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Halloween Face Paints for Kids Contain Lead, Other Toxins


Among the scary things out there this Halloween are many popular face paints for kids, which have been found to contain lead and other toxins. A new report by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics warns parents that use of these face paints can cause contact dermatitis and skin sensitization that can last a lifetime.

Trying to frighten people on Halloween is part of what the holiday is all about, but the unsettling news that many face paints used on children contain toxins that are not listed on the product labels is Pretty Scary, which is the name of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics report. Along with lead, other heavy metals found in the cosmetics include cobalt, chromium, and nickel.

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The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a national coalition of nonprofit health groups, chose ten different face paints for kids and had them tested at an independent lab for heavy metals. The group also evaluated the ingredient panels of Halloween products found at a seasonal holiday store.

The group found that all ten of the children’s face paints tested contained lead ranging from 0.05 to 0.65 parts per million (ppm). Since experts say there are no safe levels of lead for children, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control recommend that parents not use any face paints that could contain lead. Exposure to lead in childhood can lead to impulsive behavior, aggression, hyperactivity, and possibly increase risk for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Six of the ten face paints contained nickel, cobalt, and/or chromium, all of which can cause allergic skin reactions in children. The levels of these heavy metals exceeded the industry safety recommendation of 1 ppm in many cases, with levels ranging from 1.6 to 120 ppm. A product called Snazaroo Face Paint, which was labeled non-toxic and hypoallergenic, was found to contain high levels of lead, nickel, and cobalt.

Don’t let the scariest part of Halloween be your child’s face paint. Parents can consider alternatives to face paints that contain toxins. Children could wear costumes that do not require face paint or masks, which also may contain toxins. Homemade face paints can be prepared using food-grade ingredients. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics offers some safe recipes on its website.