How To Remove Face Paint and Stains

One question I get asked a lot when I’m on the job is: “How do you remove face paint?” Of course it’s always asked by a child’s parent. Kids themselves are more likely to ask how long the face paint will stay on or if they can wear it overnight.

Since this is such a hot topic at birthday parties, festivals or wherever I happen to be face painting, I thought I’d delve into the topic with some helpful tips and tricks for removing face paint and face paint stains. Let’s also talk about whether or not you can sleep in face paint.

I’ll even show you a few different methods of removing face paint so you can see for yourself which technique works the best.

Keep in mind that certain colors are notoriously difficult to remove without leaving a little staining behind. Colors like teals and reds may leave their mark, but don’t stress. Any staining will eventually wear off. If you really need the stains removed fast, then keep reading!


First, let’s talk about the best way to remove a water-based face paint. It’s pretty simple. Just use a mild soap and warm water with a washcloth. That should do the trick. Be sure not to rinse off with water only because that could lead to staining. Using water alone presses the face paint into the skin which makes it a little harder to remove completely.

In the pictures below, I tried out the good old-fashioned soap and water removal method with 5 different Paradise face paint colors: dark green, red, blue, teal, and black.

These are colors that are known to be difficult to remove without a little staining. 

As you can see from the picture below, all 5 colors washed off easily without any staining left behind.

As it turns out, I had to search my face panting kit for a color that didn’t wash off easily with soap and water. I’ve been face painting for a few years and I’ve gravitated towards brands that wash off easily which is why I had a little trouble finding something for this experiment.

TIP: The brand I have been most impressed with in terms of washing off easily without staining isGrimas. Paradise is also a great choice. 


I finally came across some TAG teal in the back of my kit and found that there was some light staining after washing with soap and water. 

Below are 6 swatches of teal face paint that I will first remove with soap and water.

This is what it looks like after washing with soap and water.

To be fair, the staining was very light and if I had scrubbed a little harder with soap and water there would have been barely any color left behind. But then again, if you are washing a child’s face you won’t want to scrub that hard.

I used 6 different products on each stain to find out what worked best.

Shaving Cream

First up is what I was most curious about, shaving cream. I’d heard that this may remove stains so I gave it a try. Honestly, I didn’t notice any difference after rubbing it into the stain and wiping. So I would give shaving cream a thumbs down for removing face painting stains.


Shampoo was a last minute idea that I had. Surprisingly it worked very well. I barely applied any pressure using shampoo and water and the stain came right off. The drawback is that shampoo could be very irritating if it gets in a child's eyes. Best to use shampoo on areas other than the face. 

Coconut Oil

I figured coconut or olive oil is something most people have on hand in their pantry. It worked pretty well to remove the face paint stain but did require more rubbing than with shampoo. On the other hand, it’s mild and not likely to irritate skin or eyes.  

Oil-Based Makeup Remover

My generic brand of oil-based eye makeup remover didn’t work as well as I thought it would. After several swipes with a cotton pad, the stain was still there. I wouldn’t bother using it again.

Makeup Remover Wipes

I give makeup remover wipes an A+ for removing face paint stains. (The brand I used was Neutrogena.) The stain came right off with a couple of swipes. 

Micellar Water

Last, but definitely not least, was micellar water (I used Garnier). This was the best method to remove the face paint stain. I used a few drops on a cotton pad and the stain lifted with a single swipe. Bravo! 

Check out the picture below to see the results for yourself. 


There may be times when it’s important that face paint doesn’t stain. Like for example when you are body painting on someone. Or maybe you are face painting several different designs on one model who will have to wash the face paint off between designs. In that case, a little advance prep can save you time later.

Using a barrier spray, like Mehron Barrier Spray Pump or ProAiir Makeup Barrier, before you apply face paint can make removal much easier and prevent staining. Read this post on the subjectif you’d like to see the results.


So let’s talk about how long face paint will stay on your skin if you don’t wash it off. Kids ask me about this a lot. They don’t get face painted everyday, so it’s natural that they want the fun to last as long as possible.

So can you leave face paint on overnight? Well, just like you probably don’t sleep in your makeup, you probably shouldn’t sleep wearing face paint.

The first thing I warn parents about is that their sheets are likely to be stained. Face paint stains are not easy to get out of fabrics, so you may want to have your little one wash his or her face before bedtime.

The other thing about sleeping in face paint is that it may irritate skin. For example, if I don't wash off my makeup before bedtime, I am sure to end up with a breakout. So I would definitely not sleep in face paint myself. 

If you want to play it safe, wash off the face paint at the end of the day.

Water-based face paint will stay on until you wash it off unless it comes in contact with water. When face paint gets messy, sweat and tears are common culprits. Also, if your child will be eating, say birthday cake, it may be best to have them get face painted after eating if possible (or just leave the mouth area free of face paint).


  • Water-based face paint washes off with soap and water.
  • If there is any staining left behind from face paint, the best ways to quickly remove it is with micellar water or makeup remover wipes.
  • To prevent staining in the first place, consider using brands that don’t stain or apply a barrier spray first.
  • Face painting stains will completely fade with no additional effort, especially after a shower or bath. 
  • It’s best to wash off face paint before bed. Face paint can stain bedding and cause skin irritation. 

Vanessa Tsumura is a professional face painter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.