What is the Best Face Paint to Use?

Varieties of face paint in a store. Lisa Marder

Face painting is a great way to create a relatively inexpensive and easy Halloween costume, or just to do as a fun and creative get-together with friends. But there are so many face painting brands and  sets to choose from in the stores. How do you determine which face paints to buy?

Professional Grade

As with most paints, you get what you pay for. But when using paint on your body, and especially your face, you don't want to skimp when it comes to your budget.

While professional grade paints cost more than some of the other face paints you see in stores around Halloween, they are higher quality, safer, and a little goes a long way, making them well worth the extra cost. Some of the cheaper face paints are actually acrylic paints that do not belong on your skin. Although these paints may say "non-toxic," that does not mean they are FDA-approved as a cosmetic. 

Read: Paintertainment FAQ: Is Any "non-toxic" Acrylic Paint Safe for Face Painting?

Professional quality face paints are actually cosmetics. As such, they are easier to apply, feel better on the person wearing them, and the colors are brighter. They are also less apt to stain the skin or cause an allergic reaction. Even as a cosmetic, though, only the color-additives require FDA approval. Therefore many face paints on the market may contain small amounts of toxins and heavy metals that are bad for you when ingested or when absorbed through your skin.

Read: Novelty Makeup, an article from the Food and Drug Administration with guidelines for choosing cosmetic products.

According to a 2009 article, Halloween Face Paints Contain Lead And Other Heavy Metals, a report from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics states that many Halloween face paints are contaminated with lead and other heavy metals and recommends that safer alternatives be used on children.

You can read the original report, Pretty Scary: Could Halloween Face Paint Cause Lifelong Health Problems? here. The report indicates that even Snazaroo, a very popular and widely-used brand that is one of the top ten face paint brands according to grablist.com, and that is considered to be quite safe, contains very small amounts of lead, cobalt, and nickel. Some might argue that the concentration is so low as to be virtually nonexistent, or that if you're only using the product once or twice a year, the risk of being harmed is minimal.  This may be true, but the choice is a personal one, and you might want to find a product that does not contain any trace of these heavy metals at all if you're concerned about using it on yourself or on children. You can read what Snazaroo says about its health and safety here. 

The top face paint according to the grablist.com article is Paradise Makeup AQ. These paints are water-activated and contain aloe and chamomile along with enriching emollients such as cocoa butter and avocado oil, making them gentle on the skin. 

Read: Face Paints Reviews

Organic and Non-toxic

The good news is that there are now companies offering organic and truly non-toxic face paints.

Companies who carry such face paints include Elegant Minerals, Abe's MarketNatural Earth Paint, and Go Green Facepaint.

Read more about these products in Four Companies Offering Non-Toxic Face Paints for Halloween.

The Go Green Faceprint seems to be the most popular among users, is high quality, has a wide range of colors, and is easy to use. Other organic face paints have a more limited range of colors and are not as easy to apply. 

Crazy Paintz is another very popular and very safe face paint brand. Their paint is water-based, paraben free, vegan, made in the USA, FDA compliant, and hypoallergenic. They have a child-toy safety rating as well. You can read their safety information here.

To find out about the safety of the products you use, go to the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database.

You can also download the free Skin Deep app by the Environmental Working Group here. Scan the barcode of the product you're interested in to find out its rating and if it contains any harmful chemicals.

Whatever face paint you choose will be decided by your own budget and sensitivity to using products that may contain small amounts of toxic ingredients, but it helps to have a bit of knowledge to make an informed decision. If you would like to make your own face paints, read Safe Halloween Paints for Kids from Green Mom Guide. And, of course, thoroughly wash off any face paint before going to bed!

For some cool face painting ideas, ranging from scary faces to those of famous people, see Great Face Painting Ideas.