My Child Swallowed Hair Chalk! What Should I Do?

hair chalk two young boys with colored hair

The Bottom Line

Hair chalks are a fun, temporary way that anyone can use to alter their hair color. Hair chalks are made of substances like bentonite, calcium carbonate, and mica with added pigment. They are considered minimally toxic and not expected to result in serious injury except in the case of allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to the dye.

set of colored hair chalks

The Full Story

Hair chalk is used as a temporary hair dye, often with bright pastel or neon colors. It can be applied by manual application to wet hair, or using a product that incorporates the chalk into a comb. The dye typically washes out with the next shampoo. Hair chalks are similar to art chalk and are considered minimally toxic. The bulk of the product is made of substances found in rocks and minerals like bentonite, calcium carbonate, and mica. The pigment is created using dyes that are typically Food, Drug, and Cosmetic dyes that are approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration.

Hair chalks are not well absorbed when swallowed. Unintentional ingestions of hair chalk products are not expected to result in serious poisoning or injury except in the case of an allergic reaction to any of the pigments used to color the product. Eye exposure to hair chalk is expected to cause minor eye irritation. Unintentionally breathing in hair chalk can result in symptoms similar to an asthma attack such as coughing and wheezing.

If someone gets hair chalk in their eye, they should gently rinse their eye with water that is a comfortable temperature and comfortable pressure for 15 minutes. If someone eats hair chalk, they should rinse out their mouth and have a few sips of water to gently dilute the product. Large ingestions of hair chalk can result in the pigment changing the color of the person’s stools. If someone breathes in hair chalk and develops cough or wheezing, they should move to fresh air and call Poison Control for additional guidance.

If you suspect someone has been exposed to hair chalk and is having a problem, check the webPOISONCONTROL® online tool for guidance or call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

Lindsy Liu, PharmD
Certified Specialist in Poison Information

Poisoned?

Call 1-800-222-1222 or

HELP ME online

Prevention Tips

  • Keep hair chalk products away from children and pets.
  • Supervise children when hair chalk is being applied.
  • Before using hair chalk, apply a tiny amount to a small section of skin to test for undesirable reactions.

This Really Happened

Case 1. An 11-month-old girl ate some hair chalk. Her mother called Poison Control and was told to give the girl something to drink to clear any product from her mouth and throat and to dilute any swallowed hair chalk. The girl never developed any problems.

Case 2. An 8-month-old boy swallowed some hair chalk from a hair chalk applicator and vomited shortly after. Poison Control recommended having him drink something. The boy had no further symptoms.


For More Information

Bernard JP. FD&C dyes; what are they? Neenah (WI): First Source Worldwide; 2017 Jul 11 [cited 2021 Feb 28].


References

Amchova P, Kotolova H, Ruda-Kucerova J. Health safety issues of synthetic food colorants. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2015 Dec;73(3):914–22.

Formula of hair coloring chalk. Google Patents CN104000746A [cited 2021 Feb 28].

Karikar M, Gupta N. Formulation and development of hair chalk. Int J Curr Engin Sci Res. 2019; 6(1):1121–3.

Poisoned?

Call 1-800-222-1222 or

HELP ME online

Prevention Tips

  • Keep hair chalk products away from children and pets.
  • Supervise children when hair chalk is being applied.
  • Before using hair chalk, apply a tiny amount to a small section of skin to test for undesirable reactions.

This Really Happened

Case 1. An 11-month-old girl ate some hair chalk. Her mother called Poison Control and was told to give the girl something to drink to clear any product from her mouth and throat and to dilute any swallowed hair chalk. The girl never developed any problems.

Case 2. An 8-month-old boy swallowed some hair chalk from a hair chalk applicator and vomited shortly after. Poison Control recommended having him drink something. The boy had no further symptoms.