Good Chemistry: Green Tips for Better Health, from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England

Horrific! Heavy Metals Found in Face Paint


I love Halloween and last year I was incredibly excited to be invited to a costume party. I had the perfect geisha outfit and matching wig; all I needed to complete the look was white face paint. Last fall was when I really started to learn about contaminants in products we use on our bodies and in our homes, so when I set out to find my geisha make-up, I laboriously read all of the face paint labels in Party City. I eventually selected the only brand which claimed to be “toxic free”. I will tell you what is truly scary – my “toxic free” face paint may not have been toxic-free at all.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a national coalition of nonprofit health and environmental groups, sent 10 children’s face paints to an independent lab to test for heavy metals, and also reviewed ingredient labels of Halloween products sold at a seasonal holiday store. The findings, compiled in the new report, Pretty Scary, include:

•Ten out of 10 children’s face paints contained lead at levels ranging from 0.05 to 0.65 parts per million

•Six out of 10 children’s face paints contained the potent skin allergens nickel, cobalt and/or chromium at
levels ranging from 1.6 to 120 ppm – far exceeding industry safety recommendations of 1 ppm.

•Snazaroo Face Paint, labeled as “non-toxic” and “hypoallergenic,” contained some of the highest levels
of lead, nickel and cobalt found in the study.

“Lead is dangerous to the developing brains of children at any level. It is now widely accepted in the scientific community that there is no threshold level below which lead is safe,” said Phil Landrigan, M.D., Director, Children's Environmental Health Center Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that parents avoid using cosmetics on their children that could be contaminated with lead.

“Nickel, cobalt and chromium are top allergens in children. To have these contaminants in face paints is concerning because early-life exposures increase the chance that kids will have lifelong sensitization and develop contact dermatitis on the face,” said Bruce A. Brod, M.D., Clinical Associate Professor of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

As a mom, I am grateful that it was me, and not my kids, who wore the white face paint I purchased last year. But, frankly, I am still horrified (but not in a good Halloweeny kind of way). I took the time to scrutinize every label and I chose the “toxic free” product. How is it possible that face paints can be marketed to children, labeled “hypoallergenic” and “non-toxic”, and still contain dangerous heavy metals? Why aren’t four of the heavy metals found in the face paints listed on product labels?

The U.S. FDA does not require labeling of lead, nickel, chromium or cobalt because these chemicals are considered contaminants. As a result, American consumers have no way of knowing if cosmetic products – like face paint, and everyday cosmetics like makeup – contain these hidden hazardous chemicals.

Due to these non-disclosures - and the fact that all the face paints the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics tested contained lead – the Campaign recommends parents avoid using face paints on children until safe standards are put in place.

How can you and your kids create a ghoulish, festive look? Halloween can be even more special if you and your little trick-or-treaters make home-made face paints together. You can also sign the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics petition asking for laws that shift the entire industry to non-toxic ingredients and safer production.

If you make home-made face paint let us know how it goes. Better yet- we’d love a picture.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 at 10:14 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.


Leave a Reply

To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture. Click on the picture to hear an audio file of the word.
Anti-spam image