Halloween activities are just around the corner and parents/caregivers need to beware of toxic chemicals present in face paint and face powders for kids. First off, do NOT trust that just because such a product says it is “FDA Approved”, that it is safe. As seen in multiple scientific studies featured on our Chemical Watch Blog and Book, through their GRAS program the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved tens of thousands of additives for food and products that were never safety tested by the government and many of these additives (most still in U.S. food and products) have later been scientifically found to be linked with very serious health outcomes. Just as important, the FDA leaves the business of safety testing cosmetics up to the manufacturers themselves. oof. Second, numerous kids’ face paints and face powders tested by independent laboratories have been found to contain high levels of toxic chemicals*, including heavy metals like lead which have the potential to cause brain abnormalities in the developing brains of children, and asbestos** which can lead to lung disease and cancer if inhaled. Bottom line: when it comes to kids’ face paints and face powders, just reading the ingredients labels is not enough because you cannot tell by reading the label if the product is contaminated. It is best to avoid commercially-made Halloween face paints and powders.
*The Breast Cancer Fund conducted a 2016 study of 48 face paints from Halloween makeup kits for the presence of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury. The results: Twenty-one of the paints tested positive for at least one of these chemicals, and some had as many as four toxic chemicals. They also found that the darker the paint, the higher the concentration of heavy metals.
**Manufacturers use talc as a filler ingredient in cosmetic powders, including kids’ products. Talc and asbestos are intertwined in nature and mining for talc can bring asbestos along with it, as has been seen in the Johnson & Johnson talc-cancer lawsuits. The nonprofit Environmental Working Group sent talc-based makeup to be tested for asbestos in 2020 and found the carcinogen in two eye-shadow palettes and one toy makeup kit for kids. After the products were already on the market to consumers the FDA found asbestos in two brands of kids’ powdered makeup as well—sold by Claire’s and Justice retailers. (source)
Skip the commercial versions and make your own DIY safe, toxin-free Halloween makeup and costumes with some items you may already have in your home***. The Environmental Working Group suggests buying (or making your own) natural vegetable dyes to mix up some Halloween makeup at home. Cherry juice, cornstarch and sugar can make some believable blood for vampire and other scary costumes. And face moisturizer, corn starch and carrot juice can make for great face effects for a pumpkin costume. Try different vegetable dyes and experiment for other effects before the big Halloween event. And for making costumes, try Consumer Reports’ DIY costume project.
***Non-toxic Halloween Face Paint Recipes