You don’t have to be a professional artist to get creative with paint. From kids scribbling on scrap paper to hobbyists practicing in their free time to professional body painters, anyone can pick up a brush.
Some paints can even be used on human skin, opening even more creative avenues. Wondering what paint is safe for skin? We have everything you need to know in this guide.
Regular Water-Based Paint
Water-based paint is typically the safest bet as it must follow strict safety guidelines; this means that this paint is often non-toxic and non-allergenic. This type of paint can crack and rub off easily but is often easier to wash off.
Is washable paint safe for skin? Most of the time it is, but we recommend getting paint designed for the face or body and doing a patch test.
Metallic Body Paint
Metallic paint is typically used by artists and living statue performers who want to give a shiny silvery effect to their art. Unfortunately, these paints often have real metal in them that can cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction.
Metallic paint is also not the easiest to remove from your skin, making it not the best option for body or face painting.
Special effects and airbrush tattoo artists will often use alcohol-based paint to get their desired effect. For those who perform underwater dance and art pieces, this paint holds up well against hot sunny days and underwater shoots.
While this paint is waterproof, it is not rub-proof. If you intend to use this paint in a body paint project, we recommend waxing and shaving at least 24 hours ahead and giving your skin a day’s break before trying to remove it completely with rubbing alcohol.
Latex Body Paint
Latex paint is often an affordable option for cosplayers, but it is not always the best for body paint work. This paint, as well as potentially being an allergy risk, is like wax in that it coats the body completely; do not use this in extreme heat, and be sure to shave or wax beforehand.
We do not necessarily recommend using latex paint for skin art but, if you must, you could try using a layer of water-based paint underneath the latex.
Commercial Body Paint
Typically found in spray bottles or containers, commercial body paint is often non-toxic, and some formulas do not contain latex.
While these paints can be very helpful, we do recommend doing a patch test and reconfirming that the ingredients listed are safe for use.
Body Painting Markers
Are paint pens safe for skin? The ones specifically designed for use on faces or skin most often are. These non-toxic pens can be used on both children and adults but may not be suitable for all parts of the body; read the label for more information.
Using markers can leave designs on the skin for a few days; have removal instructions ready or be prepared for it to fade naturally.
What kind of paint is safe for skin? A traditional paint often used in coastal Africa and Asia, henna is a natural paint derived from plants that leaves a brown or red stain on the skin. Henna can be used on children and adults to create intricate patterns for events and fun.
Henna typically fades after a few days but can be exfoliated to speed the removal process. Most henna will be safe, but we do not recommend using black henna as it has additional metals and chemicals that could cause an allergic reaction.
What Paint Is Not Safe For Skin?
Paints that are not safe for the skin often contain chemicals, metals, or materials that irritate the body or cause allergic reactions. Paints such as latex and acrylic paints are not meant to be used on the skin as they affect the skin’s ability to breathe and may contain harmful chemicals such as ammonia.
If you end up getting some of these paints on you, there is no need to panic – washing the splashes off as soon as possible is enough. When wondering if the paint is right to use on skin, purchase a paint that is non-toxic and made for the face or skin.
Once you have one in mind, confirm there are no harmful ingredients and do a patch test.
How To Paint Your Skin Safely
- 1Plan Your Design
Take a few moments to sketch your design and consider what you will need to achieve your vision. When planning your project, you may need to consider the patch test, drying time, and how long the paint could stain the skin, among other things.
- 2Perform a Patch Test
It is always better to be safe than risk a potential health issue; apply the paint to an inconspicuous area of the model’s body 24-48 hours before painting to ensure that the paint is safe.
- 3Clean and Remove Hair
Before painting, we recommend shaving or waxing the hair from the necessary areas the day before and having a shower before getting on set. Once showered, a layer of setting spray can go a long way as a primer.
- 4Get painting
Now it is time for the fun part – getting creative. Once you are happy with your work, a final layer of setting spray can help increase the design’s durability.
- 5Remove the paint
Once done, follow the manufacturer's instructions on removal. Some just need soap and water, while others like spray paint may need baby oil or even rubbing alcohol to remove the paint.
Skin Safe Paint FAQs
Is all washable paint non-toxic?
Not necessarily. Some paints have a non-toxic label but may contain harmful metals or chemicals. Be sure to research carefully to ensure that the paint is safe and from a reputable seller.
Is watercolor paint safe for skin?
While commercial watercolor paint is not the best for skin, ones that are made with body painting or children in mind often are. Look for ones designed with children or the face in mind that have non-toxic ingredients.
How should paint stay on your skin?
Paint can stay on your skin with setting spray or just multiple carefully dried layers. Try not to touch it while it dries, and remind your model to be wary of rubbing or overexerting themselves to preserve the design.
What paint is safe for baby skin? Most often, paints that are designed with children in mind are non-toxic, but always do your research and perform patch tests to be sure. No matter what type of paint you choose, have fun with it and have your removal gear on hand just in case.