Frightful ingredients hiding in Halloween face paint

For Halloween, many kids use face paint as the perfect finishing touch to their costumes. It’s a popular alternative to costume masks that can block children’s vision on dark streets. But exposure to some ingredients in novelty makeup can cause frightening reactions such as skin rashes, itching, swollen eyelids and other irritation where the colors are applied.

Beware of misleading marketing claims on product packaging. Some colors claim to be “non-toxic”, “gentle” or “hypoallergenic” despite being made with known skin allergens. These terms mean whatever a company wants to say. Marked manufacturer of cosmetics hypoallergenic are not required to provide the Food and Drug Administration with justification for their claims.

And FDA exams for heavy metals in make-up colors show that they can contain toxic chemicals. The agency found lead, a serious neurotoxin, in all 10 samples no safe exposure level. Lead exposure at extremely low doses can impair brain development and irreversibly lower a child’s IQ, cause learning and behavioral problems, damage hearing and slow growth.

Each of the 10 makeup samples also contained nickel, cobalt and chromium, all heavy metals that can cause skin allergies. Nine of the ten contained arsenic.

In addition to what FDA testing has revealed, we know that there are other toxic chemicals that can be found in some makeup.

So before you commit to a specific Halloween look, try out seemingly fun face paint: Smear a little on your child’s forearm to test for an allergic reaction. If you notice any redness, swelling, or irritation, keep the paint off your face.


In 2020, the EWG tested samples of talc-based makeup for the notorious carcinogen asbestos. We found it in three out of 21 samples, including one Toy Makeup Set marketed to children that contained more than 4 million asbestos fiber structures.

Asbestos is one of the most dangerous substances on earth, linked to several types of cancer, including mesothelioma and the scarring lung disease asbestosis. Talc-based cosmetics, especially those in powder form, can be inhaled when applied to the face, but users are often unaware of this risk. Depending on the particle size, the powder can get stuck in the nasal passages and even in the lungs of children, where it can cause damage.


Almost monthly, the FDA publishes a new voluntary recall of aerosol personal care products contaminated with carcinogens benzenefor which there is no safe human exposure level.

Many colored hairsprays contain toxic chemicals and fragrances. Children can easily inhale sprays used on their costumes. So instead of a spray, find a great hat or wig at a thrift store, or create a fun hairstyle with ribbons and hair clips. To reduce inhalation risk and benzene exposure, consumers should avoid aerosol-based hair products and other spray cosmetics.

exposure to benzene is connected lead to lower red blood cell counts and a higher risk of leukemia. A toxicity assessment by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that benzene can damage the central nervous system and affect the reproductive system.

Benzene isn’t intentionally added as an ingredient to products, so you can’t avoid it by looking for it when you shop because it’s not listed on ingredient labels.


When shopping for items for your child’s costume, read the product labels and avoid those that list the mysterious concoction of chemicals simply labeled “scent.” scent Blends may contain various fragrance chemicals associated with skin allergies, dermatitis, and endocrine disruption.


Poisonous “Eternal Chemicals” so-called PFAS are used in cosmetics and other personal care products and contaminate them. In 2021, researchers found more than half of 231 cosmetic products tested contained PFAS, but most did not list PFAS compounds on their ingredient labels.

PFAS are a large family of chemicals that they are associated with damage to the immune systemsuch as reduced effectiveness of the vaccine; Damage to development and the reproductive systemsuch as reduced birth weight and effects on fertility; increased risk of certain types of cancer; and metabolic effects, such as changes in cholesterol levels and weight gain.

Skip the face paint and make your own

Be wary of novelty face paint kits, which are often made with cheaply sourced and potentially dangerous ingredients. Why not make makeup in your own kitchen instead?

In most cases, it’s easy enough for kids to help. The internet is full of recipes that use everyday ingredients — flour, cornstarch, white ice cream or face lotion, vegetable or baby oil, wash-off paint or food coloring, petroleum jelly, Kool-Aid, unflavored gelatin, and even toothpaste and water.

Here are some ways to make Halloween a little less terrifying:

  • Avoid powders, especially those that contain talc. Instead, look for cream-based makeup.
  • Skip the novelty aerosol-based cosmetics and personal care products.
  • Look for the term “fragrance” on product labels and omit these items.
  • Choose lipsticks carefully. Deep red paints may contain lead.
  • Some face paints can warn consumers not to use them near the eyes. Follow the instructions carefully and prevent makeup from getting into children’s eyes.
  • Remember to wash off makeup before bed. Wearing face paint for too long can irritate the skin, and bits can chip or smear and get in the eyes.

And find healthier options for your child with EWG’s skin deep® database that evaluates more than 87,000 personal care products for containing ingredients of concern.