News Release


Toxic Chemicals Found in Kids' Makeup Products- What Will You Shop for This Halloween?

New report by the Breast Cancer Fund shows you should be worried about more than checking your children’s Halloween candy this year
For Immediate Release

SAN FRANCISCO, CA –Advocates and parents joined together today to release a new report showing that potentially harmful chemicals could be in the products marketed to your kids. Protecting your children’s health and well-being may also require careful inspection of the face paints sold in your local stores and at large retailers because they can be contaminated by heavy metals including lead and cadmium. Lead causes altered brain development and learning difficulties while cadmium disrupts the body’s hormones. But should you be worried about children’s cosmetics as well? The report unmasks the frightening ingredients found in the toy aisles across America that sell everything from lip balm, to nail and makeup kits marketed to kids at various ages from 4-14.

The Breast Cancer Fund sent 48 Halloween face paints to an independent laboratory to have them tested for the presence of heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury. Almost half of these – 21 items – had trace amounts of at least one heavy metal. Some products contained as many as 4 metals. Heavy metal concentrations were higher and more common in darkly pigmented paints.

Working with partners across the United States, the Breast Cancer Fund collected 39 makeup products marketed to children, including: lip balm, nail and makeup kits found in toy aisles, shampoos and lotions marketed to kids, and party favors. All of these products listed either styrene-based chemicals or fragrance on the labels, leading us to suspect that both of these ingredients could lead to trace level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A third party lab confirmed suspicions, finding 20% of products had at least one VOC. Seven different VOC’s were found, 4 having the potential to lead to serious long-term health care effects including reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruption, and two listed as a possible carcinogen.

"It's outrageous that face paints for children contain toxic heavy metals. Parents have been asking me what to do about face paint this Halloween and I have to advise them not to use it. There is no way to be sure these products are safe," said Stacy Malkan, a concerned mom and author of "Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry."

"Halloween should be fun for kids and parents, not a time when parents should have to worry about a lead exposure through face paints," said Jason Pfeifle CALPIRG Public Health Advocate. "These make-up manufacturers need to clean up their act and stop jeopardizing the health of kids."

Read the full report: Pretty Scary 2: Unmasking Toxic Chemicals in Kids' Makeup

Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of chemicals, and preventing early-life exposures to harmful chemicals can help prevent health problems throughout their lives. Despite the cosmetics industry’s claim to the contrary, small exposures can add up to harm and a growing body of scientific evidence shows that even tiny doses of some chemicals, such as endocrine disrupting chemicals, can be harmful. And it’s not just the size of the exposure that matters, but also the timing of the exposure and size of the person exposed to the chemical. Exposures during particular developmental stages, such as those that occur during puberty, may increase an individual’s later-life risk of disease.

“Heavy metals, carcinogens, and endocrine disruptors should not be in kids’ face paint and makeup. Our report reveals chemicals of concern in a wide variety of products, in most cases with no indication on the label. Even as a scientist working in this area, I am not able to tell what is in the products I buy for my children without lab testing. Parents shouldn’t have to do that - manufacturers can and should do better.” – said Sharima Rasanayagam, Ph.D., Director of Science for the Breast Cancer Fund.

There are real dangers in these children’s products designed for play or daily use. We have long known that the federal laws governing the safety used in personal care products are inadequate. The results of this study clearly indicate the need for strong, health protective, federal cosmetic safety reform to reduce children’s exposure to chemicals from products that on the surface seem playful, but upon scientific analysis, pose a dangerous threat to children’s health and well-being.

Most people assume the FDA regulates cosmetics and personal care products in the same way it does food and drugs to assure safety. In fact, cosmetics are one of the least regulated consumer products on the market today. The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (FFDCA) includes 112 pages of standards for food and drugs, but just 2 pages are dedicated to cosmetic safety. Existing cosmetic safety law is over 75 years old and provides the FDA with virtually no statutory power to perform even the most rudimentary functions to ensure the safety of an estimated $71 billion cosmetic industry.

Toxic chemicals in kids face paints and makeup is pretty scary.  Kids aren’t just “little adults” and are especially vulnerable to the effects of chemical exposures, especially during critical windows of development,” said Janet Nudelman, Director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.  “We need safer products and smarter laws so everyone will be protected from unsafe chemicals in the cosmetics and personal care products we use every day, and this is doubly true for kids. Congress should do its part by enacting meaningful, health-protective federal cosmetic safety legislation that protects children and other vulnerable populations.”

Read the full report: Pretty Scary 2: Unmasking Toxic Chemicals in Kids' Makeup 


The Breast Cancer Fund is the leading national organization working to prevent breast cancer by eliminating our exposures to toxic chemicals and radiation linked to the disease. For more information, visit

CALPIRG is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security or our right to fully participate in our democratic society. For decades, we’ve stood up for consumers, countering the influence of big banks, insurers, chemical manufacturers and other powerful special interests.


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