Last Updated on May 2, 2023 by The Filtery
The cosmetics industry is a bit of a mess. Popular makeup products made by brands like L’Oreal and Maybelline contain many problematic ingredients that have the potential to cause health issues. Things like parabens and phthalates (which can disrupt hormone function); talc (which can be contaminated with asbestos, a carcinogen); and even heavy metals like lead are commonly found in cosmetics.
And makeup targeted toward kids is no better. A 2016 investigation done by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Breast Cancer Fund tested a variety of kids’ cosmetics and Halloween face paints and found the products to contain a wide variety of toxins. The investigation included brands like Disney, Lisa Frank, Hershey’s and more.
This is one reason why many parents don’t want their little ones playing with cosmetics—these chemicals can pose an even greater risk to kids than they do to adults since their systems are smaller and still developing.
Not to mention, makeup can be super messy! That’s another reason why fake makeup can be a great option for toddlers and kids.
So, we’re going to discuss what to look for in fake kids’ makeup, and then give you recommendations for the best non-toxic and (mostly) plastic-free pretend makeup sets.
Cover image credit: Petit Monkey
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Which Makeup Products Are Best for Kids?
Every child is different, so it’s up to you to decide what type of makeup products are best for your little one(s) based on their age, maturity level, etc. There are several options:
Pretend makeup sets encourage a young child’s imagination. Plan Toys describes how role-playing with fake makeup can support a child’s development: “Language and social skills soar as children role-play with friends or parents – describing what they are doing what colors they are using what makeup is placed where and why asking questions, etc. Fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination are also boosted as children concentrate on using a steady hand to apply products.”
Plus, fake makeup is 100% mess-free! We’ve listed several great brands below that carry non-toxic fake makeup sets.
Real makeup that’s made for kids
If your child wants to use actual cosmetics, be aware that most of the makeup kits on the market contain things like synthetic fragrances, parabens, phthalates, and can also be contaminated with lead.
There aren’t very many brands out there that make truly non-toxic and natural makeup for toddlers, kids, and tweens, but we’ve listed a few brands below that you can feel safe letting your children play with. You can also find a more thorough guide to real makeup for kids here.
Real makeup that’s made for adults
Even though it’s made for grown ups, one could argue that using safe, non-toxic makeup that’s technically for adults is better than using kid makeup that could contain toxic chemicals. We recommend sticking with clean and trusted brands like Beautycounter, Honest, and Elate.
And then, of course, there’s always the option of D.I.Y.ing your cosmetics! This can be a fun activity you can do with your kids, and it gives you much more control over the ingredients used. A quick Google search will turn up recipes for everything from eyeliner to lip gloss.
What To Look for in Non-Toxic Pretend Makeup for Children
1. Material Transparency
This is perhaps one of the biggest problems when it comes to fake makeup sets for kids. Most of the kits we looked at lacked a lot of information about what the product was actually made out of.
2. Plastic-Free (or minimal plastic)
You’ll notice that most of the brands recommended below are plastic-free. This is because wood, being a natural material, is generally safer than plastic. Plastic is a petroleum-derived product. Not only is it less eco-friendly, but nearly all petroleum-derived products come with a variety of potential health risks. This is in part because a lot of plastics contain things like phthalates and other endocrine disruptors (like BPA), which can disrupt the hormones of developing little humans.
3. Water-Based Paints
Conventional paints often contain chemicals like methyl alcohol (which can cause reproductive harm) and toluene (which can cause damage to the central nervous system), as well as heavy metals and high levels of formaldehyde. The recommended brands below, however, use non-toxic, water-based paints.
4. Prop 65 Warning
You’ll notice that a lot of the fake makeup sets for kids contain a Prop 65 warning, which means that the toy contains phthalates, heavy metals, or other toxins that exceed a limit set by the state of California.
So no matter which pretend makeup set you decide to purchase, it’s best to make sure it doesn’t come with a Prop 65 warning label.
5. Part Size (Choking Hazards)
Most fake makeup sets contain small parts. For this reason, you’ll notice that most sets on the market are recommended for kids ages 3 and up. It might be better for young toddlers to skip the play makeup until they get a little older. To be safe, always make sure to use supervision when kids are playing with these makeup sets.
Where to Find Non-Toxic Pretend (Fake) Makeup
This wooden makeup set is handmade from sustainable rubberwood and stained with non-toxic water-based pigments. Each piece is free from sharp edges and harmful substances.
They have a super cute hairdresser set, too!
Etsy has a great collection of Wooden Montessori pretend makeup kits from various sellers.
This one, for example, can be personalized with your child’s name on it and is made with materials that conform to European safety standards.
This one is made from natural beech wood and comes with a mirror and a cotton bag to keep everything in.
And here is yet another set that also complies with European toy safety regulations and comes with even more pieces.
Melissa & Doug
If you’re looking for a fake makeup set for kids that can be found in big box stores like Target, Melissa & Doug is a pretty good choice. This is the only brand on this list that uses plastic (in addition to EVA foam). Although it’s made from plastic, it does not carry a California Prop 65 warning, which means it’s safer than a lot of the other plastic pretend makeup brands we looked at.
Melissa & Doug also has a Wooden Beauty Salon playset too, which is also available at Target.
This wooden hair and makeup set is made out of beechwood and painted with non-toxic water-based paint. It’s packaged in a cotton bag for easy storage.
Where to Find Non-Toxic REAL Makeup That’s Safe for Kids & Toddlers
If you want to give your little one real cosmetics, there are a few kid-focused brands that are free from harsh chemicals and instead made with natural minerals and plant-based ingredients. Here are the brands we recommend:
Klee carries a variety of makeup kits for almost every age. It’s all made in the USA and completely free from phthalates, parabens, synthetic fragrances, and animal testing.
Prim & Pure
This kid-friendly make up is made in the USA, contains no GMOs or parabens, and is cruelty-free. They have a lot of fun gift sets and shimmery colors!
This cruelty-free brand is made with 100% natural ingredients, all of which are listed transparently on their website and Etsy shop.
This DIY lip balm-making kit would be a really fun afternoon activity to do with your little ones. The natural ingredients are made and sourced ethically in the USA.
Letting your child play with fake makeup can help with fine motor skills and encourage their imagination and creativity. When shopping for pretend (or real!) makeup for kids, look for brands that prioritize transparency and non-toxic materials and ingredients.
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