The Poison Control Center

Personal Care Products

Personal care products such as makeup, creams, lotions and other toiletries are abundant in the bathrooms and bedrooms of almost every home. Personal care products continue to be the No. 1 nonpharmaceutical substance involved in poisoning exposures.

While you cannot keep these and other products out of the home, it is important to realize their potential dangers to your children.

Your child may be attracted to these products for a number of reasons:

Most exposures to personal care products occur in the home, but many also occur at salons. Your child may get bored while waiting for you to get your hair cut or nails done and may go "exploring." Manicurist tables are just the right height for a toddler to be able to reach the top. Few salons are baby-proof.

Hair care products

Hair permanents and relaxers are dangerous in very small amounts, even if marked "no lye." They are made of strong bases and are known as caustics which can cause severe burns to your child's mouth, throat and stomach. The burns may not show up immediately, but may develop over a few hours. A child who swallows this type of product may appear fine right after the exposure, but will develop symptoms several hours later.

Most hair coloring products contain a chemical called paraphenylenediamene, which can cause severe vomiting when ingested. Simple skin contact may result in an allergic reaction such as swelling of your child's face, neck and throat.

Shampoos and conditioners are not poisonous even when medicated, but the detergents they contain are irritating and may cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Hair sprays and gels contain alcohol, but in such small amounts that a taste does not present a problem.

Nail care products

Nail primers, which are used to roughen the surface of the fingernail, are among the most dangerous products. They are highly acidic and can cause immediate, severe burns of your child's skin, mouth, throat and stomach.

Nail polishes, nail strengtheners, and nail polish removers are rarely swallowed in large quantities because they have an unpleasant taste and may cause an irritating sensation in the mouth. However, they can be harmful if large quantities are ingested. Choose a nonacetone nail polish remover. The active ingredient in non-acetone nail polish removers is ethyl acetate, which is much less toxic to children than acetone.

Nail glues are not poisonous, but they bind instantly. Large amounts of glue can get stuck in the throat and, if exposed to the eyes, may glue them shut.

Facial products

Creams, lotions, foundation, lipstick, rouge and eye makeup are nontoxic, but they can cause diarrhea if eaten in large quantities.

Astringents, skin cleansers and make-up removers contain alcohol or camphor. They are potentially poisonous, but due to their unpleasant taste they are rarely ingested in large enough amounts to cause concern.

Other products

Deodorants are not poisonous, but they will irritate the mouth and can cause diarrhea when large amounts are eaten. Toothpaste is not poisonous in small quantities, but it may be irritating to the mouth and stomach. Fluoride-containing toothpaste is more of a concern.

Use pure cornstarch baby powder rather than powder containing talc. When dust particles of talc enter the lungs, either through inhalation or swallowing, serious chemical pneumonia may result.


Reviewed by: The Poison Control Center
Date: October 2013

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