helped the company expand around the world, opening stores in the United States, among other countries.
Then last fall, a Muslim cleric and academic in Southern California who was working on a book about purification and prayer learned that some Muslim women were trying to determine whether O2M’s porous properties might make it acceptable for wearing during prayer.
Muslim women who wear nail polish often remove it as part of a ritual, called ‘‘wudu,’’ that involves washing with water before daily prayers.
‘‘There are several sisters who don’t know that nail polish prevents wudu, and probably just as many who don’t care and will wear it anyways,’’ the cleric, Shaykh Mustafa Umar, wrote on his blog, The Evolution of Ideas, in November. ‘‘But for those who do care, this analysis might help clarify things.’’
Umar, who is director of education and outreach at the Islamic Institute of Orange County, noted that one of his students tested the polish and determined that it was sufficiently porous.
He declared that O2M was ‘‘good news’’ for women concerned about the issue. His post was soon cited by bloggers and news organizations.
Mr. Inglot noticed the online conversation — and an increase in sales. Soon, citing Umar’s work, Mr. Inglot issued a news release saying its product had been ‘‘Halal certified.’’
Mr. Inglot opened almost 200 stand-alone shops — they are shipped ready to assemble from Poland and can be set up in about a day — in 47 countries, among them Dubai, Saudi Arabia, England, Spain, Argentina, and Canada. More than two dozen shops are in the United States.