Is watercolor safe for face painting?

Face painting is very common among events or birthday parties for children, as most of them absolutely love it. But nobody really knows which paint you should use for face painting. Is watercolor an option?

Most watercolors are made with mineral pigments, some of which are toxic. If your watercolor isn’t specifically labeled as non-toxic, you should not put it on your skin, as it might absorb the toxic ingredients. You should use professional paint and powder if you choose to paint on your face and body.

So what exactly is toxic in watercolors and which paints can you use? What should you watch out for while face painting, no matter if you use non-toxic watercolor or real face paint?

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What makes watercolor toxic to the skin?

The factor that impacts the toxicity of watercolor the most, is probably cadmium. It’s a metal that is mostly used in the color range from pale yellow over oranges to deep red. Having cadmium added to the pigments make the color appear way more vivid than they normally would. It can kill you or anything, as you would have to eat a lot of paint for that to happen, but you should rather avoid it touching your skin, as it might cause irritations and harm the skin.

Also a lot of watercolors contain zinc white and sometimes cobalt, which also won’t really harm you, but there’s no reason to have them on your skin.

How do you know if your watercolor is non toxic?

If you find no label or whatsoever on the case of your watercolor or on the official site of the producer of them, you should, for your own safety, assume that they are toxic. There are a lot of watercolors that are specifically labeled as non-toxic as they are made for kids.

Most kids’ watercolors are non-toxic as it can easily happen that they have the idea of licking their fingers full of paint pop in their head. But just to be sure I’d advise you to contact the watercolors’ producer and ask them about the toxicity level of your paints, before giving them to your kids.

What to do if you already painted your face with watercolor?

If as of reading this article you are in the situation that you or somebody else already has watercolor in their face, here’s what you should do.

Immediately wash it off with soap and water and be very thorough and especially careful that nothing gets in the eyes and/or mouth.

Now it should already be fine, but if the skin turns red and stays like that for a bit, you could consider calling a doctor and ask for a professional opinion.

face painting, fun, face

What are good alternatives to watercolors?

So, if you should not use watercolor to paint your skin and face, which colors should you actually use?

As in all aspects of artists’ supplies, there is a really big price range for face and skin paints. As some won’t want or need to spend 100$ on them and some pretty much need to, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

You’ll have to know what you need the paints for. You have to choose between being a professional body painter or cosplayer that needs really high quality paint with great colors that are long lasting, needing the colors every now and then, when you do face painting at an event and earn some money on the side or if you just need it for a child’s birthday.

I would say for pretty cheap paint for a child’s birthday party where everyone has some animal painted on their face, 15$ should definitely be sufficient of a price. A product that I would recommend is (LINK)

On the middle priced range, where you really want to provide some high quality paint, as you get money for painting faces, you should invest a bit more money. I think about 30-40$ is a great range (PS: Don’t forget to list these purchases as business expenditures, if possible)

And for the professional level, where it’s really important for the colors to look perfect, last long and feel good on the skin, you could invest anything in the range from 70-100$. Of course you absolutely don’t need to and only should do it, if you really have the money to do so.

What do you have to watch out for while face painting?

There are a couple things you should watch out for while painting on a face.

Firstly, test if the skin is okay with having such a color on it. To do so, just take a little bit of your color and paint on a really small portion of the skin. I think the arm is a good spot for that. If the skin reacts allergic to the paint it isn’t as bad as it’s just a little red spot on the arm instead of the face. If everything seems to be good, after 2-3 minutes of waiting, you can start painting the face.

You have to avoid getting paint into the eyes and mouth in every case. You should not paint the area around the eyes, especially not the eyelids, if you dont 100% know what you’re doing and aren’t a professional at it.

If you’re finished with painting, make sure that you wait for the paint to dry, before you let your human canvas go, so they don’t ruin your work by touching their face etc. It may be good advice to drink with a straw after having your face painted, so you don’t wash away the paint around your mouth with your drink.

Also you should tell the person you painted, how they can clean their skin, when they want to get rid of the paint later. In most cases soap and warm water should be fine. Some people should moisturize their skin afterwards as the paint takes up a lot of your skin’s moisture.

Before painting the next face, you have to wash your brushes really well, so you don’t ruin your paints and mix them with each other and all the oils on the peoples faces.

2 thoughts on “Is watercolor safe for face painting?”

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