Can food colouring be asborbed through skin?

Have you ever wondered can food colouring be absorbed through skin? For those children that are sensitive to colouring it can definitely be a problem.

Think about all the fun activities that kids do, bright colourful and fun activities:

  • finger painting
  • science experiments (ie mixing primary colours)
  • playdough
  • sensory play with rainbow jelly.


This recently came to light for me during Science week held recently.

Our local school had an amazing Science week, such a huge array of experiments and activities for all the children including mini explosions, rocket launching, exploding volcanoes and for the younger children various colourful gooey activities and bubbling experiments.

The kids had a fantastic time all working and learning together!



I noticed my son as I collected him from his door at pre-primary that afternoon that he didn’t look his happy self, I wasn’t sure why.

I had heard what a fun day had been had at school.  He normally would be brimming with smiles and so eager to tell me about his day and what he had learned.

I could see he was extremely sensitive, his eyes brimming with tears when I told him we were taking a lovely leisurely walk home from school.

This was odd, he often asks to walk home, today everything seemed too hard.

Little did I know what was in store for me the rest of that afternoon and for the next couple of days after!

We experienced all of the following:

  • anger
  • over emotional
  • inability to concentrate on anything
  • multiple tantrums each day (for anyone that knows this little boy, they would never think he could be capable!)
  • irritability
  • aggression
  • itchy skin
  • defiance
  • an altercation with another child at school
  • no reasoning with him about anything!

For anyone that knows this little boy, they could not possibly believe the descriptions that I have used could describe him.


I had my suspicions, perhaps food colouring was used in science experiments?

Could food colouring be absorbed through skin?!

My big boys were fine though, they weren’t having these massive meltdowns.

The big boy experiments were very different to those conducted in the Early Learning Centre though.


I spoke to the teacher and low and behold there had been a heap of food colouring used in experiments and planned to continue for the week!

There was enough food colouring used that he could have been dipped in it!

The teachers were so apologetic, how were they to know?

I had forgotten myself that this could happen!  His teachers were so accommodating when I requested if I could bring in his own food colouring.  The following day he was able to have a new batch of slime created with his ‘special’ food colouring and use his safe colours in other experiments.

I have left a batch of safe food colours with his teachers at school to use in future anytime they use conventional food colours.


I believe food colouring can be absorbed through skin.

It was a huge eye opener for me!  This little boy has had very little exposure to additives, we had removed them all when his biggest brother was 2, so except for the odd additives ingested at a birthday party, he has not had full exposure.

I am so grateful to know that these reactions were chemically induced and this is not his normal temperament.  I was overjoyed when my loveable little boy returned to me a couple of days later! He was his calm, gentle, loving and happy self again!

There must other parents that have children sensitive to food colouring and they think that this type of behaviour is normal.

I often get told by countless parents: “We are so lucky that our children are not affected by food colouring or additives“.

The truth is, unless you have stripped them out of your diet completely for 2-3 weeks, you really don’t know!

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