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What Kind Of Halloween Face Paint Is Safe For Toddlers? Science Weighs In

by Cat Bowen

Halloween is easily my favorite time of year. Pumpkin spice everything is everywhere, leaves are crunching underfoot, fires blaze in hearths, Hocus Pocus is back on television, and we all get to dress up, even our kids. For the toddler set, it's especially fun to get creative (I see you, Pennywise toddler costumes), but what kind of Halloween face paint is safe for toddlers? If your family is dressing up as the characters from The Wizard of Oz, it obviously makes sense that the tantrum-loving toddler should be the Wicked Witch of the West, but where can you get safe green face paint?

Even when it's not Halloween, I really love going to kids' parties that have a face paint station. The kids just go wild for it, willing to spend long minutes in line waiting when otherwise you couldn't get them to wait four minutes for you to make a freaking quesadilla. They have such imaginations that it's almost impossible not to get excited for them. Just this last week, my daughter and I were discussing possible Halloween costumes. She's leaning heavily towards "kitten fairy princess riding a unicorn." Very few adults would sit around thinking something this imaginative, right? I mean, all of my costume ideas revolve around the fact that I'm a 6-foot tall woman. Basically, I get to be Ellen Ripley or Brienne of Tarth. But who says I couldn't be Kitten Ripley? Certainly not my daughter.

But what's in the paint I'm smearing all over my children's sensitive skin with wild child-like abandon? Are they safe to use?

In 2009, The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics released a missive that just ripped open the ingredients and business practices of tons of manufacturers. They found ingredients like cadmium, lead, nickel, and formaldehyde in many of the samples of face paint that they tested. Fun fact: did you know that cosmetics aren't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration? Nope, just the color additives used. Therefore, you could be smearing your body with a toxic soup of heavy metals and preservatives and have no way of knowing it.

There is also no standard for the use of the terms "hypoallergenic" or "noncomedogenic," even though those are buzzwords thrown around cosmetics to great effect. "Oh, that's hypoallergenic, it must be safe." Wrong. Even those can and frequently do contain known skin irritants, according to the missive.

Recently though, organic and all-natural companies have been stepping up and making their face paints out of safe ingredients and having each batch of their cosmetics tested independently to verify that they don't contain heavy metals or formaldehyde and its ilk. Most of them are also paraben-free and don't use synthetic colorings, additives, or fragrances. Companies like The Colorful Art Company, and Go Green Face Paints disclose every ingredient and maintain rigorous standards. Both of these are also vegan formulas, meaning they contain no waxes either, which can be irritating and difficult to remove.

If you're a die-hard crafter, or even if you just feel like trying, there are tons of recipes for homemade non-toxic and even edible paints available on Pinterest and blogs. I've made them and luckily, they're pretty simple. The recipe I used called for honey, corn starch, food coloring, and an ungodly amount of patience, but they were decently pigmented, and my kids loved them. However, word of advice, if you tell your kids they're edible, and allow them to go to town, remind them that not all paints are edible. Ask me how I know this.

Face paints and kids' safety have come a long way, but it's still good to remain vigilant and do your homework on the manufacturer of the paint you choose to slather on your kids. Halloween shouldn't be ruined because someone breaks out into hives. It's supposed to be ruined when your children are done trick or treating and they realize the tax for you taking them is five Reese's cups from their stash.

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