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Trace Metals Raise Controversy About Toxic Halloween Makeup

You might have more than empty calories to worry about this Halloween (thanks, Fun Size Twix bars). Toxic metals could be looming in children’s Halloween makeup, according to a report from the Breast Cancer Fund, a non-profit, non-governmental organization that aims to prevent breast cancer by eliminating exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation linked to the disease.

The organization recently released a report, which discovered trace amounts of toxic metals, including lead, mercury, and cadmium, in some Halloween makeup kits targeted to children. The report found that after testing 39 different cosmetics products commonly found in the Halloween costume aisle (think: lip balm, makeup palettes, and face paints kits), an independent laboratory discovered almost half (21, to be exact) of the products contained traces of at least one metal, while others had as many as four. The tests also noted that heavy metal concentration was higher in dark-pigmented paints.

If hearing the words “lead” and “makeup” spook you, no need to fret just yet, says cosmetic chemist Randy Schueller. “Your body can deal with small amounts of lead,” he says. “The same principles apply to makeup, except it’s even less of a concern because you’re not actually ingesting the products.” For example, in a recent podcast on his site, The Beauty Brains, Schueller noted that every time you wear lipstick, you essentially ingest minute amounts of lead—at the most about 0.3 micrograms a day. (We reported on a study in 2009 in which the FDA found lead levels in lipstick to be non-toxic.) “It stands to reason that low levels of lead in products that are applied to skin are not much of a concern,” reported Schueller on his podcast.


Learn a Halloween makeup hack:


But if you’re still a little skeptic (and that’s totally OK!), fellow cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson says that while the FDA regulates the pigments being used in makeup, it often fails to use the same level of concern when it comes to palettes. She adds that when shopping for color cosmetics, in order to avoid possible exposure to heavy metals, shoppers should steer clear of certain ingredients. “As long as the product contains D&C or FD&C dyes, aquamarine or iron oxides, then any level of metals are the threshold regulated by the FDA,” says Wilson.

Bottom line? Read (and re-read!) the ingredients label on children’s Halloween makeup products before making a major purchase. And if you really want to avoid costume aisle cosmetics altogether, skip the last-minute lines and dig into your own beauty stash, as some products may already be formulated to safely use on both the face and the eyes. (For example,

is an awesome jet-black pick. But take caution: Only use products on your face that are labeled for dual use and have colorants that are specifically FDA-approved for cosmetic eye makeup.

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