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Q & A: Halloween Makeup

Written by Diane MacEachern .
Pretending to be someone else for a day is fun, but slathering potentially toxic chemicals onto your skin can certainly damper the festivities. Here's how to make sure face paint isn't the scariest part of Halloween.
Originally Published: 10/14/09

Question: My 11-year-old daughter wants to paint her face for Halloween, but I can't pronounce any of the ingredients on the label-and suddenly don't think I want to put them on her delicate skin. What are my options?

Halloween is the one night of the year when parents can catch a glimpse of their child's imagination. But regardless of whether your child is destined to be a princess or this year's latest superhero, face paint is usually involved.

Given what we've learned about toxic ingredients in make-up and personal care products, you're right to wonder whether that face paint is safe.

Health Canada recently found levels of lead, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium or antimony in various face paint products sold in North America. According to the Canadian agency, these metals can be highly toxic to the brain and kidney as well as the nervous, reproductive or immune systems. Although the toxins are prohibited, they find their way into face paints through trace amounts in raw materials.

And contrary to popular belief, acrylic craft paints and watercolor markers or pencils are NOT a better alternative, since they were not designed to be applied to skin. Even if the packaging says "non-toxic," don't use it to decorate your child's cute little nose.

ONLY face paint of cosmetic grade should be used in face painting. Fortunately, many brands are available on the market today:

Snazaroo's 50 colors are water-based, made with materials that meet health and safety standards set both by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Union, and carry a ‘child safety toy' rating. Need sparkle, brushes, sponges or stencils so you don't turn your princess into a pea pod? Snazaroo sells it all.

Lyra Face Paint Pencils are non-toxic and dermatologically tested to maximize safety. Manufactured according to European Standards and certified by the Art and Craft Materials Institute, they come in a set of six easy-to-apply colors (white, yellow, red, blue, green and black).

Pink Quartz Minerals is a vegan mineral makeup manufacturer that also offers non-toxic, mineral-based Halloween makeup in a wide variety of colors.

If you have any doubts about a product you're considering using, check the ingredients against the database maintained by Environmental Working Group.

Or just go ahead and make your own. Below is a recipe from Family Education:

Homemade Halloween Face Paint Recipe

  • Bowl
  • 1 tablespoon solid shortening
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Water (optional)
  • Natural-based food coloring (you can find this at your local Whole Foods that carries all-natural, non-petroleum-based food coloring items or you can make your own natural food coloring with items you may already have stored in your kitchen!)
  • Small jar or plastic container

  • In a bowl, mix shortening and cornstarch until smooth.
  • Add food coloring one drop at a time until you get the desired color.
  • Use a clean sponge or fingers to apply paint to a large area or use a small clean brush to apply thin paint- with a little water first.
  • Remove with soap and water.
  • Store covered.

What tips do you have for greening your Halloween face paint? Share your ideas below!

Diane MacEachern is the author of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World, and a popular blog, Big Green Purse.

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