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Whether or not you have sensitive skin, Halloween makeup like these could cause skin irritation. Make sure to apply makeup to a clean face and remove makeup completely before bed.

Makeup 101: A safe, reaction-free Halloween for your kids

by Therese Ruiz
Oct 21, 2009


Therese Ruiz/MEDILL

If you plan on to use intricate designs and bright pigments this Halloween, try powdering your face before you leave the house. Since most holiday makeup is oil-based, this will help maintain long-lasting color.

Related Links

Audio slideshow: How to apply Halloween makeup safely

At-a-Glance Halloween Safety Review

 · Fragrances, preservatives, red dyes, and other added pigments are the leading causes of skin irritation. If possible avoid these additives.

· It could take a few days for symptoms of an allergic reaction to appear. Symptoms include redness, swelling, itching, rash, burning, stinging and fluid-filled blisters.

· Products with fewer chemical ingredients are less harsh on your skin.

· Don’t share makeup or makeup application sponges and brushes. Each child should have his/her individual cosmetics.

· Follow the directions on package carefully. Manufacturers typically state where a product can or can’t be applied on the back of the product.

· Unsure of a color? Check the Summary of Color Additives on the FDA’s Web site. If the color isn’t on the list, ditch the product:

· Remove all makeup before the child goes to bed. Wash face twice and then once more for good measure.

· Test a small patch of skin before applying an entire face of makeup. This will help determine if the child is immediately allergic to the cosmetic.

· Most Halloween makeup is oil-based. Pat on translucent or white powder to maintain color and long-lasting wear.

Sources: Jennifer Roberts,, Jeremy Floyd


Forget the monsters, ghosts and things that go bump in the night. The scariest thing for children this Halloween could be the makeup.

After a mass recall of children’s face paint this year due to “rashes, itchiness, burning sensation and swelling where the face paints were applied,” the Food and Drug Administration is urging anyone with concerns about cosmetics to contact FDA representatives. But a single recall doesn’t mean the world is rid of potentially harmful cosmetics. Other makeup still on the market could cause similar reactions.

“Recalls of cosmetics are voluntary actions taken by manufacturers or distributors to remove products from the marketplace,” said Jennifer Roberts, Chicago-based toxicologist for Exponent, a national engineering and scientific research company. “The FDA is not authorized to require recalls of cosmetics.”

While the FDA can request a manufacturer to issue a recall, the cosmetics could stay on market for months before being deemed too hazardous for production. To make matters worse, some products that pass cosmetic safety standards can expire while on the shelf. When a product expires the ingredients begin to deteriorate. Most Halloween makeup has ingredients to prevent bacteria growth for a longer shelf life. Llook for methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, isopropylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben, or BHT (butylated hydroxtoluene).

FunExpress makeup recalled earlier this year had microbial exposure, or bacteria in the makeup compound, which prompted dozens of allergic reactions in elementary school children. Unfortunately, the procedure to test makeup is expensive and time-intensive. Because of this, companies will only pull the item if multiple people voice concerns over an item.

Checking the expiration date of the makeup before purchase can help reduce risk. However, many makeup manufacturers omit expiration dates from the packages or put them in obscure places. Even if they do appear on the package, there’s a reason to question them.

“Expiration dates for cosmetics are simply rules of thumb for product safety,” explained Roberts, who is also an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “A cosmetic can deteriorate substantially and expire long before the expiration date.” Improper storage can play a major role in when a product is no longer safe for use on skin. Since the bulk of Halloween products are stored in warehouses until the next holiday comes, some cosmetics could be exposed to degenerative conditions.

Jeremy Floyd, a Northwestern University theater instructor, suggested parents skip the cheap dollar-store makeup and invest in a quality theater makeup instead.

Halloween makeup and stage makeup differ in that stage makeup offers better quality ingredients, which reduces risk of an allergic reaction. Most theatre makeup brands, such as Ben Nye and Kryolan, have a Halloween collection that comes in the same vibrant pigments as the generic options and don’t cost much more.

“It’s the pigment that contains irritants,” Floyd said. “In general, it’s red that can cause skin irritation, especially in products that have cheap ingredients. It can cause unbelievably severe reactions to open body parts, which means inside the nostrils and around the eyes.”

Floyd urged parents to buy higher quality makeup to prevent adverse reactions, especially if their children plan to wear the makeup for an extended period of time. But for those trying to tighten their belts during these tumultuous economic times, taking care of the skin where makeup will be applied can greatly reduce risk of irritation.

“One of the worst things you can try and do is take makeup off with a makeup wipe or baby wipe,” Floyd said. “You should let the soap product do its work. If it means you have to wash your face again, then wash your face more times.”

And once the makeup is off and Batman, Spiderman or the Incredible Hulk goes to bed, toss out any used makeup and applicators to prevent any surface bacteria from spreading. Then breathe a sigh of relief and reach for your kid’s bag of candy. Those Snickers are worth it.

If you or your child experiences an adverse reaction to any cosmetic, contact the FDA at  1-888-723-3366 , or