The seemingly harmless practice of letting children mess around with makeup when playing pretend or wearing face paint on Halloween can be a lot more harmful than most people realize.

A recent study carried out by researchers at Colombia University and the non-profit, Earth Justice, revealed an alarming increase in the number of children exposed to makeup and cosmetic products. Products that could contain potentially harmful substances, toxic chemicals, and even carcinogens.

Research carried out in recent years has revealed that some cosmetic products marketed for use by adults and even children can contain ingredients linked to serious health concerns. Ingredients like lead, talc, asbestos, phthalates, parabens, and formaldehyde are contained in these products and they can cause health issues like cancer, endocrine disorders, developmental delay, and even neurological problems.

More concerning is its use among growing children with very little or no supervision. With kids notoriously known for going from hand to mouth repeatedly, these products can easily be ingested or absorbed by the skin. Their small body size, developing organs and tissues, and immature immune system makes them far more biologically susceptible to its harmful effects.

In this study, the authors set out to determine just how often children are exposed to these cosmetic products and how they are being used so as to determine how at risk they are.

“In this context, it is important to uncover how makeup and body products are being used by children to characterize risk and improve safety,” says study co-author Eleanor A. Medley.

A 39-question survey was sent out to parents and guardians older than 18 years with children or wards younger than 12 years old. The survey assessed the kinds of body products used, the frequency of exposure, the motivation for use, and the frequency of ingestion amongst other factors.

Analysis of over 200 eligible responses revealed that 79 percent of parents reported their kids/wards had used makeup products marketed for children at some point, mostly by females than males. Products reported to have been used include glitter, lip gloss, and face paint.

Concerning the frequency of exposure, 54 percent of children surveyed reported having used children’s makeup and body products monthly at the very least, while 12 percent reported using them daily. Also, 31 percent of the children surveyed reported having either intentionally or unintentionally ingested these make-up products in the last year.


In the United States, cosmetic products don’t need FDA approval before they can be marketed to the general public. As a result, these products can contain all shades of ingredients, both harmful and otherwise.

If at all they should be used by anyone—be it a child or an adult—a great deal of scrutiny must go into their selection to avoid products that contain potentially harmful ingredients at all costs.

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