The Ultimate Guide to Halloween Makeup for Kids

Updated: February 12, 2020
If your child loves dressing up, there's a chance you will be using Halloween makeup this year. Dermatologist Sandy Skotnicki answers all of your questions about whether Halloween makeup is safe and tips for application. Plus, we've got your Halloween makeup inspiration all in one place!
woman applying halloween makeup on kid
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Halloween is just around the corner and it’s such a fun holiday for many kids, especially those who love dressing up! When getting your kid’s costume in order, the perfect makeup is a must. But watch out—not all Halloween makeup is skin-safe for kids.Some makeup contains icky chemicals you might not want to lather over your child’s skin. 

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How long can you wear Halloween makeup?

Toronto-based dermatologist Sandy Skotnicki, author of Beyond Soap outlines what one should look for in costume makeup.

“Like anything you put on your face and body, it’s important to ask the right questions and read the label to ensure you are not using harmful or irritating products,” she explains. Costume makeup may not exactly be high quality, or top of the line, but used for just a few hours might be OK. It’s all contingent on what you, the parent, thinks.

“I believe parents need to be practical and realistic,” says Dr. Skotnicki. “Your child is not likely to be covered in makeup for an extended period of time. I am also a mom and kids need to have fun, not live in a bubble. We are talking about one night; let your kids have fun and of course, use common sense. For example, applying glue to bare skin doesn’t require a dermatologist such as myself to tell you that this may cause a bad reaction.”

How much Halloween makeup can I wear?

“I also believe in the ‘less is more theory,’ so not slathering makeup all over is clearly a good idea,” adds Dr. Skotnicki. 

The majority of reactions to skincare, she explains, are irritant-related and not allergic, which means they are an inconvenience but will not give your kids any lasting effects. “All makeup, whether it’s yellow or green ‘cake’ color for your little Pokémon or Hulk characters, have ingredients that can irritate, but are less likely to result in an allergic reaction.”

She adds: “The same dye in lipsticks is in green face ‘cake’ paint. These are called FD&C grade dyes. Reactions to FD&C dyes are rare and are typically irritating, but only last a few days with no lasting effects.”

Tips for Safe Halloween Makeup

Bottom line? It’s most likely fine to use mainstream costume makeup on your kid’s faces, but there are safer alternatives.

Here’s what Dr. Skotnicki recommends:

  • Invest in higher quality makeup. “I recommend you purchase real theatrical makeup—it’s more expensive, but is safer. You should buy the products at established costume stores, not ‘pop-ups’ that open only for a few weeks before Halloween, or at your pharmacy where costume makeup kits are inexpensive but are generally poorer quality.”
  • Test the makeup before using. If your child has some minor redness or flaky skin the next day,  after testing some makeup on their skin, don’t panic. “If you want to be super careful, you can try testing the makeup on one spot a couple of days before Halloween to see if there’s a reaction. I recommend dabbing a little just in front of your child’s ear so it’s not noticeable if there is an allergic reaction.”
  • Read labels. Check to see if the product has been vetted by your Government Environmental Agency.
  • Be practical. “Glues, adhesives should be avoided for use on really young children due to higher potential for irritation and allergic reactions.”
  • Watch where you shop. “Prosthetics that require glue and adhesives should be purchased at costume stores catering to theater companies, and again, should not be used on young children.”

Halloween Makeup Ideas for Kids

Looking for Halloween makeup ideas for your kids this year that are easy to apply and safe to wear? Here are a couple of our favorites on Instagram:


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Looking for more Halloween inspiration and ideas? Check out the Top Trending Halloween Costumes for Kids and Families.