Dangerous Chemicals Found in Face Paints and Cosmetics

This year, the scariest thing about Halloween won’t just be the harmful preservatives found in Halloween candy. Now there’s a new ghost to worry about: makeup and face paints. It turns out these concoctions are not as harmless as one would hope.

A comprehensive study by the Breast Cancer Fund’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics looked into many brands of children’s face paints to find contamination of heavy metals, including lead and cadmium. But, the trouble doesn’t stop there. Nail polishes, lip balms and makeup kits sold in toy stores all over—targeting ages 4-14—contain ingredients with known links to health problems in youngsters.

The presence of these compounds were discovered partially by scrutinizing 187 different product labels, all of which were marketed to children. Propylparaben was one ingredient on about half of the products’ lists, which is thought to be a hormone disruptor. Parabens can increase risk of breast cancer and propylparaben, specifically, has been linked to reduced testosterone and sperm levels in males.

Several products were tested using third-party laboratories to find out just what was lurking inside them, as well. 48 different Halloween face paints were tested and nearly half of them were found to contain trace amounts of at least one dangerous heavy metal—some containing as many as four!

Another concern in the label-reading portion of the study was the catch-all word “fragrance.” The fact that it is impossible to know just what makes up the “fragrance” used without sending the product to a lab is unnerving by itself, yet what the researchers found was even more disturbing. Of the 39 kids’ makeup and personal care items tested, all of them listed either styrene-based ingredients or “fragrance,” a red flag that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) could be present. Sure enough, 20 percent had at least one type of VOC, with flavored lip balms being the most outrageous offender.

The bottom line of the study is that more than 50 percent of cosmetics marketed to children contain at least one compound linked to hormonal disruptions, cancer, learning disabilities or developmental issues. A list of the cosmetics tested and the specific health concerns associated with each identified ingredient can be found within their analysis. The Breast Cancer Fund encourages citizens to fight for federal regulations on the personal care industries, which is severely lacking. They also suggest getting creative with alternatives to face paints and other children’s cosmetics year-round—including Halloween.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Chen Boon Fook
Chen Boon Fookabout a year ago


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

heather g.
heather gabout a year ago

Care2, please give us one thing that is positive about North America - especially now since the latest bad news that clogs the media............ Or, investigate further, asking these companies why they are poisoning people..... Be proactive !!!

Elaine W.
Elaine Wabout a year ago

Thanks for the warnings.

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiranabout a year ago


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Cabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Virginia Miller
Virginia Millerabout a year ago

Thanks for the info.

Philippa Powers
Philippa Powersabout a year ago

We must be aware of what's in the products we use.

Marc P.
Marc Pabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing!

Maureen King
Maureen Kingabout a year ago

What's really p----ing me off right now is that there are 88 comments showing as posted.I'd really like to be able to read them. Now Care2 ,in their wisdom have stuck adds at the bottom,where I used to be able to open it up to read the rest of the comments and give stars. Not any more. I can only read 10 comments. I'm certainly NOT impressed.
Don't know how you fare if you are using a computer,but I do this with my smart phone.