Whether you choose to dress up as Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, or even your favorite emoji, there’s a good chance your costume will require you to experiment with products that might wreak havoc on your skin and hair. I turned to three leading dermatologic surgeons — New York City-based Dr. Sejal Shah and Dr. Jessica Krant, and Omaha-based Dr. Joel Schlessinger — for tips on what to look for in Halloween makeup and hair color. They also dished on how to prevent a post-Halloween breakout, which products are safe for sensitive skin, and how to detox your skin after an indulgent night out.
1. No matter what, wash makeup off before bed
“By far, the biggest mistake people make is not taking their Halloween makeup off before going to bed,” explains Dr. Schlessinger. This can lead to clogged pores, irritation, breakouts, and infections. Make sure to check the packaging to verify whether there are special instructions for removal.
It’s important to know what kind of makeup you’re wearing. Water-based makeup is generally a lot less stubborn than oil or grease-based formulas. Whatever you opt for, never use harsh scrubbing motions on skin. Your regular makeup remover should wipe clean most Halloween makeup.
Once the bulk of makeup is removed, follow up with a second cleanser to eliminate any pore-clogging residue.
2. Just say no to last tear’s makeup
Makeup generally expires within a year, especially if it contains low-quality ingredients. “Not only will you not get the best results, year-old makeup could be harboring bacteria, fungi or even staph, all known causes of potentially dangerous skin infections,” explains Dr. Schlessinger.
3. Choose costume makeup wisely
Costume makeup isn’t formulated with skin health in mind. This type of makeup often contains artificial dyes, fragrances, waxes and oils, all of which can clog pores, cause breakouts and irritate skin. Low-quality Halloween makeup can even contain ingredients that aren’t approved by the FDA, such as certain fluorescent dyes. They may also contain chromium, nickel, cobalt or lead, four known skin irritants.
If costume makeup is a must, Dr. Schlessinger recommends looking for oil-free, alcohol-free cosmetics with a water base. “Ointment-based makeup is much more likely to clog pores,” he explains. “You’ll also want to do a patch test on your neck or the underside of your arm with any new formulas to be sure your skin can tolerate them.”
If you have sensitive skin, it’s better to skip costume makeup altogether and stick to the same makeup you use every day. Eye shadows, bronzers and blushes can play double-duty to create bruises and other creative effects on the skin.
4. Halloween hair: Opt for a wig
“A wig is a far better option than any type of hair color because it’s mess-free, contains non-toxic ingredients and doesn’t require any extra shampooing,” Dr. Schlessinger said. The colorful hair sprays available during the Halloween season are typically very low-quality, contain harsh chemicals and can be highly flammable.
Test any synthetic material you’re wearing on your scalp or skin first. Similar to makeup, wigs and other fabrics can irritate. “Masks may contain paints with heavy metals like lead or chemical plasticizers that can potentially be absorbed by the skin,” Dr. Shah said. With anything — makeup, fabrics, masks, wigs — it’s best to test it on the skin before leaving it on for long periods of time.
5. Wash out temporary color ASAP
Temporary colors can take a toll on your strands. Halloween hair color has the tendency to stick to the ends of hair because those ends are the most porous, points out Dr. Schlessinger. It can also stain sensitive skin on the scalp and depending on the formula and your hair type and color, it could take two to three washes before color is completely removed.
The less time the color is in your hair, the easier it will be to wash out. Save this step for right before you walk out the door and plan on washing your hair as soon as you get home.
When it comes time to remove Halloween hair color, choose a mild, clarifying shampoo. Don’t forget to lather, rinse, and repeat until the water runs clear. To restore lost moisture, he recommends a rich conditioner and a moisturizing, reparative mask like Peter Lamas Youth Revival 5 Oil Hair Treatment Mask.
6. Beware of sugar
“It’s finally becoming clear within nutritional science that sugar is a bad actor,” Dr. Krant said. Sugar is proinflammatory, which can lead to long-term stress on blood vessels and organs, but can even cause short-term stress on the skin.
According to Dr. Krant, inflammation can lead to breakouts, flares of rosacea and even dandruff.
“It’s hard to say how much candy you’d have to eat in a single night to notice a difference the next day, but since Halloween can come along with a few weeks of eating more candy than usual, it’s worth a mention,” she said.
Once that sugar is in your system, it’s not easy to prevent your body’s natural reaction. Dr. Krant suggests drinking a few glasses of water before you go to sleep to help dilute and flush the sugar out of your body.
7. Go easy on the booze
“Drinking alcohol causes dehydration overnight and into the next day, which can lead to an increase in dullness and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” Dr. Krant said. It can even be associated with more rashes and breakouts.
To avoid or minimize alcohol-induced skin issues, limit the number of drinks you have and choose drinks with less sugar. Dr. Krant suggests mixing alcohol with club soda and a lemon twist rather than tonic water or cola.
When it comes to wine, Dr. Schlessinger recommends opting for red. Skip the white, which has more fructose.