The Simple Halloween Tradition That's Shockingly Toxic (It's Not The Candy)
Everyone loves Halloween. It's a holiday all about fantasy and having fun. Transforming yourself into whatever character you wish is exciting. But have you ever stopped to think about what's in the makeup you're using to create a look?
Brightly colored paints, heavy greasy textures and glues marketed for Halloween are filled with scary toxic chemicals you’d never dream of putting on yourself or your child — they're loaded with petrochemicals, formaldehyde, dioxins, heavy metals and synthetic colorants.
A report by Campaign For Safe Cosmetics found that “10 out of 10 face paints tested contained lead, a known neurotoxin,” which has also been linked to reduced fertility and miscarriage. Now that’s SCARY!
In the same report, another study says, “although lead absorption through the skin is often ignored, studies show that lead actually can be absorbed through the skin. One study found that skin-absorbed lead can be detected in sweat, blood and urine within six hours of skin application.”
Skin absorption is no joke. It’s the reason the patch works so well for birth control, pain management and hormone replacement, and it’s the reason I tell people to think of their beauty routine — and in the case of your Halloween makeup — as a diet. Your skin will absorb about 60% of whatever is put on it, providing the molecule is small enough.
10 out of 10 face paints tested contained lead, a known neurotoxin.
The Environmental Working Group warns: “Cosmetic ingredients do not remain on the surface of the skin. They are designed to penetrate, and they do. Scientists have found many common cosmetic ingredients in human tissues, including phthalates in urine, preservatives called parabens in breast tumor tissue, and persistent fragrance components in human fat.”
The skin is a major entry route, so it's crucial to pay attention to what you're putting on it.
Making things even more confusing for the consumer is that face paints labeled "non-toxic" and "safe" often are not due to contamination during the manufacturing process and a lack of testing. Manufacturers don’t always realize their paints aren't chemically safe, so you can't trust a label.
So how do you know if a cosmetic is chemically safe? Look for specific marketing claims such as “free from synthetic dyes, no petrochemicals, paraben and fragrance free.” The more specific the better. Here are some more tips to help you avoid all the nasties while still having fun.
1. Make your own.
It doesn't cost much to make your own face paint and chances are you already have the ingredients in your house. Remember to always perform a patch test first to make sure your skin doesn’t have any allergic reaction and the face paint doesn't stain your skin (and clothes).
- Chemically-safe sunscreen or diaper cream (the active ingredient should be zinc oxide)
- Loose mineral pigment or natural food coloring (found at health food stores)
- Mix two tablespoons of the sunscreen or diaper cream base with a small amount of pigment. Mix well until the color is smooth and consistent throughout. Add color until you have reached the desired color.
- Repeat the process for every color until you have a variety of colors of face paint. If you want some sparkle add glitter directly on top of the face paint.
- Set the makeup with a dusting of corn starch or chemically safe finishing powder. This will also make the makeup more matte.
2. Use chemically safe cosmetics and face paints.
Even if you're going for a full-face look, you don't necessarily need paint to get the look. Eyeshadow, eyeliner and lipstick can be used for almost anything, just be creative. If you want purple lips, apply a thin layer of balm and then layer non-toxic purple eye shadow over it. Opt for formaldehyde-free lash glue to add gems or decals to your face.
For larger areas or to cover your whole face, you can find chemically safe face paints. My favorites are from Terra Firma Cosmetics, Elegant Minerals and Glob Colors. Or you can make your own (see above)!
3. Wear a PVC-free mask instead.
Another way around toxic face paints is to opt for a mask instead. Just make sure the one you choose is PVC-free as it's the most toxic plastic for health and the environment. Like cosmetics, masks that are PVC-free will usually so on the packaging.
Another important thing to remember is that even though certain chemicals aren't harmful when applied to the skin, they can be toxic if inhaled or swallowed. Since face paint often goes on or near the mouth, it's easy to get some inside your body. Here's a list of common cosmetic chemicals you should avoid inhaling or ingesting, many of which are found in Halloween makeup: