Is Face Painting Dangerous?

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It seems like every children’s event these days has an arts and crafts table with a face painter.  But, is that face paint safe?

Two years ago, I did a post on face paint and the report issued by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics where researchers tested 10 different face painting kits, all commonly found in craft stores.  Their findings were pretty scary indeed, “all 10 face paint products tested contained lead, and 6 out of 10 had known skin allergens, including nickel, cobalt or chromium, at levels above recommendations of industry studies,” said Stacy Malkan, the campaign’s co-founder and a co-author of the report.

Back then, in response to the CSC report,  the Minnesota Public Radio reported, “the lead levels shown in the report are well below what the Food and Drug Administration has deemed safe for lipstick, and some experts say there are plenty of other products whose lead content should give parents a much bigger scare.

Honestly though, I personally don’t go by the FDA standards for what is “safe” for our kids. What amount of metals (if any) are okay to put on our kids? We all have to make up our own minds.

There haven’t been any updates since the 2009 report. However, some advice I published back then from BabyCenter is still helpful in providing guidelines for using face paint. Dr. Dennis Woo, former chair of pediatrics at Santa Monica-UCLA and Orthopaedic Hospital, Santa Monica, Calif., who reviewed the report, said, using face paint once a year “is probably not going to do anything at all [healthwise],” . But, he said he is surprised by the amounts of heavy metals found in the face paints. “We should start looking at this stuff. There’s no reason these heavy metals need to be in cosmetics.”  His colleague, Dr. Wally Ghurabi, chief of emergency services, Santa Monica-UCLA and Orthopaedic Hospital, believes that even once-a-year use of the face paints may not be worth it. “Concerned parents should skip it,” he said. If those who apply the paints aren’t careful, he said, and get the paint too close to the eyes or nose, that could be potentially harmful.

So, the face paints that tested positive for lead?

  • Alex Face Paint Studio
  • Ben Nye LW lumiere Creme Wheel
  • Crafty Dab Face Paints
  • Don Post Grease Paint Color Wheel (also tested for Chromium)
  • Jovi Make-up (also tested for Nickel and Chromium)
  • Wolfe Brothers Face Art & FX (also tested for Chromium)
  • Mehron Glow in the Dark Fantasy F-X
  • Mehron 6-Pack Greasepaint Crayons (also tested for Nickel, Cobalt and Chromium)
  • Rubie’s Silver Metallic Fard d’Argent (also tested for Nickel, Cobalt and Chromium)
  • Snazaroo Face Painting Ki (also tested for Nickel and Cobalt)

What will you decide to do?
I have decided to allow my kids to get face painting 2 times a year with a professional face painter. I definitely ask questions and look at the painters’ set up. Recently, I attended a fair where poster paints were being used to paint on kids’ faces. I was appalled but nobody else seemed concerned.

Thankfully, you can still do face painting safely.  You just need some time and ingenuity.  Safe Cosmetics put together a list of DIY face paint recipes that range from chocolate masks to beet red lip gloss. If you can convince your child to stay away from the face painting table, you can make it a fun home activity you can do together.

After I published my initial post 2 years ago, I had lots of face painters commenting. Here were some of them:

Please keep in mind that most professional face painters would never use products “commonly found in craft stores.” It will be fairly obvious to an observant parent when they see a pro setup vs. that of an amateur or volunteer. A few dabs of paint on a paper plate, or tiny plastic pots of paint that resemble poster paints is one very clear sign of possibly sub-par products, and an artist who seems tight-lipped or nervous when asked about product safety is definitely a good reason to redirect your child.

If you see brands like Snazaroo, Mehron, Wolfe Brothers, Fardel, Kryolan, or Fantasy Worldwide, it’s a good indication that you’re dealing with a professional face painter who is using quality professional makeup. (Don’t forget that the report found that Snazaroo tested positive for lead, nickel and cobalt).

If a face painter says that his or her supplies are simply “non-toxic,” that’s not enough. Non-toxic means *only* that the item won’t kill you if ingested, not that it won’t cause an allergic reaction when used topically on the skin or that it’s truly OK to use.

Ask about the glitter being used. Conscientious, professional face painters won’t use craft glitter; they’ll use cosmetic glitter which is formulated differently and much safer in case it travels into the eyes.

What will YOU decide to do? Curious…..

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3 Comments

  1. Snazaroo does not contain lead. http://www.snazaroo.us/safety.htm

  2. Appreciate you telling parents about the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, it’s one part of the puzzle of toxic chemicals in our communities. The Safer Chemicals Healthy Families campaign is another. It seems chemicals are not viewed as a singular topic by our government, and depends on whether they’re in food and beauty products (FDA), the environment (Clean Water/Air Acts), or your home and place of work (EPA).

  3. Great to know! I have always wondered about that, as well as how sanitary they are considering they get used on everyone’s face, including some adults.

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