COVID-19/Coronavirus Face Painting Safety and Hygiene


The Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the entire world, so what you can do to keep your face painting business safe and hygienic?

Hygiene should always be an important factor when face painting, but considering the recent rise of the novel Coronavirus which causes the Covid–19 disease and has resulted in cancellations and event postponements for artists around the United States, it is especially important for us to be more vigilant than ever in implementing hygiene policies which contribute to containment. Even though many events have been put off until later in the year, the virus will probably continue to move through the population even after the initial concern has lessened, so performers should take the long view and plan to tighten their hygiene protocol for the coming year. 

About the Novel Coronavirus/Covid–19

According to the CDC, the novel Coronavirus is believed to be spread by close contact with an infected person (less than six feet away) through airborne respiratory droplets—for example if a person coughs or sneezes without covering his or her mouth. While it's possible that the virus might also be spread by surface contact, there is less evidence for this presently. Regardless, individuals should not touch their face, eyes, nose, or mouth unless they have thoroughly washed their hands vigorously for 20 seconds. This is especially important after having been in public areas. Even if you use hand sanitizer because soap and water are unavailable, you should rub your hands together for at least 15 seconds. Correctly washing with soap and water is the most effective way of cleaning your hands, however.

Incubation Period

The incubation period for the virus is approximately 5 to 6 days, although in some cases it could be as little as 1 day or as much as 24 days, and it could be spread before symptoms are visible. Generally, a person is considered most contagious when his or her symptoms are the strongest, and part of the concern surrounding covid–19 is its contagion level.

How The Coronavirus/Covid-19 Spreads

Viruses are assigned a reproductive rate number R0 ("arr naught") based on the number of people who might contract the disease from an infected person who comes in contact with a susceptible population. As a comparison to diseases which are extremely contagious, like measles (R0 number of 12–18) or Pertussis (R0 number of 15–17), the R0 number for covid–19 is between 2 and 3. This is still fairly high, and means that in a susceptible population, one infected person could potentially infect 2 or 3 other people, who could in turn infect 2 or 3 people, and so on, which is how the disease spreads. 

From a math standpoint, once small pox (with a R0 number of 3.5–6) had been put in a situation where 8 out of 10 people had either had small pox or been vaccinated against it, it self-eradicated. (3) For measles, with an R0 of 12–18, between 83% to 95% of the population would have to either build a natural immunity or be vaccinated to stop the spread of the disease. So the more people in a population who become immune to a virus, the more difficult it is for it to spread. As more of the population is immune, the relative R0 number decreases. If a disease can be brought to a point of an R0 < 1 by vaccination or natural immunity, then it is much less of a threat. The problem with the novel coronavirus is that very few people in the world have actually had it so far, so the susceptible group is quite large at present. 

What Are the Best Ways To Kill a Virus on a Surface?

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of information available yet on how to kill this specific coronavirus on a surface. According to the CDC, it is primarily spread by airborne means, and they aren't sure how long it can live on various surfaces. The best course of action is to clean and disinfect surfaces regularly. Seventy percent (70%) isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) is an effective disinfectant, and is more effective than 90% isopropyl alcohol, as the higher water content allows for slower evaporation and better destruction of a cell's protein. Chemical cleaners which are known to kill most germs are recommended, but for those of you with sensitivities to chemical cleaners, you might try a combination 1:1 of lemon and vinegar. Just be advised that while effective for some germs, lemon and vinegar may not kill all of them. There have been some tests on specific bacteria, usually in reference to food preparation, but the testing is not extensive. So while some people prefer lemon and vinegar as a more natural means of cleaning, there isn't enough information to determine it's affect on this novel coronavirus at this time. For best results, first clean a surface, and then disinfect it. 

Can Covid–19 Be Spread Through Face Painting?

While there isn't any evidence to support that the activity of face painting will spread this novel coronavirus, just the close proximity alone puts the artist and guests at an event at risk if there is a person present who has contracted it but hasn't yet shown symptoms. Using the one-way hygiene protocol system which is mentioned below will definitely help keep you from spreading any germs through your kit, but if you have reason to believe anyone is sick, they should never be face painted. In order to avoid as many tears as possible (because there is always a disappointment factor when a guest cannot be painted, and young guests find this the most difficult to deal with), you can provide temporary tattoos, stickers, or small toys for children who cannot be face painted at an event. 

Should I Cancel an Event Out of Concern for Covid–19? 

In most cases, you won't have to make this decision. The client will make it for you by cancelling or postponing an event. In some regions of the United States, even small gatherings have been banned temporarily. But if you are an older artist or an individual who is normally susceptible to respiratory problems, you may want to cancel or find another artist to take your place if your event is going forward. While this disease is having a tremendously negative financial impact on the performance community, your decision should be based on what is the safest course for you and for your clients. 

What Do I Do If a Client Wants To Cancel?

This has been a question asked repeated on many of the performer networks on Facebook. Some have lost thousands of dollars in a matter of minutes through cancelled events, and for any performer who relies on his business for paying his bills, this is a real concern. If you get a call for a cancellation, you will have to make a decision whether or not you will allow rebooking with or without the transferal of the event retainers. For private clients, you may allow the transfer. For corporate, you may not. Or you may for both. It's up to you. This is an unusual situation the entire world is finding itself in. 

If you use a contract (and you should), it's a good idea to be very specific in defining what your retainer, booking fee, or deposit actually is. Some feel that what you call it (for example, choosing to call it a booking fee rather than a deposit) is a protection again a client trying to recover it. But it's actually how it is defined within the contract which is more important. You need to explain in the contract that the fee you charge means you will hold that date in good faith and will not book any other event at that time, so the fee you charge is not a penalty to the client but instead is liquidated damages and that the client has also agreed by signing is a reasonable amount to forfeit in case of cancellation. Also, you should have a clause in your contract which specifies in what state and county any legal problems should be settled. This is especially important for corporate events, or you could find yourself with some extensive traveling costs in case of a legal problem which has to be settled. 

Some performers are allowing the retainer to be transferred to a new date if the event takes place within a specific number of weeks or months, but it is hard to predict how long we will be dealing with safety measures from covid–19. If you're an established artist, the summer months (where clients are hoping to move their events) are often filled by other regular clients. You might offer a 10% discount to entice the spring clients to choose the midweek (non-holiday) dates for their rescheduled events instead of the busy weekends.

What Can You Do As a Performer To Help Prevent The Spread of the Virus?

Hand Washing

Some performances, such as face painting, henna, glitter tattoos, and airbrushing, require actual physical contact. For balloon twisting, you are generally within six feet, but you don't actually have to touch an individual. Because of this, some artists are choosing to self-cancel events. As of this writing, in the United States the governors of at least six states (New York, California, Illinois, Oregon, Ohio, and Washington state) have already announced that large gatherings be temporarily banned. If you still have small events booked, such as birthday parties, for artists who must actually touch other individuals, we would suggest taking these precautions:

  • Post a well-child policy and enforce it rigorously
    While you may choose to cancel your events to be on the safe side, if you choose not to cancel, it's more important than ever that you look for any potential signs of illness in guests. Click here to download the printable Well Child Policy sign.
  • Ask all guests to use hand sanitizer before getting into the chair
  • Consider having parents clean each child's face thoroughly with a wet wipe before being face painted, starting at forehead and going down to chin
  • Listen to the line
    The covid–19 disease is spread through airborne means primarily, which means coughing or sneezing. Even if a guest claims to merely have allergies, you have to assume it's still possible he or she may have the virus. If you hear a guest with what sounds like a loose, chesty cough, it's best to decline to face paint, glitter tattoo, henna, or airbrush the individual. 
  • Wash your hands, wear nitrile gloves while you work, and don't touch your face
    While it may feel a little awkward at first, wearing gloves will not only provide a barrier between your skin and the skin of the person you're working on, but it will serve as a reminder not to touch your own face accidentally. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after events. 
  • Clean arms of guests with rubbing alcohol before applying henna, face paint, glitter tattoos, or airbrush tattoos
    Some of you may do this already, because it actually helps glitter tattoos and airbrush tattoos last longer. It also helps henna create a better stain. But normally artists do not do this for face paints which are on the arms, so you may want to consider it as an extra precaution. If you're truly concerned, you could limit all face painting designs to arm designs temporarily and always disinfect the arm first with rubbing alcohol.
  • Use a chair cover which can be laundered between events
    If you're not someone who enjoys sewing, check out online sources for chair covers if you use a tall or regular director's chair. 
  • Implement a one-way hygiene protocol to insure no germs go back to your kit through your brush or sponges
    We've provided a face painting hygiene document on the Facebook 411 Learning Center files area, but in short we recommend a four-well system for brush cleaning. Every time a brush comes back from the guest's face, it has to go through a well of brush soap, a well of 70% rubbing alcohol, a well of rinse water, and then finally clear water. 
  • Keep your work area as covered as possible, and face the chair away from your kit
    Because this virus is primarily transmitted by airborne means, it's a good idea to face anyone in your chair away from your kit, just to be on the safe side in case he or she coughs or sneezes. 
  • Consider using airbrush in addition to or instead of traditional brushes and sponges
    The advantage of airbrush is that no physical brush actually touches the skin, although stencils do. But stencils can be sprayed with rubbing alcohol or put in an alcohol solution while working to keep them disinfected. Also, if you have a top-feed airbrush, you can use it for large areas of color instead of using sponges by working up some paint with your brush and dripping it into the cup. No sponges to discard or wash, and completely sanitary. In some countries, you are not allowed to wash and reuse sponges.
    If you are allowed to rewash sponges, I would suggest washing them twice by hand to get all of the paint out and then pressing the moisture out of them with a towel. Then immerse them in rubbing alcohol and allow them to soak for 10-15 minutes. Squeeze the rubbing alcohol out of the sponges, rinse them again, and then finally use a towel to squeeze as much moisture out of them as possible again. After this, either air dry them or put them in the dryer to finish the process. (Some artists microwave the damp sponges to heat them enough to kill any germs that might be in them, but you'd have to be careful to not damage them in the process.) 
  • Warn your client know that you might have to work a little more slowly because of extra hygiene measures
    High volume events may be cancelled, but if they are not, wearing gloves and using extra steps for sponges and brushes will slow you down a little. It's a good idea to warn your client of this in advance.
  • If you feel unwell, get a replacement for yourself
    This is a good policy, even if you're dealing with a more mile virus, and creating a trustworthy network of other performers is important for this reason. You need each other, especially when you have events which you need to find replacements for. (This is also why it is best to keep your prices at least near those of other artists in your area. If you normally charge far below the average, you may find it hard to find an artist willing to take your place at an event, or the client may be unwilling to pay a higher rate.) 

Check out the Top 10 Safety and Hygiene Tips for Face Painting

What Can I Do If I Have To Cancel Events for Awhile?

Again, this is another top question that is being asked by artists. How can I generate income if my events are cancelled? Here are some suggestions.

  • Learn a new skill and practice the ones you already know
    The busy season is coming, and this virus will eventually be brought under control. Now is a great time to learn a new skill to add to your repertoire, or to get better at what you already do, because the better you are at what you do and the more services you can offer clients, the more business you will have. Set aside a time each day for practice and learning. 
  • Market aggressively
    Sometimes we're so busy we don't have time to expand our businesses through marketing, so use your extra time for marketing so when people are hiring, they know where to find you. 
  • Ask yourself if you have an online option for clients
    I was so impressed by a local caricature artist who was offering clients slots for an online caricature party. It was a great idea, and I immediately bought some slots for myself and my daughter and her friend.

    Face painting is certainly a little more difficult to do this with, but if you have an airbrush setup, consider doing online t-shirt or accessory parties for parents whose kids have had to cancel their physical parties. Henna can be applied to objects to stain them as well, so an online henna party is a possibility. Most face painters also do other types of art. Do you paint pet portraits? Do you customize roller skates or ice skates? Do you use alcohol paint on glass objects? Do you have an Etsy shop? Can you do balloons and deliver them to parents for immediately family fun time for their kids who have had schools cancelled? Now is the time to ramp up those other outlets for your artistic skills.

What Can You Do To Keep Your Own Immune System Strong?

Your immune system is really amazing, but there are lifestyle choices you can make which will either weaken it or strengthen it. By making good lifestyle adjustments, you can put yourself in the part of the population which is either less likely to contract the novel coronavirus, or the part which will not suffer the worst effects if you do contract it. This common sense advice comes from Dr. Susan Ballantyne, PhD, who is known for her website The Paleo Mom. 

1. Get Plenty of Sleep

Plenty of sleep can be defined as at least seven hours of sleep, but preferably eight hours or more per night. As it turns out, not getting enough rest can cause you to be 4–5 times more susceptible to becoming sick. 

2. Do Not Stress

Getting a good amount of sleep also plays a factor in this, but if you have a de-stressing routine, now is a good time to follow it. Stress is hard on your immune system.

3. Keep Exercising

A moderate exercise routine will help you sleep better and keep stress down, but it also has other affects on your immune system, such as causing your white blood cell system to work better. 

4. Eat Healthy and Don't Skip The Vitamins

If you exist on a diet of vending machine pastries and power drinks, now is the time to change. Having a balanced diet and getting nutrients from good quality food sources is extremely beneficial, and boosting your immune system with vitamins will do even more good. Check out The Paleo Mom for more on vitamins and dietary choices which will help your immune system beat the bugs. 



    1. CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19),
    2. Delamater PL, Street EJ, Leslie TF, Yang Y, Jacobsen KH. Complexity of the Basic Reproduction Number (R0). Emerg Infect Dis. 2019;25(1):1-4.
    3. Coffee MD, Megan, "R0 for Determining the Spread of Disease," November 21, 2019,
    4. Romo, Vanessa, "What Governors Are Doing To Tackle Spreading Coronavirus," March 12, 2020
    5. Aric A. Prather, PhD,1 Denise Janicki-Deverts, PhD,2 Martica H. Hall, PhD,3 and Sheldon Cohen, PhD2, "Behaviorialy Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold" . 2015 Sep 1; 38(9): 1353–1359. Published online 2015 Sep 1. doi: 10.5665/sleep.4968