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?
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?
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.) There are multitudinous alternatives like gels and chalks, and honestly, the chalks are so easy and they brush out like a dream. Use your best judgment, and if your kid wants green Joker hair, know that the green hairspray is probably fine, but green chalk may be better.
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