by Gary Cole - last updated Feb 2019

A common question is how are the face paints affected by high temperature and what can I do about it? I can not speak for all brands, but I can tell you that every brand that I am aware of, is effected by the heat. It is kind of the nature of the beast. In all of the top fifteen brands you basically have a set of colored FDA compliant pigments mixed with a variety of fillers like talc, kaolin or calcium carbonate that are held together with what is referred to as binders. These binders are generally some sort of wax or glycerin base. During production the wax phase is heated and blended with the pigments. As they cool the face paints go from a very thick paste to a semi-solid. These binders, in all brands, by nature, get soft when they come in contact with direct sunlight and temperatures from 85 to 105 degrees. If you stay under 80 degrees you will never know this. Unfortunately most people live in areas where in the summer the heat it can get well beyond the 80 degree mark. It does not help that many amusement parks and zoos are in peak season when it is hot outside and kids are not in school. The face painter can try to work in air conditioned areas but that is not always possible. I will address this issue from the perspective of Ruby Red face paints but these guidelines generally will work for the other brands out there. ALL BRANDS can get softer in the hot sun. You simply have to do your best to control your conditions or adapt to your painting methods when exposed to high heat. No doubt there are some tricks that will greatly help you. There are also things you can avoid that add to the problem. I openly admit I cannot vouch for every brand on the market. This is broken into multiple parts,  product related and  in regards to the product while on the face and problems that heat causes.

I will add that some brands are much more affected by high heat and humidity. The made in China brands that are paraffin based and those that are grease paints are going to be much more affected by heat and humidity. On the professional face painter blogs and sites there is almost non-stop moaning about "gooey paints" and the China brands of professional paints. Avoid the China brands and that alone might fix your problem. Brands like American made Ruby Red Paints are glycerol based and they tend to do better in high heat. Ruby Red Paints has recently developed an alternate high-heat formula specifically designed for those problematic work areas of high heat. This is discussed later on.

I live in the Dallas, Texas area and in the summer months we can have 40 days or more where the temperature exceeds 100 degrees. On top of that we have a high humidity factor. Our humidity is not as bad as many coastal areas but it is certainly high enough to be a problem. Certain colors, particularly those that contain iron oxide pigments are more susceptible to the heat. They have the tendency to even absorb some of the moisture from the air during these high heat, high humidity times of the year. The colors that seem to be most effected are the black, pastel colors and skin tone colors.

If you are painting in high heat or direct sunlight I'm going to tell you up front you will be effected. I'm not sure I have the perfect solution but I'm going to tell you what I do and you might try these ideas yourself. Its not a problem that is only related to Ruby Red products. If you leave virtually any brand of face paint or cosmetic in direct sunlight and heat and it is going to either melt outright or at least greatly soften. The cure is to switch during the hot summer season to a high-heat formula or try one of our many suggestions. Your most expensive cosmetic brands will have more dramatic "heat properties" but most of those are more of a pressed powder and not water activated like most of the top brands of face paints. On those, you will not get the range of colors needed for face painting.  Because of Ruby Red Paints high pigment content and formulation our product holds up quite well as compared to what else is on the market. The high heat version of the formula is certainly going to resolve most of this concern. If you can afford to even buy the top colors like white, black and red in the high heat formulation just for the summer these problems might vanish. Most of the cosmetic brands will result in problems from chemical separation to a complete meltdown. Most brands in particular will tell you to not exposure your makeup to high heat. A hot, enclosed car, for example can easily exceed 140 degrees. You should never allow your paints to stay in your car in the hot summers. I'll add that manufacturers can make a formula that is more "heat worthy" but the after affect of that is when you then work in a cold environment, it takes more effort to get your paint to your desired creamy texture for painting. Yes, a high heat formula can be used in the winter but it takes more work to work into your desired creamy consistency. For some, it is just too much of a inventory issue to offer one set of colors for the summer and another set of colors for the winter. Our suggestion is for high volume painters to have paints for your particular working conditions. Especially if your peak season is when the amusement parks, zoos are in peak volume in the hot summer when kids are out of school. The same is for cruise lines that travel in the hot, humid Caribbean. 

Keep in mind heat, direct sunlight, high humidity or over watering will aggravate the problem.

Here are my personal tips...

1) The fast fix is to simply order a special high heat version of the top colors for your hot summer season. Even if you order just the top three colors white, black and red you will find most of your issues go away. With Ruby Red Paints high-heat formulas they are still a safe easy-on, easy off face paint but they take just a little more water and a second or two (literally) in your mix. The ingredient change is minor but very effective. Those paints have been tested in areas in the summer like hot/humid Houston, TX, the Chicago, IL Great Lake area, Miami, FL and on the Caribbean Cruise Ships with great success. Use the high heat formulas when your conditions need them.
2)  If possible attempt to control your environment, negotiate the opportunity to paint where the temperature is going to be 80 degrees or less. A trick we use is we charge a $10 per hour premium if it is over 85 degrees or under 50 degrees. Often, that alone is enough to get the indoor spot.

3) If you must paint in high heat attempt to keep the paint out of direct sunlight. The longer you are in sunlight, the worse it will get.
4) Try to avoid a black or dark paint tray as dark colors absorb heat. Light colors reflect heat better.
5) If you must paint in high heat store your paints on a cool surface. I have effectively used  "blue ice" (the plastic containers that you can freeze over and over). Also look for the large format pads used in the medical industry as these can be frozen and work well under your tray. You can buy them online for about $20. I've used them on four hour events where it is over 100 degrees and it works quite well. Those can be purchased in a wide variety of sizes.
6) After you finish painting, store the containers in the refrigerator or freezer for about 20 to 40 minutes (with them level and with the lid on). This generally brings them back to life.
7) Avoid over watering your paints. Avoid "spritzing" your face paints as most that do tend to overwater their face paints and that will make them go goopy on you and that is hard to recover from.
8) Keep out a smaller amount of paint. I have found if I am painting with a container only 1/3rd full I have the opportunity to "mix" the water in the paint on the unfilled portion of the container. This way I avoid sticking my brush or sponge full force into the soft paint. I feel this gives me a greater amount of control. The bare side of your container allows a small area to wipe down your brush before use.
9) For your black... keep extra containers in a chilled container or chest. Occasionally swap out the blacks or high use softer colors and this will resolve most problems.
10) Using black as an example, it can seem to turn to a thick paste in high heat and in sunlight. Remember the darker the color the worse the problem will generally be. If you are using a full container form a small well that will go down to the bottom of the container.  Then as you load up your brush with paint, if you are using a round brush roll the brush tip at the bottom or with a flat brush wipe the tip on the bottom to get the perfect amount of paint. With a little practice you can be quite effective and still get great results.
11) Avoid overloading your sponge or brush with the soft paint. If you need to load your sponge or brush avoid plunging your sponge or brush into the soft paint. Instead just barely touch the surface of the paint.
12) Put ice cubes in your face painting water. The coolness of the water on your brush or sponge does wonders to the hot paints. This really works.
13) Do not keep your paints out in your hot car or any area that is warm when not in use. The longer it stays in cool areas, when not in use, the better off it will be. I'll add that your car can easily get to 140 degrees in the summer. Leaving it at that temperature can destroy all the preservatives and they they will go bad quickly. If your face paints smell musty, they have probably gone bad.
14) In the evening or between events cool down your face paints to below 70 degrees. You can even put it in the freezer for a couple hours. TRY IT!

Sometimes when the paints get very hot you might see a little color separation. With Ruby Red face paints the true "separation" in the paint product is very minimal. Sometimes you will see some color variation on the surface but that should be no concern. Colors like turquoise, blue or green often show this more than other colors. Once you blend with your brush or sponge you will see the color becomes very consistent. This discoloration seems to be worse with the pastel or colors with blue pigment in them. When using a sponge avoid getting too much water and/or paint on your sponge.

Now I will address what to do to maintain that face you just painted on the child or adult. Ruby Red face paints, when properly applied, will dry to the touch on the skin, in 30 to 45 seconds. Avoid putting the paint on thick. Because the colors are bolder than many other brands, you can put them on thinly. You then can even touch the face without a problem. Our paints are water based and designed to come off with both moisture and friction. In the high heat or high humidity your perspiration will remoisturize the paint on the face. You will be fine as long as you do not touch the face. If you are in high heat and you paint a child that is jumping in the bouncy house working up a sweat, you better advise him/her to not touch their face. When appropriate, I always tell the child, "now in this high heat, you have to be very careful about touching your face. Do not do it." I might also add something like "and if you touch your dragon face it might make it look like a butterfly face and I know you would not like that." If you switch to the Ruby Red Paints high-heat formula you will find those face paints much more resistant to smudging on the skin even in high heat.

If your particular situation requires a face that is sweat proof and touch proof you should avoid any water based face paint. Water based paints, by design, are made for easy-on and easy-off applications. If you are a professional clown you could easily use Ruby Red face paints for your clown face if you are in a cool environment. However, if you are under the hot lights, do a lot of physical exertion, work in high heat, come in contact with water or are in a situation where fingers, clothing or other materials come in contact with your face, then you should investigate what is known as "grease paints" or alcohol based paints. I would avoid these if possible because they are much more difficult to apply and remove. You would not want to use these on children at a birthday part or festival. They are more suited for adults and professional use. Even the best brands, can clog the pores and add to the concerns of allergic reactions. The better brands of grease paints can endure the "sweat test". We do not recommend you ever using grease paints on children. Grease paints are difficult to remove and have a high chance of ruining clothing or other materials they come in contact with.

If you want to "strengthen" the staying power of water based paints in the heat you might try several things. This is not recommended or even needed if you are in a cooler area. You can "talc" the face or apply what is known as a "fixative" to help protect the water based coverage on your face. Some fixatives can be harmful to the eyes so these should be carefully used. With the brand Ruby Red you can purchase the Ruby Red pump spray fixative. It comes in a number of sizes from purse spray, 1 ounce and 2 ounce. It can be bought in higher volume if you are using an air brush.  Do an internet search for the fixative that works best with your brand. Some people even use materials such as heavy hold hair spray over the painted surface but these can be harmful if sprayed in the eyes. We do not recommend the use of these products particularly on children. We also do not recommend any fixative to be used within one inch of the eye. For most fixatives it is important you follow instructions. Most of these are alcohol/water based. On the first spray ONLY PUT ON A VERY LIGHT APPLICATION. If you spray it on heavy on the first pass, it can cause the face paint to drip. Once you first do the light pass and it dries, then you can go back with a heavier layer. Either way, do not use fixatives on broken skin and avoid the eyes. Some brands offer a light hold version and a heavy hold for professional use. The heavy hold versions often require a remover or a watered down version of alcohol or baby oil.

You may not have found the magic solution to high heat but with these tips you should be able to endure the hot summer months. The most important tip I could give you is to try to negotiate that indoor face painting experience. It will be the most enjoyable for you, the children as well as the paints.

Gary Cole
Ruby Red Paints Inc.


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