Question: I read somewhere that face paint can have lead in it and now I’m worried about the rest of Halloween stuff. Is anything safe? Wishing I could just go back to fighting sugar overload!
— Layla in North Carolina
Answer: Boo! It’s true! Face paint meant specifically for kids can contain lead — a potent neurotoxin — in it. Yikes! What could be more terrifying?
But here’s the thing: Halloween and childhood just go together. So while there are a lot of potentially toxic costume pitfalls, they don’t have to spell the end of the celebration.
Here are eight tips to keep the kids as safe as can be while still letting them enjoy some spooky and scary fun. Enjoy!
1. Make sure your kids’ Halloween costumes — not to mention your own! — are crafted from safe materials. Far too many store-bought versions are made of unsafe plastics like vinyl aka PVC, filled with hormone disrupters or even lead, a potent neurotoxin. This is an issue with swapped or hand-me-down costumes, too.
2. Avoid conventional face paints marketed for Halloween dress-up. Tests conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics discovered that many contain heavy metal horrors like lead and chromium. Some lipsticks also contain lead. If your kids don’t want to go bare, use the safest makeup you can find instead.
3. When it comes to outfitting a Halloween costume, avoid VOC-filled nail polishes and fragranced products made with phthalates, an endocrine disruptor. If your little witch “needs” dark nails, choose a version free of formaldehyde, toluene, and phthalates. If you can apply outside or with the windows open, even better. Or try stickers.
4. Does a costume call for different hair? Use wigs and hats instead of spray-on hair coloring made with synthetic chemicals that are a bit too mysterious.
5. Masks and cheap Halloween props like fake teeth made from rubber and vinyl frequently contain lead paint and chemical plasticizers. Kids can actually absorb these while wearing them. Creepy! Forgo or make your own masks with paper maché.
6. Fake blood is usually made from an unsafe dye in a petroleum base, so avoid it, too. If you or your kids are the creative type, try whipping some up your own fake blood with cornstarch and beet juice.
7. When your kids trick or treat and wind up with unhealthy Halloween candy, trade them! Offer organic treats made from whole foods and free of ingredients like corn syrup and artificial dyes. This doesn’t mean no chocolate, just to be clear. There are plenty of lovely natural and even organic/Fair Trade chocolates to be had! Same goes for jelly beans and the like if you really want them. Just choose organic, naturally dyed versions. If you’re throwing a Halloween party, recipes for olive eyeballs, pretzel stick fingers, and other treats are easy to find online.
8. You want to make your Halloween pumpkin glow, but keep in mind that most candles are made from paraffin, a petroleum by-product that releases toxic compounds when burned. Candles made from beeswax or soy — unscented or scented with natural essential oils — won’t leave anything terrifying behind. Or try a reusable light; these also won’t catch blousy costumes on fire.
For more Halloween-related tips from Healthy Child, check out these articles: