Understanding How to Choose the Best Face Paint Options

Some may contain heavy metals

Mixed race boy roaring in tiger face paint
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Face painting can be integral in creating a relatively inexpensive and easy Halloween costume, or it can be done just for fun. Many face painting brands and sets are on the market. How do you determine which face paints to buy?

Use Cosmetic 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.

Although professional-grade paints cost more than some novelty makeup kits you see in stores around Halloween, they are higher quality and 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 "nontoxic," that does not mean they are FDA-approved as a cosmetic. For instance, a cosmetic won't have any formaldehyde in it, although an acrylic paint may.  

Toxic Heavy Metals

Professional-quality face paints are actually cosmetics. As such, they are easier to apply and 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.

Many Halloween face paints are contaminated with lead and other heavy metals, such as cobalt and nickel, none of which are ​listed on the labels. Some people 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.

One top face paint 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. Please note that even a professional set may have some color additives that the FDA lists that should not be used near the eyes.

Organic and Nontoxic

The good news is that there are now companies offering organic and truly nontoxic face paints. Companies that carry such face paints include Elegant MineralsNatural Earth Paint, and Go Green Facepaint.

The Go Green Faceprint 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. 

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 for iPhone or for Andriod. Scan the barcode of the product you're interested in to find out its rating and if it contains any harmful chemicals.

Make Your Own

If you would like to make your own face paints, food coloring, oil, and cornstarch you probably have in your cupboard is already edible grade. Mix with facial moisturizer, and voila! Of course, thoroughly wash off any face paint, even the nontoxic, edible kind, before going to bed.