It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the time of vaguely pumpkin-shaped Reese's cups, apple cider sangria, huge bags of candy at rock-bottom prices, and of course — costumes. But safety is always a concern and makeup and hairsprays are especially worrisome. When creating the perfect costume, sometimes you need temporary hair, but is Halloween hair color spray safe for kids? If not, what's the alternative?
These sprays are everywhere, and to be honest, I used them all the time as an emo goth high schooler who also loved glitter. Sure, my clothes said "creature of the night," but my hair said "disco ball sorority sister at a kegger." And now that I've regained my sense of smell as an adult, I've noticed the harsh odor of these colored hairsprays, and the overwhelmingly chemical fragrance worries me. Is colored hairspray safe for kids if it smells like it could dissolve the paint off my mom mobile?
Is Halloween Hair Color Safe For Kids?
Board-certified neuromuscular specialist Dr. Lawrence Barnard of Maxim Hair Restoration tells Romper, “It's my advice not to dye at all until they're 12 years old, but if your child is persistent, you can consider temporary or vegetable dye products, which are often safer because these products coat the hair shaft as opposed to penetrating it. Just make sure you order from a verified retailer or salon, as many products online can be suspect due to counterfeit efforts or poor storage handling that can compromise their efficacy.”
This makes sense, because according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, most of the industry is largely unregulated. While the color additives must be FDA-approved, nothing else is. Beyond that, the companies are able to operate with almost no oversight, as all of their reporting is completed by in-house inspection and up to the will of the manufacturer itself. For anyone who's had a bad reaction to a cosmetic, this is infuriating news. For parents, it's terrifying. How can you ensure that the products you use for your child are safe?
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Are Hair Color Sprays Kid-Safe?
I also spoke with chemist Dr. Mohammed Sayed of Queens, New York and asked him to look over the ingredients of the top-selling sprays. He tells Romper, "These are all basic aerosols and aluminum and spray powders that will saturate the hair with alcohol and leave the color behind. Each of these also has a propellant and silica component." He says that there is some concern over the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), not just in their safety for personal use, but in the damage they do to the environment. "It's not just the immediate danger to your kids' health that's worrisome, you have to consider the planet you're leaving your kids. Is it worth pink Halloween hair?"
"Generally," he adds "you're worried about prolonged exposure when it comes to products like these. If you were using them every day, you might think differently than if you're only using it sporadically, but it always builds." He says that while HFCs have been determined safe for use in cosmetics, those studies weren't completed on children, so the risk assessment isn't the same. "If you're really worried, you can put a painter's mask and goggles on your child while you spray, minimizing the risk of inhaled HFCs and other chemicals, and not accidentally spraying them in the eye."
Sayed tells Romper that the sprays are fairly harsh and may damage children's fine hair, but as it is only hair, it will replace itself. When it comes to your children's safety, the decision of how far to go is on you. Sprays are convenient, but yes, they do damage the environment — and they stain wallpaper. (Trust me, there's no getting it out.)
Temporary Hair Color Chalks & Paints For Kids
There are multitudinous alternatives like gels and chalks, and honestly, the chalks are so easy and they brush out like a dream. That being said, parents do still need to be mindful about ingredient lists. “While many of those chalk-based hair colors claim that they are ‘non-allergenic’... It is possible to develop an allergy to hair dyes (especially more traditional dyes), dermatologist Dr. Charles Puza, MD, tells Romper in an email. “But even if these products don't contain traditional dyes, ingredients can still be allergenic or irritating.”
Another temporary hair color option is hair paint, which often comes in a variety of bright hues and is just as easy to apply as it is to remove. Again, you’ll want to pay close attention to the ingredients list for any hair paint you consider, and Dr. Puza advises against using any products containing essential oils. “Essential oils can be a huge trigger for patients (especially kids!) with atopic dermatitis (eczema) and can trigger the development of allergies to fragrances,” he explains, “Beyond that, these products have preservatives to prevent bacterial overgrowth, and these preservatives can also act as irritants to the skin.”
Are There Any Safe Halloween Hair Color Options?
Dr. Barnard’s advice to only purchase products from verified sources remains true, no matter what type of temporary hair color you want to get for your child. That being said, it’s important to remember that no product is guaranteed to be safe. “None of the temporary hair products are absolutely safe, everything has risks,” says Dr. Puza, “I would look for something that is dry (wet products contain more preservative chemicals) and try to find a fragrance free option.”
Once you’ve found a hair color that meets your standards, Dr. Puza recommends doing a small test spot somewhere on the body (such as the arm or back of the hand) and watching for a reaction for at least three to five days before applying it all over the scalp. “Note that an allergy to temporary hair products may present as an eyelid rash (eyelid skin is thin and very sensitive),” he adds. If the product passes the spot test, then go ahead and use it for Halloween, but keep its use to a minimum. “Try to keep the product on for as little time as possible and remember to wash pillowcases and sheets,” says Dr. Puza.
Every kid’s skin is different, and what may cause a reaction for one child may be totally fine for another, so the best thing you can do is to use your best judgement this Halloween. And, if your kid wants green Joker hair, know that the green hairspray is probably fine, green chalk may be better, and if all else fails, a wig is always a good alternative.
Dr. Charles Puza, M.D., Dermatologist
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