In general, cosplay is not a dangerous hobby. Creating costumes can leave you with minor cuts and scrapes from razors or pins, but taking basic safety measures will prevent any serious injuries. Just be sure to read warning labels and stay in well-ventilated areas when constructing your props.
Public safety is also called into question for cosplayers. There are some scary articles out there explaining why cosplay is such a dangerous hobby full of harassing individuals. However, the reality is that if you stay within the bounds of the convention or event you’re attending, there is very little need to worry. I started cosplaying as a teenager, and I have never experienced harassment or felt unsafe at an anime convention. In fact, it seems that cosplay events are becoming even safer over time as rules about consent and harassment are made and enforced.
However, there will always be a small minority of people that will try to take advantage of cosplayers (especially teenagers). It’s best to practice basic safety guidelines to protect yourself and your friends.
This page contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
1. Use the buddy system
It’s always a good idea to travel around conventions with a friend or group. The two of you can keep track of each other to make sure no one is acting creepy around you. If you can’t stay with your friend the entire time, make sure you pick a time and place to meet up. If your buddy doesn’t show up at the designated time, give them a call to make sure they didn’t just get distracted.
2. Always meet photographers in public places
Photoshoots are a common part of the cosplay hobby, so there will be occasions where you’ll arrange a meeting with a photographer. Unless you already know and trust the photographer you’re working with, make sure to meet them in a public place and have your own way of getting to and from the location. This goes for if you’re meeting up with the photographer at a convention or you’ve scheduled a photoshoot outside of the event.
You’ll also want to be sure you bring a friend with you who can act as extra security and help you make wise decisions when deciding whether or not to follow a photographer to a different location.
3. Room with people you know
I know it’s pretty common to fit as many people into a hotel room as you can at cosplay conventions. If someone is willing to cram into the room and sleep on the floor, you might be tempted to let them in to reduce your portion of the hotel costs. However, I recommend you know everyone you’re sharing a room with beforehand. If it’s a friend’s friend staying with you, make sure you trust that friend’s judgment so you don’t get into any uncomfortable situations.
On a similar note, make sure you know the people you’re getting a ride from. If the event is a couple of hours’ drive away, you want to make sure you trust the person driving. This means trusting them not to put you in an uncomfortable situation but also trusting them to be a safe driver (for example not drinking and driving).
4. Take weather into account
The danger of cosplay is not limited to creepy individuals and potential harassment. You also need to consider what kind of harmful external factors such as weather can present. I actually knew someone who had to be taken to a hospital because they fainted from the heat and were at risk of heatstroke. He was wearing a bulky costume at an August convention, and it was just too much to handle (but don’t worry, he recovered and is completely fine now).
Don’t wear heavy clothing for costumes in the summer and make sure you take frequent water breaks. At many of the hottest conventions, they will even include water stations scattered around to reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses.
Winter conventions are typically less dangerous than summer events. Generally, if you practice common sense you’ll be fine. Put a coat on when you’re leaving the convention building, or avoid staying outside with exposed skin for long periods of time.
5. Don’t try any dangerous stunts
Sometimes in cosplay, we want to act out exactly what our characters do. Maybe this is the role-playing aspect of cosplay, or maybe we’re trying to get amazing in-character pictures. Either way, avoid doing anything that could lead to a serious injury.
Sliding down a banister, climbing onto a high ledge, or naruto running at top speed down the hall are all examples of stunts or photo ops that could lead to injury.
6. Avoid out-of-bounds areas
At most anime and comic conventions, there will be areas that are out-of-bounds or restricted. Sometimes they are taped off because they are reserved for staff or special guests, but many times these areas are off-limits because they are dangerous.
For example, at a winter convention there may be areas next to buildings that are roped off because icicles have been falling from the roof (this happened one year). There could be slippery floors, loose handrails, or loose rocks in an outdoor area. Even if it looks like a good spot for a photo opportunity, pay attention to roped-off areas because there is probably a good reason it’s out-of-bounds.
7. Make sure your props are safe
Carrying around props at conventions is another thing that can potentially lead to minor injuries. Of course, you want to avoid bringing any kind of real weapons to conventions, but even fake props can be sharp enough to do some damage. Make sure to avoid any props that are too pointy and be careful about any large props that might accidentally hit other attendees.
It’s also a good idea to avoid any kind of prop that’s too heavy. Make sure you’ll be able to hold the prop for long periods of time so that you don’t strain or injure yourself trying to lift it. This also goes for large wooden wing or tail harnesses that could potentially injure your back if they’re too heavy.
8. Practice wearing your costume
There are also elements of cosplay costumes that could lead to injury. These are uncommon scenarios, but wearing different or unusual types of costume pieces, makeup, contacts, etc. can be a hazard in certain situations.
- Make sure you don’t have makeup allergies. If you’re wearing a new type of makeup for your costume, always test it on your skin beforehand. This is especially true for any makeup with latex in it since this is a common allergy. Test a patch on your arm to make sure you don’t have any adverse reactions.
- Practice walking in high heels. If you’re not used to wearing high heels regularly, it’s a good idea to practice before using them with a costume. You don’t want to sprain your ankle halfway through the convention. Also, consider bringing a pair of flats with you for when your feet can’t take the heels anymore.
- Make sure no part of your costume cuts into your skin. If you’re wearing any armor pieces or odd jewelry, try them on first to make sure they’re not rubbing and causing blisters or cutting into your skin. This way you can make adjustments to the costume pieces while there is still time before the event.
- Make sure you can see with mask/contacts. Some cosplay costumes will require a full-face mask or contacts that partially block your vision. Try them on beforehand to make sure you can see well enough to get around without bumping into everything.
- Get contacts that are FDA-approved. On the topic of contacts, make sure you purchase a pair that is FDA-approved and safe to wear. Learn more about how to find contacts for cosplay.
- Crossplay chest binder. If you are crossplaying as a male character and want to flatten your chest, do not use an ace bandage or regular fabric since this can damage your ribs or cause trouble breathing. Instead, use a chest binder. I recommend the brand Underworks since they have comfortable chest binders that work and are safe to use.
9. Use safety precautions when creating your costumes
There are, of course, some potential dangers when you are going about making your costumes for cosplay. Mostly, there is only the danger of mild cuts. You will be forever pricking yourself with pins and might occasionally knick yourself with a razor. But there are other precautions you should take depending on the materials you use.
For example, when heating or sanding EVA foam (a common cosplay material for props and armor), you need to stay in a well-ventilated area and wear a dust mask and goggles. This is because heated EVA foam and the dust particles are mildly toxic when inhaled. There are some paints and paint thinners that should receive similar treatment.
You also want to be careful when using any kind of tool that uses heat so that you don’t give yourself any serious burns. Wear gloves if necessary and always read instruction manuals for basic safety guidelines.
10. Cosplay and social media safety
The other area of safety for cosplay is online safety. It’s pretty common nowadays for people to share a lot of information on social media, especially if you’re trying to create a persona or side business as a cosplayer. However, you want to take measures to actively hide personal information that would make it possible for people to find you in ‘real-life.’ Never share your address or phone number on any kind of social media platform. You also might want to use a pseudonym or avoid giving your last name if you plan on becoming a popular or well-known cosplayer.