Are artist quality acrylic paints safe and can they be used on the face?
a comprehensive discussion by Gary Cole
with contributions from 
Jenna Rose, Mama Clown, Linda Arnold - Consumer Affairs Representative for BINNEY & SMITH INC., Katie Hunt, Pat Lockwood, Kim Laird, Hopeful the Clown, Peggy Swimm, Steve Finch, Phyllis
Plaid Consumer Advisory Team


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On the discussion list for face painters that has been some pretty sharp tongued e-mails sent back and forth concerning the use of craft paints and acrylic paints as a face painting product. Even with a number of good quality FDA approved face paints it still seems like you can find the occasional face painter out there using acrylic or tempra paints. They claim they have been using them for years and years with no problem. You might also hear them say they like they way they apply or look when dried. The bottom line is one should not use any paint on the face or skin that does not have a FDA ingredient approval and is regulated as a cosmetic good. To be extra safe you should also look for a face paint that also has a "Child Toy Safety Rating". Following you will find ample reading on why you should NOT use acrylic paints. You will even hear this from the world's two most used acrylic paint manufacturers Liquitex and Apple Barrel. Most of this has come straight from the discussion list for face painters, unedited in any way. So find a comfortable chair and get ready for an afternoon of reading on the topic.

To: "Lauren Pettit" 
Subject: Re: Paint Safety Question
Date: Wednesday, March 28, 2001 12:07 PM


There are ingredients in acrylic paints that are banned for use in any food, drug or cosmetic. That alone makes them unsafe. Period. 

I would also state that if the manufacturer says they are unsafe or non approved (same thing) then the consumer should not use them on the face.

I agree that even the best known cosmetics can on occasion cause an allergic reaction. It all boils down to probability. You have a chance (for example) of dieing in a plane crash 1 time in every 10,000,000 flights. Or you have a chance of a mild allergic reaction (by probability) of 1 in 10,000,000 faces painted or a severe reaction in 1 in 100,000,000 faces painted. It boils down to assumed risk. We play that game every day with penicillin. It literally saves millions of lives every year. On the other hand 10s of thousands have life threatening allergic reactions to it. Luckily the FDA knows this and they have created antidotes to penicillin reactions.

Bottom line is, if we call our selves professional face painters, we should take all precautions to provide the best in safety in the products we use. We don't want to fly on an airlines that crashed one in 10 flights or is known to consistently fly obsolete planes or carry hazardous materials in the cargo bay. We need to use our brains. This is especially true when there are so many good brands of safe, face paints on the market to choose from.

I hope this helps.

Gary Cole

Concerning Chromacryl Acrylic paints...

Sent: Monday, June 03, 2002 2:29 PM

Due to different types of skin allergies we do not guarantee the use of this product for on skin.

Fron Delta Craft's own web site at

Q: Can I use Delta Ceramcoat® Acrylic Paint for face painting.
As with all of Delta's paint products, the Delta Ceramcoat® Acrylic Paint is non-toxic. To be able to say this, all of our products are tested by the Arts & Creative Materials Institute. ACMI will certify that a product is non-toxic when it is determined that it contains no materials in sufficient quantities that can cause acute or chronic health problems. Simply put, an ACMI certification means that a non-toxic product will not harm you. In order to claim that a product is safe for cosmetic purposes, it needs to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We have not pursued FDA approval since this product is craft paint and not intended or recommended for use on the skin.


Reactions: YES! I've seen it! On my own children. (And myself). One of my children (with sensitive skin) had been painted with one of those "acrylics" when she was younger. Also she had been painted on the forehead with (I think fabric paint?) to make that jeweled head band look. What a nightmare! Now, I understand that she has sensitive skin already. She's almost allergic to the sun!!! But... as a Mom, who told the painter that she had sensitive skin, and, the painter who said it was fine... (This was before I knew about "real" face paint). Anyways... My daughter had scabs on her forehead for a month! And, on her arm, it itched so bad that she scratched it raw! This is one of those situations of "If I knew then what I know now" type. I would have sued this woman if I knew better! Maybe it would have helped her to realize how  inferior her paints were! Honestly, I'm not a sue happy person. When I called this ahem... lady, and told her the problem, she just apologized and said sometimes kids have sensitive skin. I did explain to her that I had told her this before she even started. Obviously, I didn't get anywhere. I called her again later after I talked to a professional face painter, and complained about the acrylic paint, and shame on her, she should have known better because I certainly did not. I was relying on her professionalism to know the difference. She insisted her paint was fine, etc... Now that I am a face painter, I make sure that most parents that I paint for know the dangers of using acrylics. I have the info on my brochure and I'm 
going to put it on my website. I make sure I let marketing companies know this information also. I also place a sign about face paint safety at my booth when I'm painting at a festival. I still let my children (all 6 of them) get painted at fairs and such, but, if we've been waiting in line and I see that acrylics are being used, I will definitely say loud enough for everyone to hear (but not loud enough to be obnoxious), "Sorry kids, we can't get painted here. She or he, is not using paint that is safe for the skin. And if someone happens to ask ( and sometimes they do) I will explain the danger. etc. My daughter is very lucky. She doesn't have permanent markings. (It has been 
years now) but she did have faint markings on her head and arm for almost a year! Flame me if you must. I'd rather be educated then sued! Also, I think that safety is #1! Now, please don't confuse my post for a flame because it is not. I just wanted to make sure that I wrote my experience since someone on the list asked. Note: When using safe FDA complaint paints on my daughter, NO REACTIONS! Safe paint for safe skin! Have a good day everyone.

Jenna Rose
Daisy Twist Company  Colorado Balloon & Decor/Daisy Twist 


I do know of a face painter who was sued while using acrylics. Apparently the child fell asleep on the couch with the acrylic paint on the face. The mother stated that she had a lot of trouble getting the paint off her child's face 
causing irritation and that it would not come off her brand new couch. Needless to say, she won and it was a very costly experience for the face painter.  I have not talked to her in a long time, but I will try to find her and if 
she's on line I will ask her to share her experience with us. My own feelings are: with so many safe and wonderful products available today why take any chances? BETTER BE SAFE THAN SORRY!

Mama Clown

Dear Gary,

Binney & Smith does not recommend any of our products be used to paint directly on the skin, including LIQUITEX acrylic paints. Products designed for this purpose require approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Liquitex products do not require this approval.

Most Liquitex paints are certified non-toxic by the Art & Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) and earned either a Certified Product (CP) or Approved Product (AP) seal. The CP seal gives assurance to consumers that our products exceed specific quality standards, while the AP seal concludes these products meet those standards. Both seals assure the products contain no known toxic or harmful substances in sufficient quantities to be injurious to the human body, even if ingested.

Those Liquitex products which do not carry these seals have, instead, a Health Label (HL) that certifies the product is properly labeled, and indicates special precautions that should be taken to ensure safe, proper use of these materials. Liquitex cadmium acrylic colors bear this type of label.

Thank you for interest in Binney & Smith and Liquitex products. I hope you continue to visit our Internet site.


Linda Arnold
Consumer Affairs Representative

 on 12/29/99 11:30:25 AM

cc: (bcc: Crayola/Easton/US/B&SInc) 
Subject: Liquitex Web Site: Techniques Feedback 

From: "KT"
To: "Forum for face painters to ask questions and learn/teach the art of face painting."
Subject: Acrylic Paints and Face Painting- My Opinion
Date: Tuesday, March 20, 2001 5:22 PM

Acrylic Paints and Face Painting– My Opinion

If you use acrylic paints, I dare you to read this article and not be changed by it. I don’t usually preach but this is one subject I feel strongly about. If you are already a believer or converted to this way of thinking, please step up and join the choir.

Where to begin?

Acrylic paints are known and proven to have carcinogens in them. Carcinogens are ‘cancer-causing agents.” Ask the manufacturers of acrylic paints. They will tell you the same thing.

There seems also to be a misunderstanding of the term “non-toxic.” Non-toxic only means that something will not kill you if you ingest it. (At least not right away.)

It appears to be the perception that just because one has used acrylic paints on the skin and witnessed no ill effects, that it’s OK to use them.

Consider this:

One cigarette will not give you cancer. But, how would you feel if a trusted friend gave your child a cigarette?

One bad sunburn will not give you a malignant melanoma (skin cancer.) But, how would you feel if the teacher or camp counselor would not permit your child to wear a hat or the sunscreen you had provided for them?

One wine cooler during pregnancy may not cause fetal alcohol syndrome. But, how would you feel if someone spiked your soft drink, without your knowledge? (And you are pregnant)

One x-ray will not give you cancer. And why do you think X-ray Technicians wear a device to monitor their exposure to X-Rays? 

One shot of cortisone (a steroid) will probably not damage your liver and has its place under proper medical supervision. But, how would you feel if your child’s coach encouraged or offered steroids to enhance their performance in their sport or activity of choice?

You can probably get away with not wearing your seatbelt some of the time. But, which time? And how would feel if a friend or family member couldn’t be bothered to buckle-them-in and let your children stand up in the car?

I think the answers to all of these questions are that you would probably feel anywhere from mildly annoyed to outraged. Your feelings are valid. Choices were made for you, probably against your wishes and without your knowledge. Someone risked something they had no right to risk. (And in some circumstances – broke the law.)

Part of the fury of your feelings stems also from the fact that these people who took risks on the behalf of others, did so from a position of authority, or perceived expertise, or willfully disregarding your stated preferences.

Someone charging money for a service, such as a face painter, may be perceived as a competent expert. The general public might think: “They get paid for this, so they must know what they are doing.”

Yes, some might say that they have used acrylic paints on skin and nothing untoward happened. There was no rash, the child’s nose didn’t fall off, they didn’t fall to the ground screaming and writhing in pain. They may have even complimented the painter on their technique or design and how vibrant the colours appeared.

It’s one thing to decide as an adult, to smoke, or to drink, or to risk not wearing a seatbelt. And I grew up in the 70’s when we all bought tanning oil to literally fry ourselves in. No one had ever heard of SPF levels let alone would purchase such products that could actually prevent you from tanning! How absurd!

Now, we know better. Knowledge is responsibility. It’s one thing to make choices for you. It’s another matter to risk that, which is not yours to risk.

I encourage anyone who thinks that it’s OK to use acrylic paints on the skin to contact the manufacturers of acrylic paints. Ask them “Are acrylic paints safe to use on the skin?” Is that too much trouble? Then try this: Post a sign that says “Face Painting - $X – We use products known to have cancer-causing agents in them. Wanna risk it for a beautifully painted face?”

From: "Pat Lockwood"
Date: Tuesday, March 27, 2001 11:48 AM

Gary several years my daughter and I were at a renaissance fair in CO. From what I know now the person doing the painting used acrylics. Within 10 minutes the child was in tears and there were blisters raised on her face. She was 10 at the time...and this was the only time in her life she had a severe reaction. The pain was such that the child was sobbing. It almost looked like a chemical burn.

Pat Lockwood

From: "KT"
To: "Forum for face painters to ask questions and learn/teach the art of face painting." 
Subject: Acrylics
Date: Monday, March 19, 2001 6:55 AM

Hiya List,

I remembered that I had saved this particular email from Hopeful the Clown. You can see from the date that this appeared on the forum in it's earliest days, and many of you may have missed it. (or weren't yet members)

I remember that this particular email had quite an impact on the forum members at the time, and many swore off using acrylic paints right then and there.

Read this and see what you think.


From: hfulprod
Sent: Monday, November 29, 1999 4:42 AM
To: Forum for face painters to ask questions and learn/teach the art of face painting.
Subject: Acrylic Paints

In October of 1987 when I first started to research products used in face painting. I wrote to the Binney Smith Company who market the Liquitex Acrylic Paints (this was even before people started using them for air brush face painting, they were used just as paints by some face painters) and I asked them for their MSDS (Material safety Data Sheet) Liquitex Acrylic Colors in Tubes, Jars and concentrated Artist Colors!!

Below is some of the information I received!

A-Chronic Health Hazards: Contains soluble cadmium. Avoid using if pregnant or contemplating pregnancy. Exposure may cause harm to developing fetus. Not for use by children.

B-Chronic Health Hazards: Contains soluble nickel. May be harmful if swallowed. Exposure may cause damage to the testes. When using do not eat, drink, or smoke. Not for use by children.

c-Medical conditions aggravated by exposure: Pre-existing skin, eye and respiratory disorders may by aggravated by exposure to this product.

D- Emergency and First Aid:
1- Eyes: Flush with water for 15 minutes. Call Physician if symptoms exist.
2- Skin: Wipe off excess and flush with warm water and soap.
3- Ingestion: consult Physician, hospital, or poison control center.
4- Inhalation: Remove victim to fresh air and treat symptomatically.

E- Carcinogenicity: The ingredients of this product are on the toxic substance control act (TSCA) inventory.

F- Do not store near extreme heat.

G- For Airbrushing" Use NIOSH certified respirator. Do not inhale spray from airbrush. Use adequate ventilation to control fumes vapors and dust/. Do not airbrush colors 162, 168,161, 312,154,157,168, 150,152,and 160.

Before I write the entire MSDS I would think anyone who would read this would not use this on children's skin or anyone's for that matter. Each color of Acrylic paint contains different combinations of chemical to make up the finished pigment. If you used 3 colors on a child and if each one contained 3 or more chemical combinations, think of how many chemical are being applied to the skin. As everyone knows children like to leave their painting on till it is completely unrecognizable to us. (Yes I know some Parents make their children wash that day others do not) With all the above information their is not telling what the effect it could have now or later. Personally I have been painting sense 1982 and I have learned that you should only use products that are recommended for face painting by the MANUFACTURER'S In sending this information I am in no way judging or accusing painters I am just a concerned face painter who value the children I paint and would not want to harm them in any way and I offer this information for all face painters. 

Hopeful the Clown


Just something to think about.

Katie Hunt

From: "verizonmail" 
To: "" 
Subject: acrylics
Date: Tuesday, March 20, 20019:31AM 

Mackee and the list- 

Years ago manufactures and people used lead based house paints in their home because it provided the best coverage as well as a very long lasting coating for their homes . The results still are considered fantastic . Then as time went on we have come to learn that some toddlers would eat bits of the paint as it flaked (we all know toddlers are human vacuums) . We have also come to know that children get lead poisoning and either have severe reactions or even death . Knowledge is good . We no longer allow lead based paints any where in the USA. 

Now I'm not going to tell you that you will die because of acrylic paints . I'm just saying despite the fact that several on this list use acrylics it simply is not the right thing to do . I DON'T CARE if you get a nice crisp shinny tweety bird when you use acrylics and I DON'T CARE if they apply so smooth and I DON'T CARE if they have so many bright colors and I DON'T CARE if you can buy them at 10 stores in town and I DON'T CARE you have been painting for 25 years using acrylics with no lawsuit . The bottom line is even the suppliers of acrylic paints will tell you that they should not be used on the face. 

Go back to my earlier challenge . I want to see an acrylic manufacturer put in writing for the list or for their own web page that THEIR acrylics are safe for use on the face. I'M TELLING YOU THAT IT WILL NOT HAPPEN. Put me to the test! Take the challenge. Tell me your favorite brand of acrylics and I'll talk to the manufacturer myself and prove it to you hard headed acrylic users. 

I know there are some die hard acrylic users on this list and there is nothing that I or anyone can do to change that. But use acrylics KNOWING FULL WELL THAT YOU ARE OPERATING AGAINST THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION. You are setting yourself up for a fall. It is a matter of time before you will not be allowed to paint at festivals, or schools or fundraisers because you are not using FDA approved materials. I'm telling you that this time will come. 

I have sent free samples of products to acrylic users to encourage them to give it a go. 

Despite the fact that smoking is known to cause cancer my sister still smokes 3 packs a day . I can't change that any more than I can change those that want to use acrylic face paints. You have free agency. I'm just telling you that if I saw someone using acrylics at a public event I would report them to the show management as a POTENTIAL safety issue and a liability. 

You do what you want. Of course I'm partial to American made Ruby Red face paints but if you do not want to use Ruby Red face paints at least look for a face paint on the market (and there are several) that are FDA approved and have a "child toy safety rating". 

If you honestly are a face painter that uses, acrylics only, please e-mail me privately. I'll send you a free sample to try. I'm telling you right up front that it will not have the shine of your acrylic paints or not have that bright UV look of acrylics. But I'm telling you that it has been highly tested for safety. We literally have spent tens of thousands of dollars on safety testing. For the acrylic users make sure you send me an address to send it to.  If you don't want my free paint then look for another safe paint and try them out. Either that or start looking for good legal advise when you blister some child's face. 

Better safe than sorry, again, there are too many FDA approved paints on the market to be using something unsafe. If your manufacturer will not put in writing it is safe for the face that should be like a giant warning sign to you. 

Bye... stepping off my soapbox... 

Gary Cole 

From: "Peggy Swimm"
To: "Forum for face painters to ask questions and learn/teach the art of face painting." 
Subject: acrylics
Date: Thursday, April 05, 2001 8:39 AM

Hi from Pinkie . . . .
Don't mean to preach here, but I agree with Gary. Although I didn't contact the distributors of the acrylic paints I use for crafts (Delta Ceramcoat & DecoArt Americana) I have been teaching craft/painting classes for 25 years, and would never dream of using them on skin, far less my face! According to the Americana bottle: "Perfect for tole and decorative painting, stencilling and general craft use. Use on wood, styrofoam, paper, primed metal, plaster, canvas, fabric and ceramics." And, from the Ceramcoat bottle: "For painting on wood, plaster, leather,
bisque, paper mache and other craft surfaces." I guess it all depends on the individual who uses the acrylics
(just the same as my use of the Caran D'Ache crayons). IF you want to take a risk on yourself, well that's your business, but should we risk the children?? I honestly thought the Caran D'Ache WAS safe for use on children's faces, because that's what I had been told by several clown friends. I live way down at the southern most tip of Nova Scotia, a good 3 hours drive away from the nearest City (Halifax) and I don't get there very often. When I would go to a (favorite) toy store, they had the Caran D'Ache paints in with their face painting supplies, so . . . .
It's an honest mistake - and now I know, and even tho' I may continue to use them on myself, I AM NOT planning to ever use them again on children! THANKS so much for bringing up on this list about acrylics - because that is what attracted me in the first place!! I guess my final word on acrylics is: use it on yourself if you like, but it is NOT safe for children's skin (I've learned from experience spilled paint in the children's craft classes (we wash our hands a LOT just to be on the safe side!) Enamel paint is for metal - Poster paint is for paper - Fabric paint is for fabric - Face Paint is for faces - and, acrylic paint is for ? - CRAFTS!!


We have been sued twice over the substances used in our Face Painting. (US not our brother in law or another clown from our alley).

The cases were over very quickly (six months, which I am told is quick) because of two reasons: 
1) we only use stuff that has been approved for skin use by some agency of the Federal government.
2) we do not use acrylic craft paint (We want to congratulate Susabelle for being very LUCKY for thirty years)

Both cases were very similar.

Situation was a child had gotten face painted at very large festival with multiple face painters 
Child exhibits signs of allergy reactions, and is rushed to hospital. 
Child recovers after several hours. 
Test in hospital reveals that child is allergenic to the acrylic craft paint and several other things at the festival. (peanuts and balloons)

Relative of Child (who happens to be lawyer) convince parents to sue festival organizers, all of the face painters at festival, and city where the festival is held, and the manufacturers of the face paints. 

We were dropped from the lawsuit because of Reasons #1

The manufactures argued successfully (and were dropped from the lawsuit), that they could not be help responsible for problem resulting from an unintended use of their products The Clown who used the acrylic craft paint disappeared, leaving the City to pay for everything. (This after the festival group went bankrupt). City
decides to settle because the cost of litigation. It also seems the clown (both times) did not have insurance (They were saving money on that and the paints). According to their deposition, they were doing that to reduce cost so that they could pass it onto their customers. Which was interesting because they were charging the same amount
for their face painting as we were.

End Result

1. Child in the hospital
2. A settlement of more than $10000 and less than $25000 by the city to the child's parents
3. A loss to us of several hundred dollars each year, because we can not do face painting at any festival in the city, that made the settlement. That's 6 festivals a year down the drain.


We do not have an opinion, we have a four inch file with facts (A list of cases involving acrylic face paints)

Do no use any paint on a child's skin unless it has been approved by an agency of the federal government or you are taking a gamble on not getting caught by the parent of hypoallergenic child (a kids who is allergic to everything)

When you caught, you are going be in a very poor legal position. The lawyers will make you pay for your gamble.

Spend the extra money on the approved stuff. It's cheap insurance. Susabelle is right, we buy the approved stuff because of 'fear' The decision to buy the approved stuff is from a legal standpoint, not a medical standpoint Our lawyers could not find an medical study ever done on acrylic paints on skin. But they did find several cases of where people settled involving acrylic paints (including two models who had their entire body paint with gold acrylic paint and suffered allergic reactions to the paint, but I digress) But as always, if you want medical advice go to a doctor and for legal advice go to a lawyer and an insurance agent for insurance advice.

Do not depend on my opinion, I am not going to be responsible for paying your legal bills Please do not depend on insurance, medical and legal advice from a bunch of clowns.

Steve Finch
Balloon Crew

From: "Plaid Creative Team"
To: "'Talk To Plaid User'"
Cc: "'a'"
Subject: RE: Message from PLAIDonline User
Date: Wednesday, April 04, 2001 2:57 PM

Dear Gary

Thank you for your email regarding our Apple Barrel acrylic paint. We do not recommend them for face paint, although they are non-toxic, they do not have the FDA approval for face painting.


Plaid Consumer Advisory Team


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