Face painting should be a fun and wonderful experience, transforming the model into something or someone of their heart's desire.

Unfortunately, not everyone who picks up a brush or sponge to face paint knows the safest products to use. In that case it's your responsibility to protect yourself or your precious little ones.

Scroll down or click on the bookmarks/links to learn what you need to know to ensure that you are an informed consumer.

Good Things to Know Before You Get Face Painted

What You Need To Know When Hiring a Face Paint Artist

Letters from well-known craft manufacturers regarding their products and their uses.

Watch a video of a woman trying to remove acrylic paint from her face. (Skip to the end to see how much trouble it is.)

What You Need To Know

When Hiring a Face Paint Artist

By Katie Hunt ©

Whether it’s for a large corporate event, a festival or a small private party, you need to know that the face paint artist you hire will adhere to standard practices of safety and hygiene. It’s more than just about a ‘pretty face.’

Many face painters get into the business because they saw someone else doing it and thought to themselves, “I can do that.” But unless you have someone knowledgeable to mentor you, or great responsible resources, you can fall into unknowingly making many errors along the way.

 What kind of paints do they use? Only paints and products designed for use on the skin should be used. All of the products should say ‘cosmetic’ or ‘makeup’ on them. Any reputable face paint artist will gladly share the names of the paints they use with you. If they won’t tell you, that, to me is a big red flag and not worth the risk.  The answer shouldn’t be: Oh I’ve always used craft paints, and had no problem at all. Or everything we use is “Non-Toxic.”

 Why is this important?  The skin is the largest organ of the body. Its job is to protect everything within it. But we must treat it kindly and with products designed only for its use. Using products with a cosmetic or a makeup rating ensures that it has undergone vigorous extensive testing and met a high standard. Craft paints are not designed for use on the skin and therefore do not meet these standards. In fact, many craft paints have common allergens and carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) in them. Any craft paint company will advise you not to expose the skin to many of their products. They were not designed for such use and could result in rashes, scarring, blisters, etc.

 The truth about NON TOXIC: Non toxic truly means that you can ingest/eat something bearing that label and probably not die as a result. The stomach has powerful acids to dilute or digest the particles to render them with minimal harm to the digestive system. Products absorbed through the skin go through no such process. I’ve heard (but not tested it out myself) that you can actually eat poison ivy with less consequence than if you rub it on your skin. (Because the digestive juices beginning with the saliva in your mouth begin to neutralize it immediately.) Bottom line: Non toxic means safe to eat, not to rub on the skin.

 What kind of glitter do they use?  Glitter or sparkles should also have a cosmetic rating as well.

 Why is this important?  Cosmetic grade glitter is cut finer and in an octagon shape and is made of polyester. This means that should it get into the eye, it won’t scratch the cornea. It may cause some discomfort akin to getting an eyelash in your eye, but it will do no harm. Polyester glitter feels very soft when rubbed between your fingers.

 Glitters purchased in the craft department are often metallic and bigger pieces so they sparkle in a bolder fashion than needed for makeup. Metallic glitter feels gritty when rubbed between the fingers.

 What is their policy about painting models with cold sores?  Face painters should never paint models with open sores, cold sores, fevers, coughs, runny noses or those who are obviously sick. This is just common sense. Someone who has been face painting for a while will probably have a temporary tattoo (the kind you moisten and stick on an arm or leg) to offer as a substitute for face painting. Although the model may be disappointed, believe me, the people in line, behind that person will be relieved that such action was taken.

 What about cleanliness?  Face painters should clean their kits after each gig. And try to maintain clean water and brushes and setup on the job to the best of their ability. They should also be using hypoallergenic good quality moistened wipes to clean away dirt on the face or food from around the mouth as needed before the painting starts. It is not necessary to add disinfectant to the water as the face paints already contain antibacterial agents in them. 

 Are they insured?  It is highly recommended that face painters carry insurance. It also indicates a level of dedication to their business and that they probably understand safe practices. This is not just for their protection but for yours as well.

 How many faces can they paint in an hour?  A proficient face paint artist should be able to paint anywhere from 10 – 15 full faces per hour. This will depend, of course, on the designs chosen. But they should have some quick options to offer when time is of the essence. It is a misunderstanding that most people have to think that cheek art is faster. It’s not. Cheek art traditionally involves much more detail. To look great, the model must sit extremely still with no distractions. (Very difficult for little ones.) Full face painting takes less time as it uses broader strokes and is a little more forgiving if the model moves a little during the painting. Of course, simple hearts and stars on the cheek are faster, but then why are you hiring a face paint artist in the first place? It’s the transformation into something beautiful or scary or powerful or fanciful that is the attraction of face paint art. If all you want is for each person to have something really quick…then I recommend you get some temporary tattoos and hand them out.

 I hope this is a useful tool for you to use. We want to make sure that face paint art is a happy and safe experience for all. Most painters who use inappropriate products do so because they just don’t know any better. It’s up to the educated consumer to protect themselves and their children by asking the correct questions.

 For more information, read the companion article “Good Things to Know Before You Get Face Painted”

Good Things to Know

 Before You Get Face Painted


Katie Hunt  ©

You see a face painter at a festival, a fundraiser, or maybe at your company Christmas party. Hopefully, the person hiring this artist has done their homework and knows that this person uses only products designed for use on the skin and employs good safety and hygiene practices.

 But, is it safe for you or your children to get face painted? How do you know?

 In most places, anyone who wants to become a face painter can do so. There are no forms to fill out or licenses to get. Most face painters got into the business seeing someone else painting and thinking “I can do that.” But they don’t have all the facts about safety and hygiene to do it properly and safely. They may use products they have around the house which probably aren’t designed for use on the skin and could prove dangerous.

 At a glance, it may be difficult to tell if the face painter in front of you has done the research and knows proper safety and hygiene practices. 

 Here are some things to look for:

 Signage:  Does the face painter have signs?  Read them. This may tell you many things about the artist including their level of professionalism. They may even have a sign stating that they only use products designed for use on the skin. That’s a good sign. (Pun intended)  This artist is aware of safe and unsafe products and has chosen to use ‘only those designed for use on the skin.”

Do they have a list of policies? For instance: “We only paint on clean, unbroken skin and models that are well. No runny noses or coughs or fevers, please.

Not all face paint artists use signage or have their policies posted. In that case, you’ll have to ask questions and observe their practices.

 Setup:  Look at the setup. Does it look clean and tidy and organized? Give them a bit of leeway on this as many a creative-type person are a bit messy in the process of painting. But it should be evident that their kit (and especially their brushes and sponges) get cleaned after every gig. You shouldn’t see margarine tubs and yoghurt cups holding their rinse water or supplies.

 What kinds of paints are they using? If you see craft paints of any kind, don’t get painted. The products should be clearly labeled “cosmetic,” or “makeup” or “face paints.”   The labels are often on the lids or the bottom of the containers, so they may not be visible to you once the artist is setup and painting. If you can’t see the label – ask what kind of paint they are using.

Here is a list of well-known appropriate face paints:

  • Ben Nye
  • Fantasy World Wide
  • Fardel
  • Graftobian
  • Grimas
  • Kryolan
  • Matisse Derivan
  • Mehron
  • Paradise
  • Snazaroo
  • Starblend
  • Wolfe Brothers

 There may be more good face paints out there. These are just the most common paints available that I could think of.

 Look at the face painter themselves. Are they clean, polished, professional looking? Do they have a pleasant manner with the models they are painting? Is this a smoke-free zone?

 Summing Up 

 Here’s a list of Red Flags to look for:

  • Craft Paint or Craft Glitter, Sharpie Markers
  • Artist blows on the model to apply glitter or help the drying process (Yuck!)
  • Amateurish setup, uses used food containers to hold water or supplies
  • Doesn’t change dirty water often

 I hope this helps you recognize a safe face painting situation from a risky one. For more information, read the companion article “What You Need To Know When Hiring a Face Paint Artist”

Copies of actual letters from the two leading acrylic craft paint manufacturers declaring that their paints are NOT FDA approved and NOT for use on the skin:

Dear Katie

Binney & Smith does not recommend any of our products be used to paint directly on the skin, including LIQUITEX acrylic paints. Products designed for this purpose require approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Liquitex products do not require this approval.

Most Liquitex paints are certified non-toxic by the Art & Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) and earned either a Certified Product (CP) or Approved Product (AP) seal. The CP seal gives assurance to consumers that our products exceed specific quality standards, while the AP seal concludes these products meet those standards. Both seals assure the products contain no known toxic or harmful substances in sufficient quantities to be injurious to the human body, even if ingested.

Those Liquitex products which do not carry these seals have, instead, a Health Label (HL) that certifies the product is properly labeled, and indicates special precautions that should be taken to ensure safe, proper use of these materials. Liquitex cadmium acrylic colors bear this type of label.

Thank you for interest in Binney & Smith and Liquitex products. I hope you continue to visit our Internet site.


Linda Arnold
Consumer Affairs Representative

Dear Katie

Thank you for your email regarding our Apple Barrel acrylic paint. We do not recommend them for face paint, although they are non-toxic, they do not have the FDA approval for face painting.


Plaid Consumer Advisory Team

Copies of an actual letter from Sanford, the manufacturers of Sharpie markers declaring that their markers are NOT FDA approved and NOT for use on the skin:

 Hello Katie,

 Thank you for e-mailing us and for your support of Sanford products.

As for should the Sharpie Markers be used on the skin, We do not recommend
them for that use, they were not made for the skin.

The MDSD Sheet states normal condition, which is meant that if using and
a little gets on the hands, or arms. I would suggest if this is asked to you that
you explain there are lots of products out there for that purpose, Sharpie

is NOT one of them.  I hope this is helpful to you, and Lisa, have a nice day.

Sanford Consumer Affairs


"Which Crayola product do you recommend for face painting?" and the answer was :

"Crayola does not recommend the use of any Crayola products for intentional direct skin contact, with the exception of finger paints, which have been tested and approved for their intended application.

Products designed for skin or face painting require approval from the Food and Drug Administration. All Crayola products have been certified non-toxic by an independent toxicologist and have earned the Art and Creative Materials Institute's (ACMI) APPROVED PRODUCT (AP) seal. They do not, however, require approval from the Food and Drug Administration. You may wish to contact a theatrical company or party supply store for purchasing products intended for use as face paint or skin paint."


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