Beware, Your Halloween Makeup Could Be Toxic To Your Skin

There's nothing scarier than an allergic reaction.

Makeup is a huge part of putting together a costume, and it's really not that expensive. You can always buy cheap zombie face paint or a fake blood kit at the drugstore or a pop-up Halloween shop, but when choosing makeup for Halloween you should probably pay less attention to the price and focus more on the ingredients label.

According to Joel Schlessinger, a board-certified dermatologist and adviser, costume makeup often contains artificial dyes, fragrances, waxes and oils, all of which can clog pores, cause breakouts and irritate skin. "You'll want to avoid the same ingredients you wouldn't want in your everyday makeup," he said.

To ensure that your Halloween doesn't turn into a real fright night because of toxic makeup, read Schlessinger's tips below on which props and products to be cautious of. Plus, his recommendations for safer costume makeup alternatives.

Cream Compacts/Shadows

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"It's not unusual to see severe reactions to these cosmetics, specifically around the eyes, nose and mouth," said Schlessinger. "Additionally, some Halloween face paint could contain color additives that aren't FDA-approved, such as certain fluorescent or luminescent dyes." Before applying, the physician suggests checking to make sure your costume makeup doesn't contain any ingredients that aren't approved by the FDA.

"As with any unfamiliar makeup, you'll always want to perform a patch test on your neck or the underside of your arm to make sure you won't have a negative reaction," he added. "If you see signs of irritation, avoid putting the makeup on your face. Don't hesitate to see a doctor if the costume makeup gives your skin an itchy or blistering rash."


"The same glues you'd use for your everyday needs, including Super Glue, can damage your complexion,"said Schlessinger. "Look for glues and adhesives that are approved for stage or theater use. If you're planning on wearing fake eyelashes, make sure none of the eyelash glue gets into your eyes as this can glue the eyelid shut, requiring you to make a trip to the emergency room."

Fake Blood

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According to Schlessinger, fake blood is often made from a red dye that could cause irritation when it reacts with a petroleum base. Instead of buying fake blood from the Halloween store, he advises making your own with corn syrup, flour and food coloring.

Prosthetic Skin

"As for prosthetic skin, it's better to find something that is higher quality, which is less likely to cause skin irritation or inflammation," he said. "Look for theater props instead of something you can find in the Halloween aisle. Because these accessories are often made of latex, you'll also want to make sure you're not allergic first."

Colored/Costume Contact Lenses

Schlessinger said it's important to remember that contacts are a medical device and require a prescription from your eye doctor. "It's never a good idea to purchase contacts online or in a store, unless previously recommended by your ophthalmologist," he added.

Fake Nails

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Certain false nails are more harmful than others, according to Schlessinger. "The chemicals used to apply acrylic nails, for example, include resins and formaldehyde, which are known to cause cancer. Over time, these chemicals can also damage the nail matrix, causing the entire nail to fall off," he said. "Glue-on nails pose less of a threat to your nail health, as long as you remove them properly. However, these are still hard on your natural nail and not recommended. It's better to paint your nails with regular nail polish."


Schlessinger points out that Halloween masks and props, especially the ones that are made from rubber and vinyl, could contain lead paint and chemical plasticizers. He explained, "Even if the props aren't constantly in contact with skin, there is still a risk of absorption. It's better to use makeup to create your desired look or make your own mask with papier-mâché."

Instead of using spray-on hair color that could also contain synthetic chemicals, the dermatologist recommends using wigs and hats. "Temporary hair color can be difficult to wash out, leaving your hair dry and brittle. Make sure any hats or wigs you decide to wear have never been worn by others. Sharing these items could lead to breakouts, lice, infection or irritation," he said. "Additionally, don't hesitate to take your hat or wig off if it becomes hot, itchy and uncomfortable. No one will blame you for breaking character!"

Safer Halloween Makeup Options

You may have noticed Schlessinger often recommends theater makeup over costume cosmetics. Here's why: "Theater makeup is made with higher quality ingredients and has less risk of skin irritation. Most theater makeup has the same high pigment payoff, but it's designed to sit on the skin for long periods of time and tends to be gentler on skin. These cosmetics are also FDA-approved and free of harmful ingredients like lead," he said.

For those who are especially prone to breakouts, Schlessinger believes mineral makeup is an excellent option because it sits on top of the skin rather than absorbing into the complexion. Our editors' picks for theater and mineral makeup include Mehron, Ricky's NYC, Jane Iredale and Alima Pure.

Schlessinger added, "If costume makeup is a must, look for products that are oil-free, alcohol-free and non-comedogenic with a water base. (These are the ones that are sold in cake pans and look like water color palettes.) Oil-based and ointment-based makeup is much more likely to clog pores."

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