Each Halloween, children (and adults) across the U.S. dress up as everything from clowns to witches, and many of them include face paint in their costumes. However, a 2009 study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that all ten of the children's face paints they tested contained lead. Six out of the ten contained nickel, cobalt, and chromium. Lead can effect a child's brain development even at low doses and the other metals can cause skin sensitization.

One particular brand, Snazaroo was labeled as non-toxic and hypoallergenic yet it contained some of the highest levels of lead, nickel, and cobalt in the study. (Snazaroo denies these findings are accurate.) The FDA does not require that contaminants be listed on labels, making it impossible for parents to protect their children. Avoid these toxins by making your own face paint easily at home.

Basic Face Foundation

Mix cold cream with cornstarch and water until you form a paste. Go with white for your little ghost or vampire or add food coloring to make the color you want. If you don't have cold cream, you can substitute with a white flour and vegetable shortening (or corn syrup) mix.

Fake Blood

You can easily make fake blood by combining light cornstarch with red and blue food coloring and a dash of milk. Use a paintbrush to apply.


Make your little witch stand out with a simple gelatin recipe. All you need is 1 ounce of gelatin, 2 tablespoons of boiling water, couscous, paprika or colored sugar, and 4 tablespoons corn syrup. Combine the gelatin and water but don't let it set completely in the bowl. Add the couscous, paprika, or colored sugar as needed. Drip it onto a side plate and when it sets, stick it on your child's face with a bit of corn syrup as "glue."


You can make scars by taking pink tissue paper and mixing it with corn syrup. The paper will turn into a paste that you can then apply to your child's face.

Clown Makeup

Make your child into a funny clown with 2 tablespoons of shortening, 5 teaspoons of cornstarch, 1 tablespoon of flour and a bit of petroleum jelly. Make a few small bowls of this and add different food coloring to each to make a rainbow of colors.

The FDA offers more advice on making your own face paint. It is an easy and fun way to protect your child from dangerous contaminants found in common store bought makeup.

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