Most Kids Use Toxic Face Paints and Body Care Products: Study

We have published independent laboratory study results previously that demonstrated that face paints sold in the U.S. for children contain toxic chemicals.  Now, according to the results of a new scientific study, most U.S. children are using cosmetics and body care products* that could contain carcinogens and other toxic chemicals.

The scientists say that research has shown that many of these products contain toxins such as lead, asbestos, phthalates, formaldehyde and per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals”. Some of the toxic chemicals in these products marketed for kids have been linked in scientific studies to cancer, neurodevelopmental harm and other irreversible health consequences.

Study overview

The researchers administered a 39-question survey about kids’ cosmetic use via social media and by distributing flyers to parents and guardians of kids ages 12 and under. Among the 312 children of 207 survey respondents, 219 — or 70 percent — have used such products.

Fifty-four percent of children said they used these items at least monthly, while 12 percent reported utilizing them daily. Twenty-two percent of kids said that they use the products for more than eight hours at a time.  Older children utilized the products at higher rates than younger kids, and girls used them more than boys, the researchers found. The majority of children use the products for play.

The product most popular among children was face paint — with 60 percent of respondents reporting use. Approximately 44 percent of the kids said they used hair products, while 41 percent used other facial cosmetics, 32 percent utilized nail polish and 30 percent wore lip makeup.

Cultural differences were found in the use of these toxic products: Hispanic children used makeup and body products more often and for shorter duration than children of non-Hispanic parents and guardians, according to the study.  Hispanic children were also more likely to use lip and hair products, as well as fragrances.

*Approximately 70 percent of parents surveyed said that their children use items such as glitter, face paint, nail polish, lip gloss and perfumes that are marketed for kids.


Journal reference: Salles, J.A., et al. Potentially Toxic Elements in Costume Cosmetics Used by Children and Adults Are Associated with Cancer Risk. International Journal of Environmental Research in Public Health, 2023, 20(1), 531;  Study