How to Choose Safe Body Paint | No Skin Damage


Bodypaint is such a fun and bright display of colors, sometimes you want to wear your bodypaint permanently. After a great weekend at a music festival or a cosplay event, it’s truly tempting to give up your alter ego for good and live life as a bodypainted character.

Before you start wearing bodypaint on the regular, you’ll want to make sure that the substance you lather yourself in is indeed safe and not damaging to your skin.

In general, body paint does not damage your skin. If not worn for too long, most non-toxic body paint is safe to use. However, if body paint is worn for more than 24 hrs, dryness, irritation, and clogged skin pores may result.

For safe body paint for skin, use water-based acrylic, latex-based, or alcohol-based paint.

Avoid using any solvent-based paints, always check the SDS for toxicity, and check for allergies before applying paint to your skin.


What Kind of Paint is Safe For Skin

You always want to make sure that your body paint is non-toxic. Check the SDS (safety data sheet) and ensure that the toxicity ratings are all 0 (meaning non-toxic across the board).

This article about paint toxicity explains how OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) classifies chemicals using their Hazard Communication Standard.

As long as you check the SDS to make sure that paint is non-toxic, it should be safe for the skin.

ARTICLE: The Top 5 Best Airbrush Paints for Body Painting

There are three main types of paint that work great for body paint and are safe for the skin:

  1. Water Based Acrylics
  2. Latex Based
  3. Alcohol Based

NOTE: Avoid solvent-based paints like urethane and polyurethane for bodypaint because they are toxic and will almost certainly damage your skin.

Water Based Acylic Body Paints

Water-based acrylics are some of the best safe paints for body painting. They are non-toxic and have a rich color profile that makes them show up great on the skin.

The color pigments are suspended with a water-based medium which makes them easy to mix and easy to wash off.

Latex Based Body Paints

Latex-based paints are another popular option for body painting creations. These paints typically dry into a smooth layer on top of the skin – instead of “soaking in” like other body paints do.

Because latex-based paints sit on top of the skin, they come off easier which minimizes skin irritation.

Alcohol Based Body Paints

Alcohol-based paints are very common in the bodypainting world. The alcohol acts as a great delivery medium for the pigments as it evaporates quickly and allows the paint to “set’.

It flows nicely out of an airbrush and is very gentle on the skin – overall, alcohol-based body paints are considered professional grade.

Because the paints set so well, it tends to stay on the skin better with no smudging. This is great for wearing during an event, but it’s a double-edged sword when it’s time to come off.

Be sure to use lots of soap and even a little rubbing alcohol to remove the alcohol-based paint when you’re done – a little dissolving agent will reduce the amount of scrubbing needed and reduce irritation.

Can the Skin Breathe?

You may have heard the expression from time to time to “let your skin breathe”. It begs the question since so many skin health professionals talk about it – does your skin really breathe, and can you suffocate your skin?

As it turns out, your skin does not actually breathe. This expression of skin breathing refers to the natural rhythm of oil excretion that your skin undergoes to maintain healthy moisturization. Therefore, your skin cannot suffocate in terms of oxygen absorption but rather an unnatural covering of pores and disruption of oil excretion.

Skin pores are technically called pilosebaceous follicles and are responsible for secreting the oily sebum that protects your skin and hair.

If you cake on the bodypaint and let it sit for more than a day, you might be risking clogged follicles, dry skin, and irritation from unnatural moisture levels.

How to Avoid Skin Irritation, Dryness, and Allergic Reactions

Human skin has a natural layer of protection to keep it moisturized. If the balance of natural oils and moisture is disrupted, this can cause the skin to dry out and become irritated.

Oftentimes, this excessive dryness can cause the body to start producing excess oil to make up for the dryness. Before you know it, your skin is all out of wack producing a cycle of too much dryness or too much oil.

In this article, I explain how excess skin oils can break down body paint from underneath.

Therefore, body paint can be damaging to the skin if it:

  • dries out natural oils,
  • clogs pores, or
  • causes an allergic reaction.

When you’re preparing your skin for body paint, it’s important to clean and use a light moisturizer. If you can achieve a good level of moisturization (not too dry and not too oily) then you minimize the risk of throwing your skin’s natural rhythm for a loop.

ARTICLE: How to Be a Bodypaint Model | A Complete Guide

When you leave body paint on for too long, it can start setting in, gathering dirt and oil, and clogging skin pores. This can lead to acne and the kind of dry-oily feedback loop just described.

As a rule of thumb, try not to leave bodypaint on for longer than 24 hours.

My experience with body paint is that it will start to look cruddy and make your skin dirty and oily after a full day of wear. My advice is to not be a hero and just wash it off after 24 hrs.

The exception to this rule is temporary-tattoo style body art like henna or some alcohol-based body paint – these semipermanent paints stain the skin and can last for several weeks.

As far as allergies go, always ask your bodypaint model if they have any. Latex-based paints are especially ones to be careful with because latex is a fairly common allergy.

If you pick the right kind of paint to begin with, body paint really isn’t that dangerous. Always make sure you check the SDS before slathering your body (or someone else’s) with a foreign substance.

Your skin doesn’t actually breathe, so don’t worry about suffocation by body paint.

Just pick a non-toxic paint, make sure that you don’t leave it on for too long, and you’re ready to rock a slick suit of body paint.


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