Halloween Hazards: Colored Contacts, Makeup and Candy Scarier than Monsters


Home / Halloween Hazards: Colored Contacts, Makeup and Candy Scarier than Monsters
The young girl's tiger painting is scary enough; what's scarier is what is in the face paint. Image by  Trusilver

The young girl’s tiger painting is scary enough; what’s scarier is what is in the face paint. Image by Trusilver

So what’s the scariest part of Halloween? It might just be the trappings of the holiday itself.

Officials at the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are working to confiscate, illegal, imported colored contacts which can leave a lifetime of damage – even blindness.

Not only are these contact lenses scary, but some candy, mainly imported candy, can contain lead. Lead poisoning is serious and no amount of lead is considered safe – including the amount researchers keep finding in Halloween face paints.

Halloween Contact Lenses: Eye Injuries

Officials recommend that no one buy contacts from Halloween shops, novelty stores, beauty salons, the Internet, or anywhere else without a doctor’s prescription. There are many places that illegally sell these colored contacts for about 20 dollars, and don’t require a prescription for you to be able to purchase them. The FDA considers contact lenses a medical device, however, and only allow their prescription by an eye doctor. Other than the fact that they are illegal, these off-label contacts can do serious damage to your eyes.

According to Jeff Sarazen, an optometrist in Wausau, Wisconsin and past president of the Wisconsin Optometric Association, contacts that are sold without a prescription can lead to eye infections and eye ulcers. Off-brand contacts can have small tears or rips in them that can scratch the eyes. Doctor Sarasen tells Wisconsin Public Radio, “If somebody gets a corneal ulcer from these contact lenses because they don’t fit properly or maybe they don’t care for them properly, these ulcers can leave a scar essentially where you’ll have a permanent blind spot.”

Some candy may contain lead, unfortunately, laboratory testing is the only way to know. Image by Chris.

Some candy may contain lead, unfortunately, laboratory testing is the only way to know. Image by Chris.

Halloween Lead Poisoning

You may not think twice about putting on Halloween makeup, or eating that trick-or-treat candy, but maybe you should.

Lead in Face Paint: A 2009 report by the Campaign for for Safe Cosmetics found that some children’s face paint contained lead, nickle, cobalt, and chromium which can lead to lifelong skin sensitivities such as contact dermatitis. The really scary part? These ingredients weren’t listed on the package. In the report, researchers sent 10 children’s face paint to an independent lab for testing. The results were: 10 out of 10 paints contained levels of lead from 0.05 to 0.65 part per million (ppm). Experts agree that no amount of lead is safe for children and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that parent’s avoid cosmetics that contain lead.

Lead in Candy: The CDC also reports that some candies from Mexico may contain lead. Inspectors have also found lead in the wrappers (paper and plastic) of imported candy. The California Department of Public Health’s Food and Drug branch, Lead in Candy program has been testing samples of candy since 2007 and have issued a number of health alerts regarding lead found in candies, according to their website. The report for their 2013-2014 candy samples, a 29 page document, did find levels of lead in some candies such as: Coconut Tree Brand Ginger, Aussie black licorices, and Trader Joe’s Allsorts-a-Licorice and candy coated licorice.

Halloween Dangers

Halloween should be fun, not dangerous. While wearing decorative contacts can be fun, and make your Halloween costume even better, you are safer if you go to an eye doctor to get your contacts. Even if you aren’t a regular contact wearer, Doctor Sarasen says that everyone should be getting regular eye exams anyway.

When it comes to candy, check the label to see where it comes from, and if you suspect that you or your child may have eaten candy that may have contained lead, contact your health care provider as a blood test can be done to determine if you have been exposed to lead. Avoid commercial face paints when possible, to prevent exposing skin to lead and other toxins. With a few precautions, you can have a happier and healthier Halloween.


California Department of Public Health. Lead in Candy. Accessed October 24, 2013.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sources of Lead. (2009). Accessed October 24, 2013.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Pretty Scary: Heavy Metals in Face Paints. (2009). Accessed October 24, 2013.

U.S. FDA. Supporting Document for Recommended Maximum Level for Lead in Candy Likely To Be Consumed Frequently by Small Children. (2006). Accessed October 24, 2013.

UPI. Officials warn: Fake colored contact lenses can make a person blind. (2013). Accessed October 24, 2013.

Wisconsin Public Radio. Why You Should Be Careful When Buying Colored Contact Lenses for Halloween. (2013). Accessed October 24, 2013.

CDPH. Candy analysis data(2013). Accessed October 24, 2013.

Leave a Comment