Cosmetics

Novelty Makeup

Face paints can be fun on Halloween and other special occasions. Here are tips to help keep your fun from leaving you with a rash, swollen eyelids, or other reaction.

Two girls with face paint.

Painting Your Face: Special Effects Without Aftereffects

Decorating your face with face paint or other makeup lets you see better than you can if you're wearing a mask. A mask can make it hard to see where you're going and watch out for cars. But make sure your painted-on designs don't cause problems of their own.

  • Follow all directions carefully.
  • Don't decorate your face with things that aren't intended for your skin.
  • If your face paint has a very bad smell, this could be a sign that it is contaminated. Throw it away and use another one.
  • Like soap, some things are OK on your skin, but not in your eyes. Some face paint or other makeup may say on the label that it is not for use near the eyes. Believe this, even if the label has a picture of people wearing it near their eyes. Be careful to keep makeup from getting into your eyes.
  • Even products intended for use near your eyes can sometimes irritate your skin if you use too much.
  • If you're decorating your skin with something you've never used before, you might try a dab of it on your arm for a couple of days to check for an allergic reaction BEFORE you put it on your face. This is an especially smart thing to do if you tend to have allergies. 

Color Additives: The "FDA OK" (Or, A Little Detective Work Won't Hurt)

A big part of Halloween makeup is color. But this is your skin we're talking about. Think about what you're putting on it. You might not want to put the same coloring on your skin that a car company uses in its paint.

Luckily, you don't have to. The law says that color additives have to be approved by FDA for use in cosmetics, including color additives in face paints and other cosmetics that may be used around Halloween time. It also includes theatrical makeup.

Plus, FDA has to decide how they may be used, based on safety information. A color that's OK on your tough fingernails or your hair may not be OK on your skin. Colors that are OK for most of your skin may not be OK near your eyes.

How do you know which ones are OK to use, and where? Do some detective work and check two places:

1. The list of ingredients on the label. Look for the names of the colors. THEN...

2. Check the Summary of Color Additives on FDA's Web site. There's a section especially on colors for cosmetics. If there's a color in your makeup that isn't on this list, the company that made it is not obeying the law. Don't use it. Even if it's on the list, check to see if it has FDA's OK for use near the eyes. If it doesn't, keep it away from your eyes.

For That Ghoulish Glow

There are two kinds of "glow" effects you might get from Halloween-type makeup. Ready for some ten-dollar words? There are "fluorescent" (say "floor-ESS-ent") and "luminescent" (say "loo-min-ESS-ent") colors. Here's the difference:

Fluorescent colors: These are the make-you-blink colors sometimes called "neon" or "day-glow." There are eight fluorescent colors approved for cosmetics, and like other colors, there are limits on how they may be used. None of them are allowed for use near the eyes. (Check the Summary of Color Additives again.) These are their names: D&C Orange No. 5, No. 10, and No. 11; D&C Red No. 21, No. 22, No. 27 and No. 28; and D&C Yellow No. 7.

Luminescent colors: These colors glow in the dark. In August 2000, FDA approved luminescent zinc sulfide for limited cosmetic use. It's the only luminescent color approved for cosmetic use, and it's not for every day and not for near your eyes. You can recognize it by its whitish-yellowish-greenish glow.

When the Party's Over...

Don't go to bed with your makeup on. Wearing it too long might irritate your skin, and bits of makeup can flake off or smear and get into your eyes, not to mention mess up your pillow and annoy your parents.

How you take the stuff off is as important as how you put it on. Remove it the way the label says. If it says to remove it with cold cream, use cold cream. If it says to remove it with soap and water, use soap and water. If it says to remove it with eye makeup remover, use eye makeup remover. You get the picture. The same goes for removing glue, like the stuff that holds on fake beards.

And remember, the skin around your eyes is delicate. Remove makeup gently.

But Just in Case...

What if you followed all these steps and still had a bad reaction? In March 2005 and May 2009, some face paint products were recalled from the market because they caused problems such as a skin rash, irritation, itching or minor swelling where the paints were applied. If you have a reaction that seems to be caused by face paints, your parents may want to call a doctor, and they can call FDA, too. We like to keep track of reactions to cosmetics so we know if there are problem products on the market. To report a bad reaction to face paint, novelty makeup, or any other cosmetic product, see Your Guide to Reporting Problems to FDA.

Want to Learn More? Check out These Sites:

September 25, 2001; updated October 1, 2003, September 28, 2005, October 31, 2007, and October 8 and 16, 2009. This document is current; updates are made only as needed. 

Page Last Updated: 10/24/2014
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