Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Good Things to Know Before You Get Face Painted

You see a face painter at a festival, 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 thought “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:

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 display that they only use cosmetic products that are safe for skin.

Do they have a list of policies?
For instance: “We do not paint children who are sick, or have open sores.” or “Children must be accompanied by an adult”
Not all face paint artists use signage or have their policies posted, so in this case you’ll have to ask questions and observe their practices yourself.

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. Remember that a set up can look 'messy' but not be 'dirty' and there is a difference. It should be evident that their kit (and especially their brushes and sponges) get cleaned after every gig and they have a cloth bag of clean sponges at the ready. If their station is complete chaos, dirty paint cases, hair in the paint, set up on a dirty towel or paint crusted plastic table cloth then that is a bad sign. Painters using dirty latex gloves should also be avoided, while this is great for the painters own safety, the same is not true for the models who get to be touched by the glove that touched so many other faces. Instead look for hand sanitizer and containers of isopropyl alcohol on the table as this is a good sign.

What kind of paints are they using?
If you see craft paints of any kind, don’t get painted. Anything that says acrylic, tempera, or craft paint is a big no no. 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. Never pick it up and see for yourself as professional painters like to keep their materials sanitary, also didn't your mother teach you it's not polite to touch other peoples things? :P There are MANY different brands of face paint out there, so how do you know if the painter is using actual face paint and not craft paint? Some painters like to keep their particular brand a 'trade secret', or they 're-pot' their paints into different containers, like plastic jewelry containers (I've even seen ice cube trays used like this). So instead when you ask a face painter about their paints, glitter or skin glues, you should hear these things:

Water or grease based
FDA approved/compliant
Made for use on skin

If the answer is “Oh it says non-toxic on the label”, that is a bad sign. Non-Toxic alone does NOT mean it is safe for use on skin. Worse if the answer is “I don't know” then walk away; a face painter should know what kind of paints they are using and their basic properties.

Also if you want a list of ingredients or other safety information, most professional painters should have a print out of the MSDS (Material Data Safety Sheet) for their paints in their kit.

Beware of face painters who 'make their own paints from scratch', because you will have no real way of knowing what's in it! There is no MSDS, no testing standard, no FDA approval etc. Most of the time these homemade paints are merely made with some kind of skin cream, corn starch, and food coloring among other things. Despite all their claims of being more environmentally friendly or 'safer' these home made concoctions lack the antibacterial components added to professional face paints, and all the cream and sugar is a perfect place for bacteria to flourish! They also have a short expiry date due to the food ingredients and that food coloring will be sure to leave a pretty decent stain on the skin. They will also claim to have used the same compounds found in cosmetics, but what they aren't understanding is that many ingredients are sold in 'grades' and most of the grades you can buy are not 'cosmetic grade'. Buyer beware!

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, Homemade Paints
  • There is no hand sanitizer or other sanitizing products to be seen
  • Artist blows on the model to apply glitter or help the drying process (Yuck!)
  • Amateurish setup, used food containers (like yogurt cups) 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

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