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Preparing for Halloween this year may consist of more costume planning than one expects.

Whether it be the side effects of poor quality makeup and colored eye contact lenses or the need to accommodate medical masks in one’s costume, there are different costume preparations a person may need to make to keep oneself healthy this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic is one health risk Halloween lovers will need to learn to work around, as certain activities, such as traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating, are considered high-risk activities that should be avoided, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although, certain moderate- or low-risk activities still could involve wearing costumes.

For certain activities consisting of multiple people, protective masks still are encouraged, according to the CDC. A costume mask is not a substitute for a a protective mask, and protective masks should not be worn under costume masks to prevent issues with breathing.

Along with COVID-19-releated precautions for costumes, issues related to costume hazards are other problems people may want to avoid.

Regarding the color contact lenses some people wear as a costume accessory, Dr. Kelly Mitchell, professor in the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, said there is more to prescribed contact lenses than just the ability it gives the user to see clearly. Prescribed lenses are shaped and fitted for the person who is going to use the prescription.

“A prescribed contact lens, besides the power it gives, has to sit on everybody’s eye differently in order to be safe,” Mitchell said.

A prescribed contact lens is determined by a physician, such as an optometrist or an ophthalmologist, Mitchell said. There are several risks for people who go to cosmetic stores who get colored contact lenses because they want dress up for Halloween.

“It is going to probably distort your visual quality right off the bat because you aren’t going to be blinking quite as normally,” he said. “Your blink rate helps wash the eye surface and keeps the surface clear of debris. If you get a contact, such as a cat eye with a slit pupil, that will limit your field of view, and you may not be seeing through all of the pupil.”

When people are prescribed contacts, Mitchell said they are sterilely made and packaged in the same sterile solution, Mitchell said. It is similar to taking a prescription medicine. If one buys one contact lens from a store, the lens will not be in the same solution as the other lens.

The costume-based contact lenses are just a piece of plastic that are not properly packaged, Mitchell said. These contact lenses also are ones that can cause other problems.

“You put yourself at a risk to develop two things,” he said. “It could be an infectious conjunctivitis, which is pink eye, or it could be a corneal ulcer, a rough spot and an infection on the clear part of the eye, what you really see through.”

The store-bought contact lenses are not made based on the criteria used to decide whether to put a prescribed lens on someone’s eye, he said. A contact lens is a medical device and, therefore, has to be prescribed in order to improve vision. However, the final print on these cosmetics will often say they are to be used to improve vision.

There possibly are other ways to get safer contact lenses prescribed by doctors in order to achieve a different look in a safe way, Mitchell said. But one needs to call other doctors in the community and see what they can offer.

Along with issues regarding colored contacts that are not prescribed, a person preparing their costume may need to consider the effects of makeup used for costumes.

Dr. Michelle Tarbox, associate professor of dermatology at the Tech HSC, said she has seen a fair amount of makeup reactions and prefers for people to avoid the various uncomfortable experiences involving these makeup reactions during Halloween.

“You want to pick a costume makeup for your skin that will not likely cause you to break out,” she said. “The big mistakes I see people make are either they use something that is not intended for skin use. Some are using acrylic paint, spray paint or markers on their skin. Since these are not intended to be used on the skin, you don’t know if the ingredients are going to be skin-safe.”

In order to have a healthy and happy Halloween, Tarbox said it begins with which product one chooses to use.

One specific type of product that people need to avoid are makeups that are oil- or alcohol-based, Tarbox said. These makeups are much more likely to cause breakouts.

“Sometimes I see the mistake where people will use makeup they have left over from the year before, which is a bad idea because bacteria can grow in that intervening time and cause breakouts, irritations or rashes,” she said. “You can even catch viral bacterial or fungal infections if you share makeup.”

When sharing makeup, Tarbox said one runs the risk of catching a virus that causes cold sores if the person one is sharing the makeup with has an active cold sore. A person can catch the bacteria that cause the skin infection impetigo or can catch the fungus that causes ringworm.

Halloween is not a time to be lazy about what makeup one uses for his or her skin, Tarbox said. People need to take the time to think about what product they are going to choose, as this is the product that will directly go on one’s skin.

“If you can go for a water-based or liquid-based formula, this is much preferred over oil or alcohol-based makeup,” she said. “It is better to use theatrical makeup over Halloween makeup because this makeup is made for professionals and is a higher grade of product. Hypoallergenic makeup such as Snazaroo or Blue Squid are considered safer makeups as well.”

If a person is unsure about what makeup will work best for them, they have a fair amount of time before Halloween to prepare their costume, Tarbox said she suggests conducting a use test. She said to conduct this test, a person needs to use the product on a small area of their skin, preferably on the forearm, and leave it on for a couple of hours. After time is up, remove the makeup with a cleanser and watch the skin over the next four-to-five days to  see what it does to the skin.

If one uses either prescription or over-the-counter acne medication, Tarbox said he or she should give themselves a brief, two-day break before using Halloween makeup because the medication can potentially make the skin more sensitive to products that could cause irritation.

Holden Jackola, a sophomore student in the School of Theatre and Dance from Austin, said he has been doing makeup for theater since high school.

“Most people will get their Halloween makeup from somewhere, such as Party City because that is the only place people know about,” Jackola said. “Out of suggestion, I would go to Amazon because they have better quality and are more likely to have a good research background behind the product.”

People will often go for the cheap $5 palette at these stores, Jackola said. If one wants to be as realistic as can be, it is possible to do so with these palettes. But one could get better quality and safer makeup from another store.

For more information about celebrating Halloween amid the pandemic, visit the CDC website.

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