I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries from parents of children with sensitive skin or severe allergies, asking whether face painting is safe for everyone. I’d love to offer these parents a 100% guarantee, but the reality is that NO cosmetic product can be said never to cause a reaction. What I can offer, however, is information, both about myself and about the face painting industry in general. Only you can decide what is right for your child; this page, I hope, will give you the tools you need to make an informed decision.
1. Know Your Paints
Never allow anyone to paint your child with craft paint, tempra paint, or any pigment not specifically intended for use on the skin. Glitter, also, should be cosmetics-grade. Know that “Non-toxic” is not the same as “skin-safe;” craft paints and supplies can cause significant damage to the skin and eyes. When booking a face painter, always ask what brands of paint he or she uses. I use diamond fx and snazaroo paints and powders. Other commonly used, high-quality brands include mehron, kryolan, Wolfe brothers, and Paradise. All of these have ingredient and safety information printed on their packaging and often have that information available on their websites, as well.
2. Know Your Allergens
If you know that someone at your party has a specific allergy, ask to see an ingredient list for the paints. This information is generally printed on the packaging. If you are the parent of a severely allergic child, keep in mind that you may be aware of alternate names and derivatives of allergens that the painter is not, so always look over the list for yourself. Most professional face paints are composed of various waxes, minerals, oils and dyes, and are free from common allergens such as peanuts, gluten, soy, and eggs. Some, however, such as Paradise AQ paints, DO contain food products, such as avacado oil or cocoa butter. Your painter cannot be expected to anticipate every possible allergies or to know by heart the ingredients in all of his or her pigments (most of us use several different brands), so never hesitate to ask the question. It is important to be aware that “hypoallergenic” (which nearly all professional paints are labeled) does not mean “free from common allergens,” nor does it mean “guaranteed not to cause a reaction.” It merely means that the product in question is formulated to be gentle on the skin. What constitutes “gentle” is at the discretion of the manufacturer, and is not regulated by the FDA. If you have a specific, known allergy, “hypoallergenic” alone does not guarantee that a product is safe. Always check the ingredients.
3. Know About Safe Painting Practices.
The way a face painter uses and cares for his or her kit is just as important as the paints themselves. Do not be put off by a messy pallete at a face painter’s table; it is not uncommon for a painter’s palette to look well-used towards the end of an event as he or she mixes colors (though it should look neat and professional at the beginning of one). As far as health and safety concerns, it is not necessary for the paints to be sterilized between children or even between events (although I always clean mine with a baby wipe after each party). Professional face paints are antimicrobial, and do not provide a favorable environment for bacteria, molds or fungi to grow. Of greater concern are brushes, water, and the painter’s hands. Brushes and sponges should be thoroughly cleaned between events and allowed to air-dry, and should be replaced periodically. Rinse water should come from a fresh source, be changed several times over the course of an event, and be stored in paper or glass cups–not plastic, which can harbor bacteria if cleaned and re-used. Fragrance-free baby wipes and hand sanitizer should be fixtures at any face painter’s table. Finally, remember that the eyelids and lips are the most sensitive areas of the face; if you are concerned about skin sensitivities or allergic reactions–especially if a child at your event has a food allergy–ask that these areas be avoided. Know that while amateur artists tend to avoid these areas as a matter of course, an experienced professional is likely to have many designs that include both (the most dramatic designs do), so ask in advance if you want your painter to limit his or her offerings.
4. Special Precautions for Severe Food Allergies
Always communicate with your artist in advance if you know that a guest at your party has a severe food allergy. In addition to checking ingredient lists, alert your artist to the risk of cross-contamination, and make sure that he or she knows to wipe down all paints prior to your party, rinse brushes thoroughly after EVERY face, wipe his or her hands between guests (especially after touching someone’s mouth), and never to paint lips. If one or two items in the painter’s kit contain the allergen (avocado oil, for example), simply removing these items is not enough; the painter must also take precautions against cross-contamination, such as removing and/or stripping the first layer of all other paints that pigment has been mixed with and thoroughly cleaning and/or replacing brushes and sponges. As long as these precautions are taken, even severely allergic children can enjoy the experience of professional face painting.
5. Recognizing a Reaction
Adverse reactions to face paints are exceedingly rare and generally mild. Symptoms may include mild swelling or redness, itching/burning or rash, and usually abate quickly once the paint is removed. A reaction may take a few minutes to manifest, and may be difficult to see under a particularly bright or intricate design–small bumps may be visible, but redness may not be noticable until after the paint is removed. In general, I tell people that while it is normal for the paint to itch a little while it dries (which takes about 30 seconds), significant itching afterwards is worth looking into. I will always gladly provide wipes to remove paint if a reaction is suspected, and will happily re-apply or touch up a design in the case of a false alarm.
In my experience, people are more likely to have a reaction to dirty rinse water or scented baby wipes than to the paints themselves–to minimize this risk, I use alcohol-free, fragrance-free wipes and replace my rinse cups and water supply before every event.
INGREDIENT LISTS AND LINKS
The following is a copy of the saftey and ingredient information printed on snazaroo packaging:
Unsuitable for small children under 3 years due to small parts which may cause a choking hazard. The paints are safe for use on small children, it is just the small parts may cause a choking hazard. The product should not be used undiluted. In other words you add water to your brush or sponge before you apply it to the skin. Wash off using mild soap and water with the eyes tightly shut. Store in a clean dry area with the lid on. Use within 18 months of opening the package to avoid having the make-up dry and crack. All cosmetics can, on rare occasions cause allergic reactions and the product should not applied in the immediate eye area or to sensitive areas or broken skin. If you are unsure about sensitivity, a patch test is advised. Apply the product to the inside of the elbow. If a reaction occurs within 60 minutes, do not use.
Contents: PEG-32, Propylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol Ceteth-3 Acetate, Water, PEG-8 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-75 Lanolin, Phenoxyethanol, Methyl Paraben, Ethyl Paraben, Propyl Paraben, Butyl Paraben, MAY CONTAIN: Talc, Titanium Dioxide, Mica, Iron Oxides, Ultamarine Blue, Ferric Terrocyanide, FD&C Blue 1 Al Lake, FD&C Yellow 5 & 6 Al Lake, D&C Yellow 10 Al Lake, D&C 7 Ca Lake, FD&C Red 40 Al Lake. SNAZAROO make-up strictly complies with all E.U. and F.D.A. regulations on cosmetics.
For more information about snazaroo products and face painting safety, check out this article.
Diamond FX packaging information will be posted soon.
If you have a child with a severe food allergy, Protect Allergic Kids is a parent-run, volunteer organization that provides amazing resources to allergic children and their familes. Follow the link above to view their website.
KFA (Kids with Food Allergies) is another excellent resource for parents of children with severe allergies; their website can be accessed here.
Flying Colors is dedicated to providing you and your children with a safe and enjoyable party experience. If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us!