I have cheap skin. I come from a long line of people with cheap skin, and we all complain about it, and unfortunately, I've passed it down to both of my children. We're incredibly sensitive to fabrics, fragrances, metals, and even silly things like dry air or humidity. Needless to say, costumes are a concern. In an ideal world, they'd be made out of materials that wouldn't irritate kids with sensitive skin. However, this is not an ideal world. So, can you be allergic to Halloween costumes or are most of them safe?
The truth of the matter is that Halloween costumes are designed to be mass-produced and disposable. They're really only meant to be worn a handful of times before they're discarded. They're also designed to be affordable, which means cutting costs on materials. Because they're manufactured this way, they're often made with cheaper materials that can be irritating to your skin, according to the product safety nonprofit organization Kids In Danger (KID).
And it's not just costumes, it's the makeup. Halloween makeup isn't dirt cheap because they've got production down to a science. It's dirt cheap because it's likely not the highest quality product out there, as per the Hensley Legal Group. It is quite possible to be allergic to the cheaply-made mass-produced supermarket makeup.
As pediatric dermatologist Mary Yurko, M.D., Ph.D., explained on the website for Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, because of the wide variety of makeup and costumes available, you should be on the lookout for reactions if you or your child is prone to sensitive skin and breakouts. Some of these include acne breakouts from oily cosmetics, rashes, irritation, and redness.
I know that when either my kids or I start to break out in hives around our neck, something is up. A few years ago, I bought my son a pirate costume that came complete with a velvet and felt hat. The costume was fine, and he wore it around without a problem, but the minute he put that hat on, he sprung out in hives all down his scalp and the back of his neck. The poor little dudeling was miserable for the rest of the night. As it turns out, there was nickel in the metallic thread woven through the hat's brim.
Also, from my experience, inexpensive wigs and many Halloween masks are often made or accessorized with latex and latex components. Latex is a common allergy according to The Mayo Clinic, so be careful when you're shopping to ensure your costume is latex-free.
Elizabeth Tanzi, M.D., founder and director, Capital Laser and Skin Care, and clinical professor of dermatology at the George Washington Medical Center told Dermatology Times that she recommends parents do a patch test for Halloween makeup before applying it all over sensitive faces. To do that, apply a small amount of the makeup or cosmetic glue to the forearm, and see if your child has a reaction. “Halloween makeup is notorious for containing irritating dyes and chemicals, so be very careful about what you use," she said.
"Also, some of these products come from China where lead has been an issue, so as a parent, I would think twice about applying inexpensive Halloween makeup to large areas on children,” The same is true for costumes, according to KID, so make sure you trust your manufacturer.
How do cosmetic companies get away with this? Well, as per the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cosmetics don't require federal approval to be sold (only color additives require any sort of surveillance). And even if the cosmetics aren't dangerous, they might still be irritating on sensitive skin. For my family, we use name-brand, mineral cosmetics and we tend to make our own costumes out of clothing from companies we know to be safe according to our allergies. Mostly, it's about being proactive and watchful. Buy the costume, get the zombie kit, but also watch your kid and their precious skin.