Ten out of 10 face paints tested contained lead, according to study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics


After first dying our own Easter eggs this year and also reading about all the nasty things found in cosmetics I started to think about face paint. Maia is a pretty theatrical child and she is a big believer in getting fully into character—which means that through the years we’ve used a lot of makeup, including some dodgy looking dollar-store face paint.

It turns out that face paint is pretty scary stuff. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and Health Canada children's face paints contain lead, arsenic, mercury, cadmium and antimony.

In the Safe Cosmetics study 10 out of 10 face paints checked contained lead, while 6 out of the 10 contained skin allergens including nickel, cobalt and/or chromium at levels far exceeding industry safety standards.

The ultimate insult was one face paint that was labelled as “non-toxic” and “hypoallergenic” contained some of the highest levels of toxins found in the study.

It’s bad enough that come Halloween we embrace junk food in a way we’d never consider doing during the rest of the year. But the idea that I’m also exposing Maia to toxins and heavy metals just by painting her face kind of puts an added damper on the holiday.

How to make your own face paint

With this in mind I went on a DIY face paint search. So far we’ve tried the recipes below. The ones with food colouring left a slight tint to her skin after washing, but faded reasonably quickly… The texture in these isn’t as creamy and easy to work with as commercial paints—but when the option is lead versus slightly goopy lines, I’ll go with the goopy lines…

Face paint recipe

5 ml cornstarch
5 ml natural cold cream
2.5 ml water
Food colouring or glitter


Mix together cornstarch and cold cream until well blended. Add water and stir. Add food colouring or fruit juice (I used coffee to get brown, but Maia wasn’t keen on the smell), one drop at a time until you get the desired colour. This works well for bright colours needed for small areas.


DIY clown makeup recipe

30 ml vegetable shortening
25 ml cornstarch
5 ml flour
Vegetable glycerin

Blend well and divide into 3–4 containers. Tint with food colouring or fruit juice. Leave one container white.


Fake blood recipe

Corn syrup
Red and blue food colouring

Add some red food colouring to the corn syrup, then just a drop or two of blue to get a more realistic colour. Milk makes the blood appear more opaque and more realistic.

Note: This mixture is sticky and can stain clothes.