List of face paint materials approved by the FDA for dermal use


For Halloween lovers looking to paint their face for Halloween, take a look at FDA-approved paints that are safe on skin.

Decorating your face with face paint or other makeup lets you see better than if you’re wearing a mask. A mask can prevent you from seeing where you are going and watching out for cars. But make sure your painted designs don’t cause problems on their own.

  • Follow all instructions carefully.
  • Do not decorate your face with things that are not meant for your skin.
  • If your makeup smells really bad, it could be a sign that it’s contaminated. Throw it away and use another one.
  • Like soap, some things are OK on your skin, but not in your eyes. Some face paints or other makeup products may state on the label that they should not be used near the eyes. Believe it, even if the tag has a picture of people wearing it near their eyes. Be careful that makeup does not get into your eyes.
  • Even products intended for use near your eyes can sometimes irritate your skin if you use too much.
  • If you decorate your skin with something you have never used before, you can try a dab of it on your arm for a few days to check if there is 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 it’s your skin we’re talking about. Think about what you put on it. You may not want to put the same coloring on your skin that an automaker uses in their paint.

Fortunately, you don’t have to. The law states that color additives must be FDA-approved for use in cosmetics, including color additives in face paints and other cosmetics that may be used around Halloween. It also includes theatrical makeup.

Additionally, the FDA must decide how they can be used, based on the safety information. A color that suits your hard nails or hair may not suit your skin tone. Colors that work for most of your skin may not work close to your eyes.

How do you know which ones can be used and where? Do some detective work and check two places:

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

2. Check the summary of color additives on the FDA website. There is a section specifically on colors for cosmetics. If there’s a color in your makeup that’s not on this list, the company that made it is breaking the law. Don’t use it. Even though it is on the list, check to see if it is FDA cleared for use near the eyes. If not, keep it away from your eyes.

For that macabre glow

There are two types of “glow” effects you could achieve with Halloween-style makeup. Ready for a few ten dollar words? There are “fluorescent” (say “floor-ESS-ent”) and “luminescent” (say “loo-min-ESS-ent”) colors. Here is the difference:

Neon colors: These are the colors that make you blink, sometimes called “neon” or “daylight”. There are eight fluorescent colors approved for cosmetics, and like other colors, there are limits to their use. None of them are allowed to be used near the eyes. (Check the color additive summary again.) Here are their names: D&C Orange #5, #10, and #11; D&C Red #21, #22, #27 & #28; and D&C Yellow #7.

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

When the party is over…

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

How you take clothes off is as important as how you put them on. Remove it as the label indicates. 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 is indicated to remove it with an eye makeup remover, use an eye makeup remover. You get the picture. The same goes for removing glue, like the stuff that sticks to fake beards.

And remember, the skin around your eyes is delicate. Gently remove make-up.

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 withdrawn from the market because they caused problems such as rash, irritation, itching or mild swelling where the paints were applied. If you have a reaction that appears to be caused by face paints, your parents may want to call a doctor, and they may also call the FDA. We like to keep track of reactions to cosmetics so we know if there are any problematic products on the market. To report a bad reaction to face paint, fancy makeup, or any other cosmetic product, see Your Guide to Reporting Concerns to the FDA.

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