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Types of Body Paint

Updated April 17, 2017

Before using body paint, it is important to know which ones last the longest and look the best. And for anyone who does not think body paint applies to their everyday life, there is also a surprising factoid about those jars in your cabinet or purse.

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Introduction to Body Paint

Body paint can be beautiful and expressive or practical and necessary. Whatever the reason for use, there is a distinction between body paint and permanent body art. Body paint is temporary. Unlike tattoos or decorative scarring, it is something that will fade and need retouching.

Cosmetics as Body Paint

Many people use body paint every day without realising it. Cosmetics---mascara, eyeshadow, lipstick---are a type of body paint. And while most people think of lead make-up as a thing of the past, recent studies show there are trace amounts of lead in modern cosmetics. Since lead can seep into the skin and cause major health problems, it important to do proper research to make sure the body paint you are using is lead-free.


Henna paint is derived from the leaves of a plant and has been used for centuries to dye hair and wool. A henna tattoo can last for weeks, but the fading process can be sped up by exfoliating or by coming into contact with chlorine. Although henna is natural, since it is plant-based, a lot of ready-made henna mixes have metal additives. Like the lead in the previous section, these metals can seep through the skin and cause damage.

Airbrush Tattoos

These temporary tattoos are applied by with an airbrush gun and are waterproof, so they last up to two weeks. Usually a stencil of the chosen design is placed over the area, providing a high level of detail in multiple colours. Some people use airbrush tattoos as a trial run before getting a permanent tattoo. Either oil-based paint or water-based paint can be used in the airbrush tattoo applicators.

Water-Based Body Paint

Water-based body paint will need quire more frequent touch-ups and more attention than other types of body paint. Water-based body paint tends to rub off, crack and be susceptible to sweat.

Liquid Latex and Oil-Based Paints

Liquid latex can look convincingly like clothing. It is not especially messy once it sets because it binds well to the skin. However, it is important to make sure that the person does not have a latex allergy before using it. Oil-based paints (also known as alcohol-based paints) are sturdier than some other types since they are waterproof and sweat-proof. If you need something to last more than one day but less than a week, oil-based paint is a good choice. Liquid latex and oil-based paints are similar because they can be hard to remove if you don't make the necessary preparations. Use a moisturising cream before applying the body paint, and then use a lotion with mineral oil to remove the paint. This will ensure the body paint comes off easily and completely.

A Popular Myth Debunked

While shooting the James Bond movie "Goldfinger" in the 1960s, it was reported that actress Shirley Eaton had died while encased in gold body paint for a particular scene. This rumour has been refuted and the odds of death from skin suffocation as a direct result of body paint are now said to be extremely low.

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About the Author

Samantha Herman

Samantha Herman earned an undergraduate degree in journalism from Northern Arizona University in 2005. Her professional writing career started in 2008, when she accepted an internship at "Willamette Week," a local alternative publication. Upon completing her internship, she became employed as a copywriter for an internet media company. In addition to copywriting, she has written articles for PDX Pipeline and eHow.

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