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Are cosmetics safe for young children?
Q: My daughter is 15 months old and she likes to play with everything that I use. She has seen me put on lipstick and wants to do that. I used to give her my lipstick under my supervision and a couple of times a little bit of it ended in her mouth. Since then, I have stopped giving it to her. Are the lipsticks toxic for toddlers? Is it okay if I give it to her while I am watching her?
MK Philadelphia
A: MK, thanks for asking about the safety of cosmetics for young children. According to Poison Control, lipstick sold in the U.S. has been tested to ensure that it is non-toxic. However, many other cosmetics are hazardous for young children. One-half of all poisonings in the U.S. are children under 6 years of age, and common household products, including cosmetics, are the main culprits. Children have been poisoned by swallowing nail polish remover and alcohol-based skin cleaners and mouthwash. They’ve gotten lead poisoning from using eyeliner with kohl, which is popular in Middle Eastern countries. Children have also gotten serious burns from hot curling irons; and eye injuries from scratching their eyes with mascara sticks and spraying perfume and hairspray into their eyes.

It’s great that your daughter enjoys learning by imitating you. And it’s important that you’re always supervising her closely. Think about other opportunities for her to play “make-up” without actually using dangerous products. For example, you might give her an empty lipstick tube, a little plastic bottle of baby lotion, a soft blush brush, a set of small hairbrushes, some plastic hair clips, and a plastic spray bottle with water.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician