Video: Being Prepared For Skin Sensitivities and Allergic Reactions

Face painters love to make kids happy, so we don't ever want a child to have a sensitivity or reaction to face paint. I hope this video will help you think through protocols in advance which will help you assist your clients professionally.

The secret to successfully dealing with problems which come up in face painting is to strategize and create a plan in advance. Whatever you choose to do, remember that you want to choose policies which will service your clients well. Your clients may never know the work you put into making these protocols which protect them and make their parties great, but that's okay, because your real reward comes in the form of the happy smiles on the faces of the children you face paint. 

As you all know, face painters love to make kids happy, but none of us want to get a call from a mom whose child has had a reaction to face paint, or has shown some kind of sensitivity.

Unfortunately, it's a little hard to tell in advance whether or not a child is going to be succeptible to a certain brand or ingredient. So we really rely on parents to communicate any known issues, or any past problems a child has had.

The thing is, people can be allergic to almost any substance. It doesn't matter whether it's synthetic or natural, because some kids are allergic to milk, some kids are allergic to red40, so we really need to know that information in advance. If there's any question, if you're really not sure, if a parent is a little leery about face painting, it's probably better to avoid face painting on that child.

The Difference Between Sensitivity and Allergic Reaction

The first thing you want to know as a face painter is that there is a difference between a sensitivity to something and an actual allergic reaction. You can be just sensitive to a substance and not really be allergic to it. A sensitivity might show up in a little redness on the skin, but that can also come from a parent just scrubbing really hard when they're removing face paints. So if it just fades away over time, there's no way to know for sure if it's sensitivity or if they just removed the face paint roughly.

An anaphalactic reaction is different. With an anaphalactic reaction, and in that case, there are probably going to be red blotches, there might be swelling, and there also might be difficulty breathing. All of those things are serious. For a situation like that, you do not want to face paint that child, and you definitely want to make sure that if any of those symptoms show up, that they get immediate medical help.

Use Professional Face Paint, Not Acrylic Paints

Make sure you're using professional face paint. Don't use acrylic paints - face paint isn't paint, it's makeup. So if you see acrylic paint and it says non-toxic, it doesn't mean it's made for your skin. Face paint has been made with ingredients that are FDA compliant and they're made to be used on the skin. So you want to make sure that's what you're using.

Face Paint Shelf Life

Another thing to keep in mind, is that makeup has a shelf life. After you open it and you begin using it, you have about 18-24 months before it's considered past its due date, so you want to keep an eye on that. You should know what's in your kit, know which paints are which brands, and you should know how long you have before you should replace them.

Performance Liability Insurance

If you're a professional performer, you should have performance liability insurance. People don't think of face paint as a performance, but it really is. As a performer, you need to read your policy, and know what it covers. Don't expect just everything to be covered. Make sure you know, because usually your performance policy will not cover your kit in case it's stolen. That is a separate kind of policy.

Contact your insurance company and find out if they have any advice for you on how to handle situations, so that you know what to do in case somebody calls you and tells you something happened.

Educate Your Clients

One of the other things you can do is to educate the hostesses so they know how to remove face paint. Sometimes parents will want to leave it on overnight, but we really don't want that. Or they might want to use baby wipes to remove it, and sometimes baby wipes have ingredients that can irritate childrens' skin.

One thing that's really important is that if a child or a parent says "My kid had a reaction a few years ago", don't face paint them. It's just not worth the risk.If a child has had any kind of sensitivity, you have no way of knowing what they were sensitive to, which brand it was, or how bad their next reaction will be.

What To Do If You Can't Face Paint a Child

For kids that are going to be really disappointed if they can't get face painted, there are a number of ways that you can do something for them. You can give them stickers, you can carry some age appropriate toys to give them, maybe you can do a glitter tattoo. Glitter tattoo adhesive is not face paint, so that might be a really good compromise.

Know Your Face Paints and Their Ingredients

One thing that should definitely be in your kit, is a list of the ingredients for your face paints. So whatever brands that you have, you should have a print out that shows the basics of what is in that stuff. If a parent does have a question, you need to be able to pull that out. Hopefully everything on it is up to date.

Keep Your Kit Clean

A few final tips, are to make sure that you keep your kit really clean. Make sure you're washing your sponges thoroughly, and not just after the event, but make sure you're using one soapy cleaner during the event, and then you have your rinse bowls as well. Make sure you don't double use sponges. After you use a sponge, put it in the wash bag and take a fresh sponge. You want to have a very hygienic kit so that you're not doing anything that would cause irritation or sensitivity to a child.

Additional Tips

For kids that are really young, you may want to do the arm instead of the face. Their skin is still developing, and sometimes that's a better place to paint on for kids that are really little.

Also watch out for other substances on the skin, like lotions or sunblocks. Sometimes those things can mix with other products like makeup and cause problems.

Fortunately, any kind of reaction to face paint is pretty rare. We don't encounter it very often and I believe that is a testimony to most face painters using good products.

Beth MacKinney is the owner of and primary face painter for Face Paint Pizzazz in Elgin, Illinois, and her artwork has appeared in The Colored Palette and SkinMarkz magazines. She services the western and northwestern Chicago suburbs, Chicago’s north side, and the eastern and southeastern suburbs of Rockford. Stop by to enjoy more of Beth’s face painting tutorials.