Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guest Post: Facepainting Safety

As Halloween is quickly approaching, we asked Karen Mercer from Fairy Dust Faces, to share some information about facepainting. Of course we believe that everyone's intention is fun, but we wanted to help you be prepared. Here is information on some of the things to watch out for as you head out to parties and celebrations year round.


With fall celebrations happening all around us and holiday parties on the horizon the team at FairyDust Faces would like to take a minute to educate and remind our neighbors about face paint safety and professional hygiene practices. We are sending out this reminder because while we know everyone has Tallahassee’s children’s best interest in mind there are still prominent local organizations supplying substandard products to their face painting volunteers.

There was a time when quality face paints were a specialty item only to be purchased on the Internet. This meant well meaning volunteers would use products from their classroom, child’s art box or questionable ‘face paint’ from the mega-mart. People have used everything from tempera paint, water colors, sharpie pens or acrylic craft paint. Unfortunately these products are NOT designed or safe to use on skin, especially a child's sensitive skin. While these products rightly claim they are non toxic that only means you will not die if you ingest them, just as a jalapeño is non toxic ...but also not a good choice to rub on your skin!

The reactions to these not-for-skin use products include rashes, welting, flaking itchy irritation which in some cases can lead to further complications of infection and in extreme cases, scaring. Even some of the ‘face paint’ that comes in the little goopy pots – usually sitting right next to acrylic poster paint by the same manufacturer -- have a 28% reaction rate. That means potentially SIX kindergarteners in your child’s class will come home with some sort of reaction from red bumps to “mommy, it *really* hurts.” Often times the resulting rash will be in the perfect shape of the ladybug or butterfly the volunteer painted on them.

Unfortunately the crème paint readily available during the season at Halloween stores has no better a reputation. In fact, my own husband wouldn’t let me paint him for years because of a bad experience after being Marvin the Martian during college. Marvin the Martian from Looney Tunes has two huge round white eyes and without doing an allergy test or giving it much thought he slathered it on – only to have two huge round red swollen eyes at work for days. It seems that very few people, from kindergarten parents to college boys think much about what might be in those ‘face paints’ sometimes with disastrous effects.

FairyDust Faces would like to encourage *everyone* to look at the product your face painter is using and ask questions. If the paint is goopy in a little pot – red flag, if there is no name on it or it comes in tubes – red flag, if it is obviously an arts and craft product – red flag, if your volunteer doesn’t know the name of the paint – red flag. Don’t be afraid to ask those question or delay having your child get in the makeup chair – after all if you don’t advocate for your child who will?

Karen Mercer, founding artist of FairyDust Faces and co-director of the North Florida Face Painting Guild is extensively committed to the success of art instruction in public schools and in local youth organizations. The North Florida Face Painting Guild is committed to the safety, quality and professionalism of face and body art in northern Florida.

Karen is a member of Mom's Time Out/Mom-Owned Business Association, LLC. You can find more information about FairyDust Faces on her web site or on Facebook.


  1. Thank you! I was appalled last year when we were at a popular fall festival at one of our local churches to find they painted my son's face with acrylic craft paint! I nearly had a panic attack as I let the lady finish the job (as she insisted the paints were safe because they were "non-toxic"), then rushed him into the church bathroom to wash his face -- but not before my son complained that the paint was itchy and uncomfortable. Needless to say we skipped the face painting booth at that festival this year.