Question: Is it safe to use acrylic paints and other “craft” paints as face paint, as long as the package says it is “non-toxic?” The answer: Absolutely NOT! Non-Toxic does NOT mean FDA approved for cosmetic use, which is what paints must be in order to be considered safe for use on human skin. I’d even go as far as to say that the term “non-toxic” is as meaningless as the term “hypoallergenic,” at least where face paints are concerned. Is the paint labeled “washable?” They are talking about FABRIC. The only language that you must always look for in face paints is “FDA Approved for cosmetic use or made of FDA compliant ingredients.”
Here are just a few images that anyone can find via a simple Google image search for reactions to bad face paints. Does this look non-toxic to you?!
|Photo by Terra Fender (via)|
|via Painted Party|
PLEASE read this post in it’s entirety before you decide whether risking a child’s health is worth saving a few bucks…
Professional face painter Susan Judd from Liverpool has done a lot of research into this subject, and was gracious enough to let me share this great information that she summarized to help really explain why acrylic paints should never be used on skin:
“Most ‘non – toxic’ acrylics have formaldehyde as a preservative. This is not bad in its correct application, even in terms of getting a bit on your hands and washing off. The amount that they have in them accounts for this. BUT why are they considered a big ‘no’ as face paint?
Formaldehyde is a probable human carcinogen -cancer causing (it has only been proven in animals, and depending upon the country in Australia it is classified as one) and outright poison that has been researched since the 1940s. It is easily absorbed through the skin, and inhaled.
It has a particular effect on mucus membranes i.e. eyes, throat, nose and gut. 30mls of formaldehyde is a lethal poison to kill a human. And formaldehyde is commonly tested for as an allergen by in an allergy test.
When they approve this as a preservative, they make allowances for, say, it being stuck under fingernails for a few days, but not slapped on a face next to the mucus membranes to be inhaled and seep through and get in eyes. All acrylics are recommended for use in a well-ventilated area as formaldehyde is released into the air as they dry. Again acrylics not so good near the nose and mouth.
Now if the amount of formaldehyde is less than 1% the manufacturer does not have to list that ingredient. As that is a safe amount for its correct application. and it can be labeled Non Toxic.
You will find formaldehyde in shampoo, conditioner etc. but at no more than 0.2% and they have to include releasing agents in them to basically release the toxins as much as possible in the manufacturing process so it is safe for general use. Many things in life contain formaldehyde but are safe due to the way they were manufactured. Unfortunately general paint slips through this as it is not intended to be misused.
Most ‘non-toxic’ paint is a myth, as they just count on people using it safely. And that is why it is approved as paint but not as a cosmetic. Unless labelled formaldehyde free. There are other ingredients we could talk about, but Google formaldehyde to find out more.
Please don’t freak out about you kids having paints in general it is OK just obviously not with prolonged exposure to skin, as face paint. (or ingested in large quantities I suppose) I read up a lot about it but it is just too much to type.
Formaldehyde (CAS# 50-00-0) is one of the most common chemicals in use today. It is found in many processes and products, being widely used as a preservative, embalming fluid, sterilant and fumigant. Formaldehyde is also used in the production of resins, plastics, dyestuffs, ‘non-iron’ fabrics, paper products, paint, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical products. With such widespread uses and applications, many people come into contact with formaldehyde in one form or another in the workplace.
Formaldehyde is a colorless gas with a strong, pungent odor. It is commonly used in liquid form as a 40% aqueous solution known as formalin and in solid form as a white powder called paraformaldehyde. Because of its volatility, both formalin and paraformaldehyde will readily give off irritating formaldehyde vapour with a strong odour.
Health Effects of Formaldehyde
Formaldehyde can affect you when you breathe its vapour or come into contact with materials containing formaldehyde. It reacts very rapidly with moist body tissue, so particularly vulnerable areas are those that can come into direct contact such as the skin, upper respiratory tract and eyes.
The effects of formaldehyde exposure can vary from person to person. Some may show symptoms of irritation at very low levels, while others can tolerate exposure to higher concentrations with little or no reaction.
Typical exposure symptoms include:
Low 0.1 – 5 parts per million
Eye irritation, tears
Respiratory tract irritation
Moderate5 – 20 ppm
Burning of eyes and respiratory tract
Difficulty in breathing / coughing
High 20 – 100 ppm
Chest tightening, pain
Severe lung irritation
Death in severe cases
Skin: Contact with formaldehyde solutions or resins can cause eczema (dry, flaking and itching skin) and in extreme cases can lead to dermatitis. This is a skin disease that can appear as a simple rash to severe skin cracking and blistering. These symptoms can also be caused by contact with clothing contaminated with formaldehyde.
Eyes: Exposure to formaldehyde vapour can cause reddening and a burning sensation in the eyes accompanied by tears production. Formaldehyde solutions coming into direct contact with the eye can cause serious damage to the cornea, possibly leading to blindness.
Nose, Throat and Lungs: Low ambient concentrations of formaldehyde can cause irritation of the upper respiratory tract. At higher concentrations, the effects become more severe, with levels above 10 ppm causing coughing and chest tightness. Exposure to very high levels can lead to death from throat swelling and chemical burns to the lungs.
In some people, exposure to formaldehyde vapours, even at very low concentrations, leads to respiratory sensitization resulting in an allergic reaction similar to asthma. This can be triggered at any time, even in individuals who have worked with formaldehyde in the past with no apparent reaction, resulting in shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing and coughing.
Cancer: Although there is no conclusive evidence available to prove that formaldehyde is a human carcinogen, it has been shown to cause cancer in animals. Formaldehyde is therefore considered to be a probable human carcinogen, particularly as a cause of nasal and nasopharyngeal cancers as these areas are more likely to come into direct contact with formaldehyde.”
So the bottom line is, after reading all of this, is it really worth the chance of causing any level of harm to your child or anyone else’s with acrylic and other craft paints, when there are already SO many products out there that are FDA approved and specifically designed for use on skin? It seems to be common sense to me, although I know many people see the words “non-toxic” and think you are safe to use it for whatever you want. Not so! So, consider yourself officially educated…next time you take your child to get their face painted, or the next time you hire a face painter, make certain you know exactly what they are putting on your child’s skin. After all, the safety of your child is your job as a parent, and the safety of your little customers is your job as a professional face painter.
Here is another bit of info that I pulled off of the Snazaroo acrylic paint FAQ page from “Hopeful the Clown,” who wrote to Binney Smith Company, maker of Liquitex acrylic paints, requesting their MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for Liquitex acrylic colors in tubes, jars and artist colors.
Below is some of the information they received:
A-Chronic Health Hazards: Contains soluble cadmium. Avoid using if pregnant or contemplating pregnancy. Exposure may cause harm to developing fetus. Not for use by children. B-Chronic Health Hazards: Contains soluble nickel. May be harmful if swallowed. Exposure may cause damage to the testes. When using do not eat, drink, or smoke. Not for use by children. c-Medical conditions aggravated by exposure: Pre-existing skin, eye and respiratory disorders may by aggravated by exposure to this product. D- Emergency and First Aid:
1- Eyes: Flush with water for 15 minutes. Call Physician if symptoms exist.
2- Skin: Wipe off excess and flush with warm water and soap.
3- Ingestion: consult Physician, hospital, or poison control center.
4- Inhalation: Remove victim to fresh air and treat symptomatically. E- Carcinogenicity: The ingredients of this product are on the toxic substance control act (TSCA) inventory. F- Do not store near extreme heat. G- For Airbrushing” Use NIOSH certified respirator. Do not inhale spray from airbrush. Use adequate ventilation to control fumes vapors and dust/. Do not airbrush colors 162, 168,161, 312,154,157,168, 150,152,and 160.
Links to check out:
Snazaroo’s Acrylic paint FAQ page
Another good blog post on the dangers of non-professional supplies
News Article: New Mexico State Fair shuts down face painter using acrylics
News Article: Kids left “branded” at Family Fun Day
Here are some more useful links found by Susan Judd (Thanks, Susan!!):