Top 10 Safety and Hygiene Tips for Face Painting: The Definitive Guide

Are your face paints safe? Whether you’re a mom who likes to get creative with your kids or a professional face painter, safety and hygiene should always be a top concern. Here are some answers to your most commonly asked questions about face paint safety and hygiene! 

Check out this video from professional face paint artist Kellie Burrus on how to keep your face paint kit hygienic.


1. Don't Let Water Pool

Make sure you don’t let water pool in face paint. You may want to spray your sponges directly with water instead of spraying the face paint to keep them drier. Keep the lids on when you’re not using.

2. Don't Allow Children to Touch Your Face Paint

Don’t allow children to touch your face paint. This not only goes for children, but for adults as well. Try not to let anyone touch your face paint as they can spread germs which can then be transferred to the brush, and ultimately, your customer's skin.

3. Toss Face Paint After the Expiration Date

Toss face paint after the expiration date. This is extremely important because, just like food, face paints also have an expiration date. Look on the back of your face paint containers - most of them will tell you how many months or years they are good for. 

4. Change Your Water Frequently

Change your brush water frequently while face painting. Products like Brush Bath may help to keep water and brushes hygienic.

5. Clean and Sanitize Tools

Thoroughly clean, sanitize, and dry tools after gigs. Sponges can be microwaved for 2 minutes after washing with soap and water to kill bacteria. Parian Spirit is what I use to sanitize my face painting brushes between jobs. 

    6. How To Clean Face Paint Brushes

    Check out this video from professional face painter Beth Mackinney on how to properly clean your face paint brushes.

    When artists aren't subject to external regulations for cleaning our brushes, it's extra important that they self-regulate to make sure their brushes and equipment are clean and hygienic during and after events. I hope this video will help you to thoughtfully set up a system which allows you to thoroughly clean your brushes, even while you work. 

    a) Have Three Bowls

    For an event, I usually have three water bowls. In the first bowl, I add Brush Bath so that it creates soapy water, which helps me clean my brushes.

    My second water bowl is for rinsing my brushes after I've cleaned them with soap, and then my third bowl is just straight water.

    I don't have a lot of water in any of these, primarily because I would never want to spill anything inside a client's home. So I try to minimize that by keeping my water levels low.

    b) Change Your Water Frequently

    And of course that means there is not a lot of soapy water here to clean with. So I change my water out a couple of times during the event, depending on the length of the event. The longer the event, the more times I will change my water out. 

    c) Clean and Sanitize Your Tools and Brushes

    There are a lot of different things you can do when it comes to cleaning your brushes. I use Brush Bath because it is an organic cleaner, a water sanitizer, and a makeup remover. Something that I do for deep cleaning my brushes, I'll use rubbing alcohol. For airbrush designs, I'll use 91% rubbing alcohol, and for regular designs, I'll use 70% rubbing alcohol. 

    The only thing about rubbing alcohol is that it can take a toll on your brushes after a while, so you may have to replace them after some time. 

    d) Use Hot Vinegar

    Another thing people in the United States use is hot vinegar, while others like to use wipes that are anti-bacterial.

    Whatever you do, make sure you choose something that thoroughly cleans and rinses your brushes! 

    Some Final Tips:

    • As a deep-cleaner, I use rubbing alcohol to disinfect my brushes.

    • Well-known artist Lilly Walters Schermerhorn suggests using hot vinegar and disinfectant wipes for assisting in keeping brushes clean, so this is an option for you as well as the Brush Bath. 

    • It's important to check locally for any rules or regulations required for face painting in your area. While common sense dictates that the cleaner face painters can keep their kits, the better, in some countries, the regulations for what you must use to clean your brushes and how and when this needs to be done are different than they are in the United States. 

    • In addition to the wide array of brushes and face paint available at, they carry cleaners such as Brush Bath (in spray and pour form) to make it easier to keep your brushes clean as you work. 

    7. Face Paint Ingredients and Expiration Dates 

    For more information on face paint ingredients, check out this article on Base Ingredients and Features of Face Paint Brands.

    Face Paint Ingredients

    a) How important is the expiration date on my face paint container? 

    Pretty important. Look for the symbol on the packaging containing a number followed by the letter M. 12M means the product is good for 12 months after opening. It’s always a good idea to keep on the side of caution and toss out expired face paints. The preservatives that keep face paints from growing bacteria, yeast, and mold lose their potency after the expiration date.

    b) What are parabens and are they harmful?

    Parabens are a type of synthetic preservative used in food and cosmetics including some face paints. Parabens have been widely studied and found to be safe by the FDA. However, other studies have questioned the safety of these types of preservatives. To find out if a product contains parabens, read the ingredients list and look for words ending in paraben like methylparaben and ethylparaben. Just because a face paint contains parabens does not mean they are unsafe, however, if you are concerned about parabens then do some research.

    There are several brands of face paint that do not use parabens like Global, Mehron, WolfeKraze FX, TAG, Grimas, and Diamond FXto name a few.

    c) Are there any natural face paints?

    It depends on what you mean by natural. Several brands of face paint like Wofle, Kraze FX, Fusion, Diamond FX, and TAG use natural preservatives instead of synthetic ones. Face paints with natural pigments are harder to find and may not preform the way you are expecting. Know which ingredients you want to avoid and why. Then read the ingredients list on products before buying.

    d) What is the safest brand of face paint? 

    That’s hard to say. Some brands suggest that they are safer than others, but it really depends on your definition of safe. Professional face paints that have FDA compliant ingredients are generally considered safe.

    e) Is chunky glitter safe for use on the face? 

    Chunky glitter should be used with caution. It’s advised that face painters do not use chunky glitter gels on younger children, but there are no set age restrictions. I absolutely love chunky glitter gel, but only use it on arms and occasionally on faces of tweens and older. No matter what the age of your customer, never apply chunky glitter close to the eyes.

    f) Are neon face paints safe to use on a child's face or not?

    The FDA has not tested many neon pigments for use as cosmetics. That’s why most neon face paints are labeled for use on hair and prosthetics only, not skin. Grimas face paint sells neon colors that meet EU standards for cosmetics. You may have trouble finding their neons outside Europe though. Kryolan, however, also makes cosmetic quality neons and is widely available in the U.S. 

    g) Can I use craft store glitter for face painting?

    Definitely not. Craft glitter is made from metal and has sharp edges that can scratch the eyes. Always, always use cosmetic glitter on skin. Keep in mind that even cosmetic glitter that’s made for face painting can irritate the eyes. Always ask the child you are painting to close their eyes when applying glitter and only apply small amounts.

    8. Allergic Reactions to Face Paint 

    a) Can someone have an allergic reaction to face paint?

    Yes, an allergic reaction can be caused by just about anything. Even face paints that are labeled as hypoallergenic could potentially cause someone to have a reaction. That said, I feel confident using professional face paint brands. Most face paint manufacturers suggest testing a small amount of product on skin and waiting at least 30 minutes to 24 hours. Obviously, this isn’t easy to do in a situation where you are face painting at a busy event. If a child has never been face painted before, I strongly suggest that they get a small arm design over a full face design.  I also choose face paints that contain no perfume whenever possible. 


    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.

    Kraze FX and Global are a couple of good perfume-free options.

    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 susceptible 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.

    b) 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.

    9. Use Professional Face Paint, Not Acrylic Paints and Protect Yourself

    Face Paints vs Acrylic Face Paint

    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.

    a) 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.

    b) 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.

    c) 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.

    d) 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.

    e) 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.

    f) 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.

    g) 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.

    10. Most Frequently Asked Questions

    Frequently Asked Questions

    a) Using a clean sponge for each face creates a ton of work for me when I'm cleaning up. Can I just use one sponge for each color during a gig?

    For me, using a clean sponge for every face is a must. Even though professional face paints contain preservatives, it’s kind of gross to think about the sweat from all those faces collecting on one sponge. I don’t even double dip my sponges, so if I find I need a little more color for a child’s face I take out a clean sponge. It really doesn’t take that long to rinse out sponges with soap and water and pop them in the microwave for 2 minutes after a gig. Don’t forget to make sure sponges are completely dry before storing.

    b) Is it safe to sponge face paint around the eyes? 

    You might have noticed that some face paint brands will advise against using certain colors around the eyes. That may be more to do with staining versus safety concerns. Any color of face paint, if it gets into the eye, is likely to cause mild irritation. I avoid the eye area altogether when I’m face painting at hectic gigs.

    c) I love having my customers sit in a tall director's chair, but I'm scared it will tip over or that the child will fall through the back. Any suggestions?

    I love using a director’s chair too. I always make sure there is a wall to back it up against to avoid having it tipping over. I also hold the arm while the child is getting in. A stadium chair placed over the seat might help avoid kids slipping through the chair’s gap. Really, you just have to be on guard at all times or stick with regular table-height chairs to avoid the worry.

    d) Any tips on using stencils safely?

    I use stencils all the time. I got in a habit of asking customers to close their eyes before I place a stencil on their face. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m worried that the plastic edges of a stencil might scratch someone’s eyes.

    Do you have any concerns about face painting safety? We'd love to hear from you in the comments section!  

    Post Written by Vanessa Tsumura, Beth MacKinney, and Kellie Burrus