In an internet-educated, figure-it-out-for-yourself, whatever-goes world of contemporary makeup and special effects, it is easier than ever to find bad, misleading or downright dangerous information spewed out right alongside accurate, well-founded information. Internet is the operative word here, because an eager audience can find information and evidence on the internet to justify or support anything it wants to. That doesnt mean the information is actually true, correct, or safe! In the world of makeup, bodypainting, and special effects, the most common kinds of misconception and misinformation concern the safety of various products when being applied to the body and/or the face.
Many in this artistic community, myself included, are self-taught. Some of the most famous contemporary geniuses and historic icons of makeup and movie magic have been self-taught. Depending on the creative service offered and where, a license and formal training often is not required. Consider the training and state board certification required to cut hair in a salon, something customers take for granted. Now think of all the state fair face painters, temporary tattoo booths, and makeup artists whose final exam was ordering business cards. It is for this reason that mentors and assisting still serves and essential role. More experienced artists can offer a new artist fundamental knowledge that comes from a wide range of direct personal experience, combined with the education gained through a career in the profession.
Do I have to use real body paint? If the person asking wants the answer to be NO, its all too easy to throw reason aside, and to look no further than the statements of many people who publicly say, I used this or this or this, and Ive never had a problem! That doesnt mean there never will be a problem, or there never could be a problem. Its essentially a justification for saying, I got lucky and no one got hurt!
Artists are fond of the Unique and Bizarre. Covering a person with tree bark, mirrors, grime, glitter, gore and any combination of food is a rite of passage for any portfolio. Special effects use all manner of surgical glue, latex, animal gelatin and silicone. A magic concoction of the industry is PAX a 50-50 mix of medical adhesive and acrylic paint. This classic paint is still used for prosthetic pieces and tattoo cover in addition to a plethora of specifically designed alternatives.
The thing to note is that all this fun stuff is not, strictly speaking, cosmetic makeup. Choices are made. In a professional artistic environment, those choices are determined by analyzing the look required and reviewing the classic methods for accomplishing that look. Next, a creative artist will figure a way to take that look into a new, fresh direction.
Now here in lies the conundrum for the beginning artist. How did they do that? What did they use to create that look? A little bit of research says, Acrylic paint is used as an ingredient on Hollywood sets. So, obviously acrylic paint must be safe for skin. Soooooo, it must be ok to slather a model head to toe in acrylic paint. After all, its non-toxic! These are the kinds of assumptions, often made with the best of intentions, that can cause serious problems and outright harm to the person having such products applied to their body or face!
An artist makes choices that have a direct impact on another persons health and safety. In the case of shared, communal and double-dipped items like mascara, lipstick and brushes, that decision multiplies exponentially. Pinkeye, cold sores and lice are easy to spread with makeup tools. The only thing that spreads faster is a bad reputation. The artist makes risk/reward decisions for every model they touch.
Underwater, pyrotechnic, aerial shoots and the like have a high degree of difficulty and risk. These risks are mitigated by safety measures, but they will never be as safe as standing on a concrete floor in a studio. Here, the model is very engaged in the risk/reward. The risks and rewards from various products used on the body are less obvious, but no less real. But, it makes it harder for the model to have the knowledge necessary to contribute to making the informed decision. Therefore the brunt of the responsibility for the models safety falls right back upon the makeup artist/bodypainter.
Now back to the aspiring artist hitting up forums, chats and internet clips for information. It is one thing to watch a self demo on how to make a rainbow out of eye shadow. It is another thing to listen to people guess in writing if it is safe to use craft store paint and markers on skin. It is alarming to hear people cavalierly dismiss professional cosmetic products.
There are many pigments used to make paint. There are very few pigments approved for use in cosmetics. Pearls and glitters expand the gulf between safe and a roll of the dice. As rare as they are, allergic reactions can result in hives or far worse. Complicating the matter further, a cosmetic that is safe for the body may not be advisable for use on the lips or eye area. A perfect example of this is in body paints and black light makeup.
Paints have lots of ingredients besides pretty colors: flex agents, binders, flow enhancers and a delivery medium. Cosmetic ingredients are individually approved by the FDA. The same cannot be said for craft paint. Allergic reactions can include permanent scarring.
Glues and adhesives are a very frequent source of bad reactions. Latex allergies are common. The stronger adhesives require equally strong removers which themselves can irritate.
The most common reason given for not using proper products is price. Someone puts a price on someone elses safety. In truth, quality professional products are no more expensive than the craft store alternatives. The irony is that non-cosmetic products just do not perform as well. They were never designed, approved or intended for skin.
Non-Toxic is an assessment that a product is not poisonous if ingested. There are many non-toxic things that wont kill a person, but will still make a person ill enough to be hospitalized. Non-toxic when used as directed . And its almost guaranteed that bodypainting is not a directed use of many of these craft paints, markers, and other products.
What about barrier creams? A manufacturer will not be eager to condone use of their product in an off-label manner. And, a salesman at the art store is not necessarily an authoritative voice in this matter. They are in business to sell something, after all.
We all begin our careers as artists by dabbling, breaking rules and finding what works. It is the nature of discovery and experimentation that draws talent to the field in the first place. If were lucky, no one got hurt during the learning curve. It is up to the artist to take responsibility for their actions, know their craft, and show respect for their models by making the best choices possible.
Photos & Testimonials
Ok. Do you really think an artist is going to hold up a hand and yell for the photographer to take a picture of the models allergic reaction? The only photos we are likely to see are as an exhibit in a court case.
That being said, RockstarVanity presents:
And in case you think its a good idea to put lipstick and red food dye anywhere near your eyes, take it from me - it is NOT a good idea. Yes, it makes your eyes look all swollen and puffy and you'll get genuine (allergic) tears streaming down your cheeks but it hurts like hell and I'm not entirely sure it isn't harmful. My eyes are still stinging and it's rather painful. So yeah, don't do it. Cool kids use hypoallergenic effects make-up, not food products.
As for myself, I can tell stories.
Here are a few that my Airbrush and Body Paint students have to listen to:
Kids Tattoo Markers (soap and water cleanup) have caused more skin reactions than ANY product in my kit (which would be why they are no longer in my kit). Worst reaction was on a child at a birthday party. Her whole body started to itch and her skin was red under the marker. Fortunately for the child AND for me, the party was thrown by a Physician who handled the situation. Child was fine. I was fine after 2 margaritas. This is why I have liability insurance.
Silicone Allergy. I had a model with extensive body paint experience say there was no need to waste time patch testing... Turns out the patch test showed a reaction to a new-on-the-market silicone based body paint. This threw the shoot into a tizzy because my anticipated product could not be used. Fortunately, I had back up products and we recovered. Come to find out, word on the professional street has it that silicone allergies are just as common as latex allergies. This is why I have liability insurance.
Adhesives. I have a model who can attest to a heart made out of red dots that lingered on her derriere after the cute little swarovski crystals were removed. These crystals, sold as jewel tattoos were placed on top of about 4 layers of body paint, proving that paint does not make a barrier layer - sometimes it does the exact opposite and acts as a sponge. This is why I have liability insurance.
Sunburn. Body paint does not like sun screen, so application and sun exposure have to be carefully planned. The above model (very pale) sported an inverse sun burn of the Battledress Paint-N-Body logo on her butt cheek. Our set up was in the shade. The promoter decided to parade her around in Southern California August sun for a couple of hours. Another model tried to scrub off a nice Lady Liberty paint after a 4th of July day in Newport Beach. All those red splotches were burns from where the paint was a little on the thin side.
FDA on Novelty Makeup including face paint and black light: www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos10-3…
FDA on Decorative Contact Lenses: www.fda.gov/consumer/updates/d…
FDA on Eye Cosmetics Safety: www.fda.gov/consumer/updates/e…
FDA on Cosmetic Colors: www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-col…
Model Mayhems Hair, Makeup & Styling Forum. Sanitary/Hygienic Precautions: www.modelmayhem.com/po.php?thr…
Model Mayhems Hair, Makeup & Styling Forum. Hygiene Horror Stories:
Alcone: Makeup supply www.alconeco.com/
FX Supply: Makeup, body paint and Special Effects supply www.fxsupply.com/
Sillyfarm: face and body paint supplies www.sillyfarm.com