Children like to copy the behaviors they see in the adults they admire. Kids like to play the teacher with their stuffed animals, dig in the garden with their toy trowels, cook with play kitchen toys, and dress up like grownups. This certainly can include painting their little faces with toy makeup. But, unlike toddler tools and children’s camping gear, toy makeup may be unsafe for kids.
The first thing to consider is whether you give your child old makeup from your makeup bag or makeup sets intended for children. Makeup intended for adults may be safe for grownups but not children. Kids are more susceptible to toxicity than adults. Their delicate skin may absorb more of the ingredients than adult skin. Little children may use more makeup than a teen or adult would, applying liberal streaks of lipstick and eye shadow all over their faces.
They’re also more likely to put the makeup in their mouths, whether intentionally or by accident.
The FDA surveyed heavy metals in cosmetics, including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, mercury, and nickel, and found that many cosmetics had these elements present in small quantities. However, they were testing for these minerals with adults in mind, not children.
Are children’s toy makeup kits a better choice, then? Not necessarily. Tests of kids’ makeup kits have found high levels of asbestos, endocrine disrupters, carcinogens, and heavy metals. The regulation of these toys is limited, and many sets are made overseas, where regulation may be even more limited.
Playing dress-up safely
If you decide to allow kids to use makeup, either toy makeup or products from your own collection, follow some simple rules:
- Read the labels. Toy makeup labels won’t list arsenic contamination, but they may show that their products contain Polymethyl methacrylate, formaldehyde, or endocrine-active parabens.
- Supervise kids’ use of cosmetics of all kinds. Make sure kids don’t ingest lip balm and other sweet-smelling products.
- Avoid full-face painting, even for Halloween or stage plays.
- Wash up afterward with soap and water. Children can have fun painting their faces and then wash off the chemicals before they have too much exposure.
If you have concerns about toy makeup safety, check in with your child’s pediatrician.
Image courtesy of Adobe.