Is It Safe to Paint Your Body with Acrylic Paint - and Other Body Painting and Makeup Art Questions

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The cashier yelled “No”!

I was at Jerry’s Artarama picking up painting supplies for my first body painting piece.

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The cashier happened to ask me what I was painting, and I told her, “Myself”.

She looked at the acrylic paints I had.
She looked at me.
She cocked her head to the side and asked me through an inquisitive stare, “Are you planning on putting these paints on your skin”?

I said, “Yeah”.

Wide eyed, she immediately told me NOT TO DO THAT and then directed me to a costume shop that had the PROPER PAINTS I should be using to body paint myself.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you?

Luckily for me, I had someone who happened to be knowledgeable in body painting to point me in the right direction before I made a mistake of putting acrylics on my skin.

Surprisingly though, even some of the biggest body painters in the game like, Avi Ram & Natalie Fletcher from Skin Wars, had a SIMILAR experiece of using acrylic paint for their first body painting gigs.

 From  Avi Ram’s  Instagram

From Avi Ram’s Instagram

Like they both said during the interview:

“I didn’t know better. I took a guess and went with it”.

So we ALL guessed.
And man did we learn.

But I’ll get into the reasons why you should NOT use acrylic paint on your skin in a bit.

For this article, we’re going to talk about some of the 101s of body painting and makeup art that’ll help you get started if you’re new to the game.

So let’s jump into it.

Can I use acrylic paint on my body? Is it safe to apply on my face?

The short answer: Don’t do it.
The main reasons why:

  • Many of the paints have toxic ingredients in it. Overall, acrylic paint is not meant to be used on your skin.
    Even if the bottle is labeled “non-toxic” it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe to smear all over your body.

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  • Have you ever painted a t-shirt with acrylic paints? I have.
    And after it dries it feels stiff and there’s no flexibility to it.
    Also, and more importantly, there’s no ventilation, or air, going through it.
    Now imagine that your skin is the t-shirt.
    Your skin won’t be able to breathe.
    And it’s never a good idea to suffocate the largest organ on your body.

  • As Avi & Natalie told me when they used acrylic paint on their models for their first body painting gig, they had to keep retouching the models every 30-60 minutes.
    Why?
    Because the paint kept on cracking.
    The models weren’t sitting still.
    They were moving around, walking, throughout the night.
    Skin is flexible. Acrylic Paint is not.

  • When you use proper water-based body paints, you simply take it off with water and soap. You can use a towel, a loofah, or your hands - it comes off VERY easily.
    When you use acrylic paints it attaches to all the baby hairs of your skin and you have to peel/rip it off.
    It’s painful as hell.
    If you’ve ever been waxed, it’s EXACTLY like that.

What are the best makeup and materials to use for body painting?

For myself, I’m a black woman who needs opaque, water-based paints to paint herself.

And because of this, I’m a die hard fan of Ben Nye’s MagicCakes that are water activated.

 images from Puck’n Khaos IG

images from Puck’n Khaos IG

I use Mehron’s Liquid Makeup from time to time as well.
Specifically, I use their black, white, and browns.

Don’t trip over on how small those MagiCakes look.
I’ve had one cake last me for MONTHS, with heavy use, before I hit pan.

Some other popular paints are:

You can order them from Amazon, Silly Farm, or go to your local costume shop (NOT PARTY CITY!!!) and see what they have available.

 All using Ben Nye MagicCakes and Mehron in Black and White

All using Ben Nye MagicCakes and Mehron in Black and White

That’s how I found Ben Nye in my hometown.

Remember that acrylic paint story above?

That cashier sent me to a local theater and costume shop that had Ben Nye in stock.
They had samples and showed me how to use it and we tested swatches on my skin.

Meaning:

  • is it streaky?

  • is it opaque?

  • once applied is it cracking on my skin?

So if possible, and you can find a local theater and costume shop locally that holds any body painting material, test it out and see what works best for you.

Can I be a self taught makeup artist?

Abso-freakin-lutely!

In fact, I’d say that the majority of the industry, these days, is filled with people who are self taught.

They either learned from their friends, they took classes, or they watched a lot of YouTube videos and practiced. A lot.

  SonjdraDeluxe  YouTube channel

SonjdraDeluxe YouTube channel

If you want to learn how to become a makeup artist:

  1. Watch a YouTube video, and pick one look that you want to recreate. Let’s say that it’s Sonjdra’s look.

  2. Watch the video and take notes on all the materials and brushes she uses.

  3. Watch her technique.

  4. If you don’t have all the makeup in house, go out to your local Ulta or Sephora and purchase them. If they’re REALLY expensive then buy a color close to it (or a dupe).

  5. Then go home, play the video…pause…play the video…pause…and do your best to recreate Sonjdra’s look so it looks EXACTLY the same.

Now I’m going to say something that you don’t want to hear.

BE PATIENT.

There’s a good chance that it won’t look EXACTLY like hers the first time you try to pull this off.

And it’s okay.

In fact, it’s normal. 
Laughably normal.

In some shape or form, ESPECIALLY in the beginning - we’ve all had some (ahem!)…let’s call them ‘hiccups’, with the way we apply makeup.

Just remember:

Practice makes Progress.

Whatever question you have about makeup, I’m 99.99999% SURE, it’s been answered already.

You just need to find the beauty guru who’s the saving grace you’re looking for.

For example, I found out I have “hooded eyes”.

I went on YouTube typed that in and found my girl Alissa Ashley who had makeup tutorials SPECIFICALLY for hooded eyes.

Or one of the most legendary makeup artist is NikkieTutorials.

Just by looking at her eyes and mine, we have similarities.
So, why not copy some of her looks too?

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But let’s say that you want to become a PROFESSIONAL makeup artist that does makeup for others.

After you’ve mastered a few techniques on yourself, it’s time to drag your friends into the mix.

Usually if you say the words “free makeover”, they’re in.

AND, make sure you do this:

  • Make sure you take before and after pics (or video if you’re feeling confident) so you can, one - show the dramatic differences, and two - so you can see where you need to improve.
    Be a little critical with your work. It’s the only way you’ll improve your skills.

  • Ask them how their experience was. Ask them questions like - how do you REALLY feel about the look (and assure them they’re in a safe space to tell you the truth)? What did/didn’t you like about the experience? Are there any “ticks”, on my end, that annoyed you?, etc.

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  • And, a few times, just volunteer to do people’s makeup for free where you build up an impressive and consistent portfolio. 
    You can even participate in a local or college fashion show, doing the models makeup and getting used to the time constraints, the look the director wants, dealing with fussy clients (e.g., having them put down their phone while you do application), etc.

After you have about 10 clients under your belt that are happy with your work, it’s time to start asking for money.

But first - start practicing and messing up.
A LOT. 

Watch a lot of YouTube videos and experiment with different types of looks.
Find which ones you like most and MASTER them.

When you get comfortable in your own skills, you’ll be able to move onto the next level.

What’s a catchy name for a freelance makeup artist?

Honestly, no one’s gonna give a shit.

Call yourself by your name, use the WuTang Clan name generator, whatever.
It matters more that you can:

  • Do the job

  • Work well with others/Make the client happy

  • And are excellent with time management

Don’t get side tracked by something that doesn’t really matter.
HYPER FOCUS on those 3 things I mentioned above.

Pat McGrath who is considered “Mother” of the makeup industry doesn’t have a catchy name.
It’s just her name.

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And her reputation is FIERCE in the makeup art world for both her work and the quality of her products.

Again, focus your efforts on where they’ll move your ambitions forward - your highly polished talents.

Having a catchy name, alone, doesn’t do that.

How can one become a freelance makeup artist?

See the answer I put above for, “Can I be a self taught makeup artist”?
Also check out the article/podcast, “6 Ways to Build Your Reputation as a Makeup Artist on Instagram.

How do I convince my parents to let me study makeup art vs. going to college?

I stumbled across this question on Quora and found it interesting.
So here’s my answer to it.

So your parents want you to go to college and - ahem! rack up a LOT of debt that will be an anchor around your neck and hinder your life for decades to come - VERSUS becoming a makeup artist.

Here’s an extreme strategy I would use.

#1 - COMMUNITY COLLEGE

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Tell your parents the benefit of you going to community college, FIRST, to get all the basics of your degree, whatever it is, which will be ONE QUARTER of the costs, if not less, than going to a four year university first.

So you’ll be earning your English credits, your math credits, science credits, etc.

You know, the basic classes.

This will take you 1-2 years.

Tell them, “by doing this, you won’t be grabbing your heart every time you see that bill from my school every semester...plus, you know, money for books…parking passes…you know - those extra costs ON TOP of my tuition”.

Do the calculations and show them how much they’ll be saving by you going this route, first.

The numbers don’t lie.
And what parent doesn’t LOVE saving money.

#2 - Show Off the Goods

Your parents agreed to the community college.

Huzzah!

Now the REAL WORK begins.

You go to class and (basically) get it over with, but don’t let your grades slip.

But EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. that you go to class, I want you to show off the goods. 
And by goods, I mean your makeup skills.

 images of  Charity Leigh  on Instagram

images of Charity Leigh on Instagram

Can you do amazing lip art?
Show it off.

How about eye makeup?
Flaunt it.

Become the girl that comes to campus fully SNATCHED!

Though in reality, you’re just advertising what you do well.


In fact, either before or after class, hang out in the photography & videography department.
Anyone making any interesting movies or working on an interesting photoshoot concept?

Is there a fashion school at your college?
Go “grab a pamphlet” (hint, hint) and talk to some fashion design students and teachers about what they do there.

Go hang with the theater kids and watch them practice a few times.
Or go to an open audition.

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“I COULD NEVER TRY OUT FOR A PLAY!”, I hear you tell yourself.

Again, you’re not there to act.

You’re going to go there - in front of the decision makers with your FABULOUS MAKEUP WORK - showing off what you can really do.

Their makeup for photo shoots.
Their makeup for movie shorts.
Their makeup for theatrical plays, etc.

Anyways you’ll probably tank the audition.
Whatever.
But they’ll remember your rad looking face and your skills with layered eyeshadow colors.

So let’s say that they ask you to do the makeup for a theatrical play coming up.
When you first start off, with no portfolio, it’s okay to do it for free.

I know you probably rolled your eyes when I said ‘free’.
Or had this reaction.

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But the reason I say that you take the first FEW gigs (say no more than 5–7) for free is so you:

  • Get the experience with working with people who will ask you for COMPLETELY different looks (e.g., he needs a zombie, she needs to look like a vixen, he needs to look like he has abs, she needs to look like a robot, etc)

  • You build a strong portfolio

  • Word gets around about how talented you are

This’ll give you the greatest opportunity to try different kinds of makeup art and see which style you want to triple down on.

#3 - Document Everything on Social Media

Post it in Reddit Groups (e.g., r/unconventionalmakeup, r/makeupaddiction, etc).

Post it on your Instagram. 
Post it on your Facebook page. 
Tumblr. 
Pinterest. 
Facebook Groups.

Show the before and after shot.

Make a YouTube video or an IG video showing the before and after. 
Snapchat it. 
Do any, or all, of the above.

It further shows that you’re taking it seriously and that you can do AMAZING transformations. AND it’s something to show future clients who are interested in what you do.

#4 - Collect Testimonials

It’s just as it says. 

Get testimonials from directors, actors, managers, photographers, the models, and everyone -about how easy it was to work with you and how creative and professional you were.

#5 - Get Paid

You know what your parents are MOST worried about with you becoming a makeup artist?

It’s that, they think you can’t make money from doing this.

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So after you’ve started doing all of this and have built relationships with everyone, it’s time to tell them your price.

You can charge by the event (e.g., weddings, school dance, etc) and determine the price on the budget of the gig - whether big or small.

And honestly, if you don’t know what to charge in the beginning for doing one face, charge $50/hr.

If it’s a production and you have to do, let’s say, 7 faces - try to determine a price that makes sense for their budget and yours.

Factor in:

  • your time

  • materials

  • how big or simple the look is

  • is this going to be something that is shown once or will it be transmitted around the world via a commercial?

  • and more

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If the client wants you, they’ll figure out a way to work with you.

#6 - The Finale

Two years is a good amount of time for you to hustle on the side and network, while attending your college classes, while landing paying gigs.

If after those two years, your parents STILL want you to go to a 4-year university to get your bachelors - well, then you have to have a discussion with the parents.

It’s going to be hard. 
There may be tears.
There may be screaming.

But the proof is in the results and opportunities you’ve created in the past 2-years.
And all-in-all, your happiness is at stake here.

And you can also remind them that university isn’t going anywhere. 
It’s always going to be there.

But these opportunities that came up from you working your assets off for 2-years WON’T always be there.

So either you go for it now or regret not going for it later.

CONCLUSION

I hope this answered the majority of your questions.
If there are any other body painting questions that I might be able to answer, feel free to leave a comment below.

And to compliment this article, if you haven’t already, check out this article next.