What kind of bodypaint exists? What type should I choose for my project?
Body paint is temporary. Unlike tattoos or decorative scarring, it is something that will fade and need retouching. Many people use body paint every day without realizing it. Cosmetics---mascara, eyeshadow, lipstick---are all a type of body paint, though for the sake of this article we will characterize products used on the face as makeup or face paint and products used on the full body as body paint.
While shooting the James Bond movie "Goldfinger" in the 1960s, it was reported that actress Shirley Eaton had died while encased in gold body paint for a particular scene. This rumor has been refuted and the odds of death from asphyxiation as a direct result of body paint has been solved with the creation of the correct products. We use our mouths and nose to breathe, not our skin.
One of the most common questions we are asked is what types of body paints exist and what Trina recommends. Here's a great intro to bodypaint and recommendations (we were not paid for these recommendations on brands, they are simply the best products we like using and are available on the market today).
Water Based Paint:
Modern water-based face and body paints are made according to stringent guidelines, meaning these are non-toxic, usually non-allergenic, and can easily be washed away. These are either applied with a paintbrush, synthetic sponges, natural sea sponge, or with an airbrush.
We use water-based paints 80% of the time, that comes off easily in the shower with an oil-based product (baby oil, coconut oil, makeup removers, etc) and some soap. Models may experience slight staining with some colors; that is normal and will fade after normal washing. We recommend using dark towels for the models and a Magic Eraser to clean your tub after you shower.
Water-based body paint will need quite more frequent touch-ups and more attention than other types of body paint. Water-based body paint tends to rub off, crack and be susceptible to sweat. Some of the lighter colors like white or yellow do not provide full coverage and when applied thickly can cause cracking due to titanium. Please make sure to test various products in advance, work on your application techniques and gauge your expectations accordingly.
Our favorite brands are Cameleon, Kryolan, Make Up For Ever, European Body Art, TAG, & Wolfe FX (for Black, White & Metallics only).
Metallic Body Paint:
Metallic pigments by brands like Mehron are often applied with a water and alcohol “mixing liquid” solution. While this contains a high pigmentation and metallic sheen, we had some of our models experience severe allergic reactions. When we called Mehron, they admitted their products contain actual metal and are not FDA approved grade. We no longer use or recommend them to our clients.
We recommend using Cameleon’s gorgeous metallic pigments and applying biodegradable glitter from Body FX if extra shine is needed.
Hybrid Airbrush Paints:
Some brands provide a hybrid airbrush bodypaint that contains the lasting power of alcohol and the easier to remove qualities of the water based products. In my experience, these have quickly clogged airbrush guns, holding a job up and creating a air of frustration. No one wants a group of grumpy body painters on set. Additionally, these products have created cracking textures, models still have trouble removing these body paints and they can be quite toxic on the lungs.
We do not recommend these products but if you use them, please wear a mask, bring spare airbrush guns and hire an airbrush technician for your set to clean guns for your session.
Alcohol Based Paint:
This paint was originally intended for smaller airbrush tattoos and for SFX makeup applications. It has more recently be used as an application for full body painting. It is sweat and waterproof (not rub proof- so when you touch another area of your body with the paint, it will lift off). It is helpful for performances with a lot of sweating, especially in the summer. It is not easy to remove and requires patience and extra time. Rubbing alcohol removes this the best (99%) and some brands offer additional paint remover options that may or may not work and will certainly cost more than rubbing alcohol. In some cases, you may need to give the skin a day of rest before fully removing the paint so it isn’t super irritated. We recommend avoiding waxing or shaving the day before an alcohol based paint and planning ahead for body hair removal. Patience and planning are key. Additionally, breathing in rubbing alcohol is obviously toxic. Masks should be worn by all and, as with any airbrush body painting, its very important to have a ventilation system set up in the bodypaint area. CLICK HERE to read an article on creating a successful studio ventilation system for airbrush and aerosol painting.
Our favorite brands are European Body Art and Cameleon.
Liquid latex may also be used as body paint. It is a full coverage option that separates from the skin and is more like custom, single use, painted on clothing than like more traditional forms of body painting. It's a fantastic option for cosplay conventions and Halloween parties because it looks like clothing and does not leave any marks or residue if you are driving or sitting on a couch but still elicits the wow factor sex appeal of bodypaint. Custom cosplay costumes are not only expensive but are also very time consuming and latex body paint offers a nice alternative.
However, some people do have latex allergies and need to do a quick allergy test (if you’re allergic to condoms or eyelash glue, you’ll know you’re definitely allergic to latex paint). Aside from the risk of contact allergy, wearing latex for a prolonged period may cause heat stroke by inhibiting perspiration and care should be taken to avoid the painful removal of hair when the latex is pulled off.
The same precautions that apply to cosmetics should be observed. If the skin shows any sign of allergy from a paint, its use should immediately be ceased. Moreover, it should not be applied to damaged, inflamed or sensitive skin. If possible, a test for allergic reaction should be performed before use.
It is imperative that every single body hair in the “paint zone” is removed in advance. Latex body paint works like a wax and as it lifts from the skin it removes the hair. Please wax or shave thoroughly before your session. If the body is prepared correctly, the paint is very easily removed by peeling it from the skin- in fact, some people love the sensation and it has the double benefit of acting as an exfoliant.
Our favorite brand is Brand X Liquid Latex.
Cream Based Character Bodypaint and Makeup:
There are a few brands like Make Up For Ever and Kryolan making cream based makeup for character and avante garde makeup looks. They are waterproof and sweat-proof. These are usually set with a finishing spray or powder though they never full dry and need special removers. It is recommended each body painter and makeup artist at minimum add MUFE’s flash palette or some similar product in their kits- it has saved several of our paintings. If you need a stronger pigmented white, need to repair cracking areas, want a more wet/reflective look, or want to create amazing face looks that compliment your body painting, cream based makeup can be a nice addition to your kit. Remember to remove the makeup from the container and use it on a palette so you do not spread germs from one model to the next.
Our favorite brands are Make Up For Ever and Kryolan.
Silicone Airbrush Makeup:
Temptu has created a nice silicone based airbrush makeup that also comes in a variety of colors. It has strong durability for makeup looks. The bottles are a bit too small and expensive for full body looks but this can be a nice addition for faces that need to last all day. Make Up For Ever recently released a new line of silicone airbrush body paints that hold up well. They do clog airbrush guns so make sure you get a few bottles of their thinner and cleaners for your guns. However, this is an excellent option and could create new creative possibilities for makeup artists and body painters.
Our favorite brands are Make Up For Ever and Temptu.
CLICK HERE to read an article about why purchasing biodegradable glitter is essential and why scientists are calling for a ban on all regular glitter and micro beading.
We recommend 100% biodegradable glitter by Body FX.
Henna and Black Henna
Henna is a more traditional plant dye used on the skin, hair and wool that creates a brown or red stain It is a lasting temporary tattoo that is removed as dead skin sloughs off the body. The fading process can be sped up by exfoliating or by coming into contact with chlorine.
Although henna is natural, since it is plant-based, a lot of ready-made henna mixes have metal additives. These metals can seep through the skin and cause damage. Black Henna is toxic and should never be used. Use caution if you get a henna tattoo abroad or at a fair and ask questions about the type of product they are using.
We recommend hiring a professional like Margie Nugent or Deborah Brommer. We do not offer these services at this time but do enjoy receiving them.
Hand Marbling Bodypaint
This type of bodypaint is popular music festivals. The customer dips their hands into a mixture and receives a marbling or tie dye effect they can wear on their arm. While it does look cool, this type of bodypaint has not yet been approved for use on the body by the FDA despite its trend worthy qualities.
We therefore do not recommend it for your parties until the FDA approves its safety for use on the skin.
Non-toxic Acrylic, House Liquid Latex Paint, Tempera Paint & Sharpies:
We have used all of these products before with no ill effects with consenting adults, however, any paints or products which have not been formulated for use on the body, like various types of water based paints or sharpies, should never be used for body or face painting, as these can result in serious allergic reactions resulting in a lawsuit. Make sure you at bare minimum have written consent and a liability waiver before ever using this products on the human body. These products all crack quickly on the skin as they were made for use on different materials and do not contain the flexibility or longevity of the products formulated for use on the skin.
If you do need to use these products, we recommend first base coating the model in water based product and using the other paints on top of these products to enhance the vibrancy or texture of your painting.
Surprisingly, there are a few trending photographers on Instagram using used crude oil on the skin as it is practiced in the Caribbean and some African countries. This is highly toxic and proven to cause stroke, heart attack and more. This is not body paint.
Instead, to achieve this look, use a black bodypaint and then mix water and jojoba oil in a spray bottle and spray it onto the model. A dark, wet oil appearance is achieved and no one died for your art project.
People are putting all kinds of products on the body every day. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or need advice on what type of body paint or makeup to use for your project.
What is one type of bodypaint that you would like to experiment with in your next project? What kind of body paints have you tried and like using? Leave your comments below.