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Face Paints & Makeup: Choose Carefully to Avoid Toxic Ingredients

Face Paints & Makeup: Choose Carefully to Avoid Toxic Ingredients

Face paint and makeup are fun for kids on Halloween, when dressing up, or for special occasions. When choosing face paint and makeup products, don't gloss over the ingredients.

Even products marketed to children and teens can cause problems like skin irritation and allergies or contain toxic ingredients like lead,mercury, or asbestos. Many products have been recalled because they were made with harmful ingredients.

Spot bad cosmetic ingredients

Cosmetic products and ingredients do not have to be tested by the FDA before they are sold. The FDA simply requires them to be safe when used according to their directions. However, the FDA requires the approval of ingredients used as "color additives" in cosmetics. Here's what to watch for to keep your chi ld's look safe and fun.

  • Dressing up as a rock star for Halloween? Beware of cosmetics with heavy metals. Many cosmetics contain heavy metals. These can include arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead, all of which can be toxic in large amounts—especially to children. Other natural ingredients sometimes in cosmetics like rubber (latex) in face and body paints, cobalt and nickel, have caused people to develop sensitivities.

  • Are toxic ingredients listed under a different name? For example, lead might be listed as "kohl," "kajal" or "surma," and mercury might be called "mercurous chloride," "calomel," "mercuric" or "mercurio."

  • Bright colors can make you glow, but keep them away from your eyes. Many neon color ingredients used in cosmetic are considered safe by the FDA, and one is even approved for a glow-in-the-dark look. Find highlights on these FDA-approved ingredients.

  • Is talc an ingredient? Talc is a powdery mineral that forms in the ground near the mineral asbestos. If the talc mixes with asbestos when taken from the ground, the contaminated talc could end up in the cosmetic. Asbestos can cause cancer and mesothelioma after many years of exposure.

Avoid bad reactions from face paints and cosmetics

  • Test a small amount of the product a few days before using it on your child's face. It is better to find out early if your child is allergic to a small dab of the product on the arm instead of a large amount on your child's face on Halloween.

  • Make sure the product ingredients are listed in English. In the United States, products need to list the ingredients on the label in English. If ingredients are not listed in English or are only listed in another language, the product might have been sold illegally.

Avoid an infection from makeup

  • Read directions and wash hands before applying cosmetics.

  • Do not share makeup with others.

  • Do not store makeup in a place that is too warm or too moist.

  • If the product smells bad, it could be contaminated. Throw it away and use another one. Remove the product at the end of the day. Follow the label directions.

Talk with your pediatrician

If you have questions about toxins in face paints and makeup, talk with your pediatrician. Your regional Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) ( have staff who can also talk with parents about concerns over environmental toxins.

More information

Last Updated
Adapted from AAP News Parent Plus (Copyright © 2020 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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