* Safety and what to do if you have an allergic reaction concern - All brands *

Allergic reactions when using face paints should be extremely rare. This is discussed in relation to Ruby Red Paints and its products at www.rubyredpaint.com/safety.htm but in perusing the many social media sites the concern for allergic reactions seem to be more of a weekly occurrence with professional face painters with some less reputable brands.  While all cosmetics on rare occasion can cause an allergic reaction the reactions found in the face paint industry seem to come in MUCH HIGHER NUMBERS from face paints that are manufactured in China factories. I am not trying to imply you can't purchase face paints that are safe from China. I am simply stating a fact that statically the allergic reactions come more from paints manufactured in that part of the world. This particular FAQ is going to focus in three areas 1) What causes an allergic reaction and how does one know if the allergic reaction most likely came from the face painting 2) What you personally can do to prevent allergic reactions and 3) What to do if you have an allergic reaction while face painting.

1) What causes an allergic reaction and how does one know if the allergic reaction most likely came from the face painting.

Most of the top face paint manufacturers have spent literally tens of thousands of dollars on safety testing. Most of them have a real concern for safety. With that said all face paint companies are not and should not be treated equal.  For example Rose Art brand was recalled for a 28% allergic reaction rate. In 2009 there was a recall by Fun Express for high allergic rates. Both of these brands were made in China. We would suggest one avoids the brands that only are seen in the stores near Halloween. They tend to be lower quality with lower inspection standards. If one gets six colors of paint for $1.99 there is a reason. Like with most purchases, one gets what they pay for. Buying from China alone should raise a red flag. So lets first talk about what can cause an allergic reaction. An allergic reaction can be caused by literally thousands of reasons which can include an ingredient in the formulation, poor cleaning conditions of the face painter's tools (sponges and brushes), the products used to remove the face paints and even what the child ate or put on their skin before they came to the event. I stress that the odds of an allergic reaction, even a mild one should be very rare. Most allergic reactions are caused by the method the parent used to remove the face paints. One should be very leery about using some of the lower end baby wipes that are on the market. Personally I use an unfragranced high end Huggies or Pampers brand of wipe. While teaching some classes in Mexico I ran out of baby wipes. I went out to a local grocery store and purchased a well known brand because the brand of my choice was not available. In using the new brand we found that well over thirty percent of the class was having a mild reaction to the new brand of baby wipes I brought in. Many of the brands of baby wipes are very high in fragrance and have harsh soaps as they were not meant to be used on the face. When in doubt try to remove paints with something that is extremely mild. 

 While I am not a medical doctor one of the best ways to recognize an allergic reaction from face paints is to ask if the reaction was localized. In most cases the allergic reaction will appear in the specific spot where the face paint was. The photo below was from a little girl that was painted with face paints from China and she had a butterfly painted on her face. You can see that the reaction on the skin is in the shape of a butterfly. It is a pretty clear indication of a face painting related allergic reaction.

If the child had a reaction all over the face (and only part of the face was painted) it is most likely a result of the method in which the face paints were removed from the face. The only way to know definitively what caused the reaction is either with extensive allergy testing which can be painful and very costly or try to duplicate the reaction which will be discussed later. 

 2) What you can do to prevent allergic reactions.

There are many things a face painter can do to prevent an allergic reaction. I tell you I have been in this industry for many years and I have seem some pretty atrocious face painting products and face painting methods. As a face painter, you have an obligation to do your part to make sure you are not part of the problem. Make sure you are buying what you think is the safest product on the market. There are a lot of face paints that meet the legal requirements for ingredients but I would not want to put on my own children. The Rose Art example mentioned earlier is a good example. If there is a 28% across the board reaction you should want to avoid that product. Only buy your paints from reputable suppliers and make sure the product was meant to be used on the skin. There are well know brands that label their product "for hair and special effects" and the like when it should not be used on the skin. A face paint should be labeled cosmetic, meant for use on skin, FDA compliant or the like. The cheaper the product the higher your risk is going to be and that it is not what you would want on your child's skin as it might cause a reaction, be a product that stains or if you get it on fabric it will never wash out. Do your research before you buy. Ruby Red Paints which are manufactured in the USA not only complies with all cosmetic laws but it carries a child toy safety rating. A child toy safety rating is harder to achieve than a cosmetic rating. To get this your product must be safe even if the child abuses your product. In other words they possibly eat it, get it in their eye, nose or ears and if so what is the likelihood that harm might occur. That is the kind of face paint you should be looking for your children.

The next step is make sure you are using one brand. Find one brand that you like and buy all of your products from one brand. If you are using six different brands and have an allergic reaction how do you know what brand caused the reaction? Would you logically expect a manufacturer to back you up if they don't even know what brand caused the allergic reaction? Make sure the brand you buy has an adequate preservative system. Some brands are preservative free and therefore go bad after a few months. If your paints smell musty they have probably gone bad and you should discard them. Other brands use parabens as preservatives and that alone can increase your risk for an allergic reaction. Read www.rubyredpaint.com/faq/faqpreservatives.htm You also want to find a brand that totally avoids those ingredients that pose a higher allergic reaction rate. Some of the things you should watch out for is fragrance, latex, gluten, lanolin, nuts and the like.

You also have an obligation to insure that you are not part of the problem. We have seen some pretty atrocious painting methods. Many people work in an unhealthy environment, improperly store their paints and mix the paints with everything from brush and comb sanitizers to alcohol. You have an obligation to care for your work and painting environment. Some of the greatest offenders are those that use unsafe water, make "custom mixtures" or add items to the paints. Never put our products in metal containers. Avoid doing any of this. When you use Ruby Red in its original state and as instructed you can not find a safer combination (see the "ten commandments of face painting" at www.rubyredpaint.com/10.htm ). One of the big offenders is for people to use unsafe water. Use water that is fresh. If you take safe tap water and store it in a concealed container in warm temperatures it can grow harmful spores of bacteria. The water does not have a preservative system to prevent spore growth. Some painters store their water or even use "spritzers" to apply water. Make sure you refresh this water before every event. Impure water is a major factor in face painting. We strongly suggest you use fresh water at the start of each face painting activity. One of the worse things a face painter can do is improperly clean their face painting brushes and sponges. While most brands of face paints do a decent job with preservatives in the face paint it does not mean that your painting tools might not be a breeding factory for bacteria and mold. Adequately clean your sponges and brushes after every single job. Allow them to totally dry before you pack them away. Never store a wet brush or sponge in a sealed container like a poly bag or air tight plastic container. A wet brush or sponge will quickly cause problems. If you do this and then paint a child with that brush or sponge the first few children are getting a full dose of what you had growing in your brush. I cannot overstress you need to clean your tools and allow them to totally dry before you use them again. Also do not use your art brushes with your face painting brushes. Art materials have a totally different standard than face paints and if there is residual art products on your face painting brush this is going to be a problem.

Despite all of this care, all cosmetics, on rare conditions may cause an allergic reaction with varying statistics. If you have a child that is prone to allergic reactions it is suggested that you perform a patch test. The inside of the elbow tends to be a very sensitive area. Paint a stripe about one inch by two inches. Allow it to stay on the arm for 30 minutes. Remove the paint with just warm water and see if there is any redness. If there is then do not allow your child to be face painted. A reaction is highly unlikely with Ruby Red Paints.

3) What do you do if you suspect an allergic reaction.

First of all don't panic. Try to talk directly to the parent of the child that had the allergic reaction. You do not want to be talking to the friend of the mom of the child as it becomes harder and harder for you to get to the full details. A cosmetic reaction should be very rare and it is even more rare to have more than one child at a single event to have a reaction to face paints. Ask the parent if the allergic reaction was localized to the area of the face paints. If possible have them send you a photo of the face painted child and the photo of the allergic reaction. Send these to the manufacturer of your face paints and get them involved. If you are working with a reputable face paint supplier you should be able to get the face paint manufacturer involved in the conversation. Most manufacturers have multimillion dollar product liability policies just for this reason. A good manufacturer will work through any concern with the parent AND KEEP YOU IN THE LOOP SO YOU WILL BE FULLY INFORMED. If they manufacturer refuses to help you should never purchase their product again. If you suspect a reaction, over the counter Benadryl lotion generally will take care of the problem. If you have real concerns you should consult medical advice. If any reaction to any cosmetic product occurs it will probably happening the first fifteen minutes. It is unlikely you will find a reaction hours after the product has been removed. NEVER allow your children to be painted with acrylic paints, tempera paints, colored markers meant for use on paper or any other product that was not specifically designed to be used and worn on the face. Some of the products like acrylic paints can cause permanent scaring on some skin types (see  www.rubyredpaint.com/faq/faqacrylics.htm )    Acrylic paints contain polymers that are unsafe for use on skin.

One thing we do as a manufacturer is to try to find out where they purchased the product. We want to know what kit was purchased and used and all of our products have a batch code. With the batch code we can tell every ingredient that went into that batch and when it was manufactured. We ask the parent what colors specifically were used. In most cases we ask the parent if they would be interested in trying to isolate the cause. They can do this by expensive and painful (at times) allergy tests or we can send them samples of the colors use with very specific tests for them to try to duplicate the allergic reaction. This can usually be accomplished by painting a small area on the inside of the arm. In the history of Ruby Red Paints, when we send out the paint test material the allergic reaction has NEVER been able to be duplicated. For us this is a proof that the allergic reaction was not caused by having our face paints be used on their child.

So what is the bottom line here? Use only safe for the skin face paint products and buy from a manufacturer you trust and that you know will back you up. Properly clean all of your face painting tools. Avoid products that have ingredients that can increase your chance of reaction. Buy your product from one manufacturer.

Gary Cole. Ruby Red Paints Inc. gary@rubyredpaint.com


Read "Lucky 13 Tips for a safe Halloween" by the FDA at http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm230283.htm
Read "Color Additives Permitted for Use in Cosmetics" by the FDA at http://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/labeling/ingredientnames/ucm109084.htm

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