Hygiene Tips For Face Painting

by Ambah · 26 comments

Hello Everybody,

Wow can you believe it’s February already!  This month I am very excited to be an instructor at the Australian Body Art Awards Convention. This event began last year as a Face and Body painting competition, held in Melbourne, Australia, and has grown this year into a bigger competition with more categories to enter and a 3 day convention with additional pre and post convention classes being offered by a host of talented International Instructors including: Yolanda Bartram, Lucy  Bruillard and Christina Davison. Check out the website link below to find out more about this huge event for Australian Face and Body Painters. Come and visit if you can join us to either enter a competition, watch the awards or participate in one of the many classes on offer. I hope I get to meet some of you there.

I love all of the feedback and responses I get to my posts, and I really enjoy hearing about how you all do things, I have learnt from some of your tips and I am sure many others have too. This month I have decided to open up a topic that is usually a big discussion in my beginners class, the issue of Hygiene when face painting. I will post some of my tips on the topic and would love to hear your thoughts and ideas too.

common sense: plays an important role in hygiene matters. as I am sure most of you are aware that it is important not to paint over broken skin/cold sores to minimise the spread of contageous conditions. Even if the parent assures you its ok! discreetly offering to paint on the arm or elswhere instead so that the child still has a design without feeling embarressed is a tactful way to manage these situations.

regular kit cleaning: so that the paints are wiped clean, my brushes and equipent are regularly cleaned, steralized and air-dried. Throw out broken and untitdy items. This not only is essential for professional presentation, but it is also more hygienic and parents will notice that you take care.

sponges: Personally I like to use a fresh sponge per child. I find the benefit not only in presenting a hygienic approach, which parents have commented favourably on, but that it suits my technique too. I like load up my sponges with colours suitable  for the particular design and find that they end up with lots of colours on them anyway so I couldn’t really re-use them if I wanted to!

antibacterial gel: its great to have this on hand, regularly cleaning your hands with this between children will help to minimise the spread of bacteria.

I look forward to reading your ideas and comments.


You can also visit Ambah’s youtube channel here.

Face & Body Painting Workshops with Ambah 2011….

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Visit Ambah’s website here to find out  more about her workshops and tutorials and latest news.

Please visit the Courses page to view current workshop details.

Ambah travels throughout Australia and Internationally to teach. Please contact Ambah if you are interested in workshops in your area ambah@ambah.com.au

I look forward to hearing your comments,tips  and questions,  please leave  your comments below

Happy Painting!
Ambah xx

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Renee Thu at 1:25 pm

Hi very good topic
I am from Barbados, in the Caribbean and I was confronted by a Health Inspector with that same concern. Using a new sponge on each child is a good idea but costly, especially for a beginner or like me who have to pay twice for them due to currency. Hand sanitizer is also a good suggestion. Will incorporate these tips at my big event this week and see how effective it was.

Color Me Bad


Kim Thu at 1:45 pm

I never work on broken skin either – e.g. near a scab or rash or spot.


Sheila Williams Thu at 2:05 pm

Here’s another valuable tip on sponge use. Because sponges hold moisture, germs and bacteria can grow in them. If you want to reuse your sponges put them in a microwave for a couple of minutes after use. The heat will kill any germs that may be in the sponge and you can then reuse them.


Lisa Thu at 3:12 pm

One of the things that I recently started doing (and parents love) is wearing non-latex gloves and changing them between each child. The antibacterial solutions were so drying and honestly, nothing looks worse than having paint stain all over my fingernails and cuticles. I always felt like my hands still looked dirty. I also use a brush cleaner with warm water and I completely clean brushes between kiddos.

This things take a little longer to do and add some expense but I feel that they are worth it. Parents appreciate the extra effort. Several times, I’ve actually had parents tell me that they have never let their kids get their faces painted before, but once they saw how clean I was, they changed their minds. That’s the utmost compliment!


Sharon Danley Thu at 3:29 pm

I’m glad to see you bring this often forgotten subject forward. As a pro in a variety of makeup and hairstyling sectors, I’m stunned at how little artists practice the fine and important art of good hygiene. Your comments are dead on.

The only other point I would add is to make sure everything is cleaned BEFORE it goes back into your kit – not afterward at home. This will prevent cross-contamination and leave you feeling organized and not having to clean up once you get home.


Philadelphia Tivoli Fri at 5:42 am

Good tip Sharon!


Kathy Rollwage Thu at 3:46 pm

Ambah – I also keep baby wipes (hyper allergenic) on hand and clean the site of my painting, on each child. This is especially important during cold and flu season and benefits everyone.

I do this in addition to using the antibacterial products between each child. I also try to keep myself healthy (even going to the doctor to get an antibiotic for a sinus infection) so that I don’t come to a gig looking/feeling badly. Recently, I even had to give a gig to someone else, because I was simply too ill to go, but I did a follow up call and made sure it all went well and explained my recent illness.


Maria Thu at 5:28 pm

Hi Ambah, thanks for posting and I love your work! I use wipes on my hands for sure in between painting, I will wipe a child’s face if their face is yucked up (too much party!!) and for touching up my area. I always add brush bath to my water to keep the brushes fresh in between paintings. I do reuse my sponges though..it seems that it would be costly to use a new one after each face?? Happy painting, Maria/Facepainting and Parties by Maria


Deidre Rosenberger Thu at 5:47 pm

Wonderful reminders! I have a separate pouch that I place dirty brushes in so that I can wash them at home. I too wipe dirty faces with wet paper towel. (Although – I LOVE the baby wipe idea!) And I make it a point to change my water often which also has cleaner in it.

Now – here is a question for all of you. I’m going to be face painting on the street before the St. Patricks Day parade. I need to be mobile to move up and down the crowd. Any suggestions on maintaining hygiene while being moble?


Nikki Thu at 7:09 pm

How do you sterilize your brushes and equipment? Also what type of sponges do you use, as I would assume that you have found some that are economical as well as good!?


Helen Thu at 11:09 pm

I have a question about head lice on children. What do you do, I have never been in this situation untill recently?
I would normally work on the arms to avoid the face and my hand on their head – gloves sound good for this but I was put in a situation last week were the family has nits and unfortunately I noticed just as I started and did not want to embarrass the child and as they were painted the other sibling also wanted their face painted and he also had nits. I had to call the mother and inform her about the nits discreetly.


Vickie (Perky the clown) Fri at 12:11 am

I purchase pink gloves from my dentist office. My outfit is pink so that works! They are latex free. I suggest anyone having a low immune system to protect themselves, as well as the faces you paint. i find I have no problems grasping brushes and my nails benefit greatly. I clean up before taking them off.


Coralina.Art Fri at 10:45 am

Being allergic to rubber chemicals (Thiuram Mix), I have to take very strict measures so I am unable to do children’s parties. For the most I stick to open air events, use Latex free sponges and gripless brushes. But Thiuram Mix Chemicals are also antifungacidal so utmost care must be used when working with so called hygiene products. If skin is reacting now to latex then 1. don’t use the gloves. 2. use old fashioned soap and a good hand cream. 3. Use old towels that have been boil washed and sterilised (cut and sew to size). 4. Wrap used brushes in a small plastic bag and during a break find somewhere to clean them properly. 5. Always boil wash and sterilise sponges after every event. 6. Most important – go and get a patch test done to find out what component of the latex gloves you are sensitive too – this could trigger a severe reaction at an unexpected moment. Better to be forewarned.


Suzie Fri at 2:52 am

I use soapy water for the initial cleaning and then put my brushes in alcohol water for a few minutes to sterialize them I air dry and store in a closed container I never use the sponge The make-up sponges work great I like the wedges myself I have antiseptic hand cleaner by me at all times


Janice Fri at 4:37 pm

We lost a great account because a child broke out with an allergy and the mom showed pictures to our client right Most parents know that their children are allergic, but sometimes it is a surprise.
I use Snazaroo with confidence. So we researched Snazaroo for hygiene tips:
I am a registered nurse and am particularly picky. But it was pointed out to me by a world famous face painter in our US area that Snazaroo has so many preservatives that it is basically anti-bacterial. It is also very easy to clean .
The soaps we use to clean our brushes/ products can be the culprit to outbreak! We all need to go directly to our manufacturers to get their suggested cleaning & product composition advice. This increases our confidence.
During our crisis it came out that “Huggie’s wipes” were safer for cleaning myself and my clients. I’m sure there are other suggestions, but Huggies was suggested as being the least aggravating to the skin (if one chooses to use wipes.)


shazz Tue at 4:33 am

I am very pleased there are so many facepainters who are careful with hygiene. I too have a nursing background and so am aware of things others may not be. I am sensitive to latex and many so called “skin products” or soaps. This is what I do… and I’ve had parents positive comments too and this is how I train my girls…

Brushes: Use good brushes and clean and rinse well between gigs with safe soap like “Sunlight Soap or Pears”. Between colours when painting I rinse in a small bucket then rince again in a shot glass of clean water that is changed between each face. That way they never got all clogged up and white paint stays white.

Paints: Clean your paints after each gig and as needed during a gig with wipes. No one wants to set up with dirty looking paints at the next gig or get home and have to clean, do it as you pack up, saves time too. If you can put your paints out in the sun for 5 minutes when you get home that will add too.

Sponges: I buy a sheet of sponge (latex free) and cut it to size. Cost very little per piece and I don’t mind thowing them away if yukky! I have used the purpose sponges but did find them very costly. I rinse them in water then put in a delicates bag and wash in the machine, gets them clean, then sun dry for natures antibac solution! That way all the kids can have a clean sponge. I have seen others reuse sponges one after the other and just would like to ask??? what are they transfering to their paints and to each face??? AhgG!

Anti bacterial solutions: sun is best for sponges, Any good quality gel is better than nothing, parents appreciate you just having it there just in case! I rinse my hands regularly and use a fresh hand towel for each gig and paper towels.

Wipes: I use the Mamia ones from Aldi. They are pretty much the same as Huggies brand. I also ask the child if it would be ok to give their faces a little wipe before painting if they have cake or chocky traces. Sometimes if they are older I get them to clean their own faces. But I never paint over food or residue of any kind.

Skin: Never paint over broken skin or rashes or alergies or mozzie bites, even if mum says it’s ok. Paint on the upper arm or outer wrist if concerned about allergy, less likely to break out there. The inner wrist, elbow and face are the first places to show allergy. Look at the area you are going to paint and if at all concerned…gently speak to the parent and don’t paint it, just to be safe. You’re not the one who has to deal with it later!

Head Lice: OMG! Yes they are about. If you started painting before you realized then quickly finish and gently speak with the parent, It is hard but I would not do the siblings if they have signs of head lice, even if they cry! Think of yourself and the next faces you are going to paint. Be gentle and discreet.

Clean Water: I use a small bucket with about 10 cm water in it and a plastic drinking glass and a disposable shot glass. I start with 1 litre of water and fill the glass and shot glass, then tip most of the remaining water in the bucket. I rince out the brushes between colours in the bucket them give another rinse in the shot glass. The drinking glass is only for refilling the shot glass between kids, so each child gets clean water. I can paint 30 faces with 1 litre of water! It works. Try it. Keeps your brushes clean, paints clean and even more importantly keeps you stress free from cross-contamination.

Hope this helps someone, I love facepainting in ideal conditions and if they aren’t ideal, I make them!!! :) Happy painting!


ambah Tue at 7:11 am

thank you everybody for so many useful responses. I always love to hear how other painters work.
It is important to be clear about your process, I had a mum tell me on the weekend that it would be fine for me to paint on her son’s broken skin, she was insistant and the child was very upset that I wasn’t able to paint the design he wanted. I was adament that this was not possbile and we worked out a solution with resulted in a happy child and happy me!

if you’re not sure, it is best to seek advice and know that you are taking the safest approach.

happy, safe painting!


Debbie Debuty Fri at 8:50 pm

Hi, Concerning using the anti.B sanitizer. . . Be careful about over using these products. Your hands/skin drinks whatever you put on it. Using it between each child is way too much to be healthy for you. You can pick up sanitizers at a health food store that has less/no caustic chemicals in them for you. You are also breathing it. Many people are having issues because of overuse.
Unscented baby wipes work best. I love the idea I read of wiping each face with a baby wipe. Have not done it yet. I wonder if I could wipe four kids with one wipe. Do an assembly line. Fold it in half and then again. Wipe 1, flip it over wipe 2, turn it 3, then 4. Then the first face would be dry. Clean paints at end of booking when poss. Never put brushes away dirty.
Cosmetic wedge sponges are avali. at Sally’s Beauty Sup. in big bags and work well for powders. (Get a disc. card) They wash and dry well several times. I use 1 side per face or color. Dirty labeled cont. sits on table. Clean sp. come from another container. I love what we do!


Face Paint Kids Tue at 12:44 pm

Great tips! People having parties and planning to have face painting activity would really need to remember these things. Thank you so much for sharing!


Crystal Sun at 3:05 pm

Hi all,
I’ve recently been inspired to start kiddies face painting. It’s a great idea to make additional money, as well as being a good creative outlet. Your posts have been very informative :) Just one question. How will I know that I am buying a decent paint that won’t cause problems? I’m South African so might not have access to brands you are familiar with. I know it must be waterbased, but how else can I tell?
Will Appreciate some tips/guidelines :)


Ambah Mon at 2:01 am

Hi Crystal,
I have no hesitation in reccomending all of the paints and products sold here at Facepainting tips. Personally I like to use the Paradise brand of paint for bases and I would use the diamond FX for line work(black and white), metallics and split cakes.

I hope that helps


Natasha Sun at 8:22 pm

Hi, I am a beginner and just wondering when some of you say that you ‘wipe down’ your paints after use to clean them…..how do you actually do it? I would imagine that u are wasting alot of product by doing that???… Also I wondered if you are using a sponge for the base colour-lets say its white for a ghost,so you may have to dip the sponge into the white several times until you have the childs face entirely white…so isnt this transferring germs into the paint over and over again? …so then.. when using white again on the next child (even while using a new sponge) the previous childs germs are transferred from the paint to the next child…wouldnt this be correct? Imagine all the infections that little kids can have maybe not visible even in the period of time before the infection breaks out e.g. conjuntivitis(eyes) or chicken pox, scabies, etc.. Anyone know how to get around this one?? thanks.


Jayne Sun at 5:43 pm

Hi Ambah, I have recently been told there is something you can out into face painting water to sterilise it. Do you know of anything that would do that and yet still be safe on kids faces?


Lynae Tue at 12:09 pm

How do you maintain brushes between each paint session? I have only read to use clean water to rinse between, is that it?


Philadelphia Tivoli Wed at 12:32 am

Water is fine while you’re working but at the end of a gig, use a brush cleaner or conditioner to give it a thorough clean and help it last longer like Mehron Brush Cleaner.


Tierney Tue at 3:31 pm

Hi there…I have a question. I have been painting faces for the past several years and always clean my gear and supplies. I always clean my brushes with brush cleaner and sponges in a very mild bleach bath after each event and wipe down my cakes. But Lately, 2 out of 5 of the parties I have done about 5 kids have broken out in rashes from the paints. I use Diamond FX, TAG and Mehron Paradise cakes. Any idea what it may be? thanks for any advice.


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