Heavy metals in children’s face paints

A new report by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics reveals that some children’s face paints contain lead, a neurotoxin, as well as nickel, cobalt and chromium, which can cause lifelong skin sensitization and contact dermatitis. Not only were these metals not listed on the products' ingredient labels but some products even bore misleading claims like ‘hypoallergenic’ and ‘FDA compliant’ making it tough for parents to find safe face paints. In fact, everyday cosmetics suffer from the same lack of safety standards in the U.S.

For this report, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics sent 10 children's face paints to an independent lab to test for heavy metals. Ten out of 10 children's face paints they tested contained low levels of lead, ranging from 0.05 to 0.65 parts per million.

Experts say there is no safe level of lead exposure for children and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that parents avoid using cosmetics on their children that could be contaminated with lead.

Lead exposures early in life can lead to hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, IQ deficits, reduced school performance, aggression and delinquent behavior. It can also impact fertility, including increasing risk for miscarriage and reducing sperm quality. Early-life lead exposure can even increase risk for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Six out of 10 products contained the potent allergens nickel, chromium and/or cobalt at levels ranging from 1.6 to 120 ppm – far above the safety recommendations of industry studies.

Nickel, chromium, and cobalt can trigger skin rashes that appear throughout life with subsequent exposures.

Because all the face paints tested contained lead, and none of these metals were listed on ingredient labels, the campaign recommend that parents avoid using face paints on children until safety standards are put in place. In the meantime:

• Choose costumes that don't require face paint or masks (which may also contain toxic chemicals and impair vision and breathing).
• Make your own face paint with food-grade ingredients. They offer some suggestions.
• If you do use face paint, keep it away from kids’ mouths and hands so they don't ingest it.

For the full report.