There are two things many kids get really excited about: Halloween and face painting. And those two things go hand in hand. In fact, using face paint is often the touch you need to complete your little one’s costume. Face painting is also traditionally used during the upcoming Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). Those highly decorated skulls you see—calaveras—are influenced by Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada’s famous etchings and illustrations of the Calavera Catrina and used as decor, as sugary treats, and even with face painting.
And unless you happen to be a professional face painter, many of us have no idea what we’re doing. In fact, this Halloween might be your first foray into face painting your child’s face. (We’ve been there!) So before you jump into a painting project blind, consider this advice below for easy face painting ideas as well as for application tips and painting kit brands recommended by a pediatric dermatologist and by a professional face painter.
1. Use the right tools and water-based face paint.
First and foremost, it’s not recommended to use face paints or makeup on children ages 6 months and younger “because the body surface area to body mass index is so great that they easily absorb topicals into their system,” says Heather Volkman, D.O., a general and pediatric dermatologist at Dermatology Specialists of Fort Worth.
But for older kids, face painting “is safer than wearing a mask when you’re trick-or-treating because your child can see better,” says Alyce G., a professional face painter who is contracted by All Occasion Performers.
Alyce recommends having face painting sponges and size 2, 4, and 6 round brushes. She says makeup sponges could work, if that’s all you have, but they’re more dense and may not work as well with face paint. The sponges are used to apply the base layer and large areas of color, while the brushes are for adding line work and details.
When it comes to the actual face paint that you should use on your child, Alyce says to look for the water-based face paints, which can easily be found in craft stores like Michaels or JoAnn or on Amazon. She recommends staying away from oil- and alcohol-based face paints (often called grease paints) because those are what professionals, like clowns and mimes, use, and they’re more difficult to remove. And you should absolutely not use acrylics or any paint not meant for the face.
If you’re planning to use regular face makeup, look for brands that say they’re noncomedogenic, which means it’s specially formulated to not block pores, or dermatologist-tested, Volkman recommends. And avoid stage makeup, which is formulated to last with strong lights and sweat, making it more likely to clog pores and cause irritation.
2. Be careful around the eyes.
If your young child can’t sit still when you’re painting near their eyes, or you’re uncomfortable getting close to them, simply don’t put paint in the area. If you have an older kid that can sit still long enough for the face paint application, Alyce says she tells kids to relax their face, gently close their eyes and mouth, and pretend they’re sleeping. After all, if kids scrunch their face or are wiggly, it’s difficult to paint their faces!
3. Sanitize makeup and brushes between kids.
If you’re not just painting your kids faces but the faces of their friends or your next door neighbors, it’s important to clean the face paint or makeup and brushes between kids. Alyce uses a store-bought sanitizing solution, but you can use a mixture of 10% bleach or rubbing alcohol and 90% water. Rinse the brushes between kids, but also spray and wipe the solid face paint cakes.
4. Rinse brushes between colors to avoid unintentional color mixing.
Alyce always has 4-5 cups of water at her station when painting faces to clean her brushes. Use the first cup as the initial cleaning and squeeze out the excess water. Do the same in each subsequent cup until the water runs clear from the brush. Alternatively, since you’ll likely be home, set up your face painting station near a sink to rinse in running water.
5. Wash your child’s face when they’re done trick-or-treating.
Sure, this is a no brainer, and since you used a water-based Halloween face paint, all it takes is water to wipe it off. If you did happen to use an oil-based face paint or regular makeup, Alyce suggests using cold cream, baby oil, or regular makeup remover to clean your child’s face.
If you’re trying to remove a temporary tattoo, Volkman suggests mixing granulated sugar with coconut oil to create a gentle scrub.
Once you’ve removed the face paint, makeup, or temporary tattoos, Volkman recommends applying a gentle moisturizer, like Aveeno or Neutrogena. “Children don’t have the hormones that adults do. There’s not as much oil on their skin because hormones are what matures and causes good production of oil,” Volkman says. “After you do your makeup remover and those sorts of solutions on their face, you may have dried their skin out more than what’s normal for them.”
5 Face Paint Brands for Kids
Looking for the best face paint to use on your kids this Halloween? Here are our top five favorite kits.
1. Snazaroo Face Paint
The Ultimate Party Pack face paint kit ($29.99) is available at Michael’s and Amazon. All Snazaroo face paints are water-based, created with cosmetic-grade ingredients, and not tested on animals. Plus, the paints don’t contain any fragrance or parabens and are dermatologically tested on sensitive skin. The Ultimate Party Pack includes 12 colors, two glitter gels, two brushes, and four sponges, plus a booklet full of design how-tos.
2. Blue Squid Face Paint
The Ultimate Party Pack ($26.99) is truly an all-in-one kit. It comes with 18 water-based colors (enough to do 100 faces), a rainbow split cake, two glitters, three brushes, four sponges, 2 hair chalks, 24 reusable stencils, and a booklet with 16 design tutorials. If that wasn’t enough, it also comes with 100 sticker gems for added glam and access to Blue Squid’s face painting video tutorials. The face paints are water-based, 100% vegan, and are okay to be used on sensitive skin, according to its reviews.
3. Fun World Face Paint
Need just a few colors? Check out the budget-friendly Fun World water-activated face paint ($4.98), which you can find at your nearest Walmart. This eight-color palette comes with black, white, blue, red, green, purple, yellow, and brown. It also comes with a brush, but if you want to cover more area, it’s a good idea to buy a larger brush or face paint sponges.
4. Zenovika Professional Face Paint Kit
Another popular kit on Amazon, this professional kit ($21.99) is great for Halloween face painting as well as other party needs. The face paints are made with cosmetic-grade ingredients, gentle enough for sensitive skin, and are hypoallergenic and fragrance-free. The kit comes with 15 water-based face paint colors, silver and gold loose glitters, orange and green hair chalks, three brushes, two sponges, and a booklet of step-by-step guides for 39 designs. Plus, it comes with 60 reusable stencils, including spiders, hearts, the Batman and Superman logos, stars, and more.
5. Artiparty Professional Face Paint
While this kit only comes with 10 colors (plus, two glitters and three brushes), the pots of color are bigger. It has enough paint to do 100 children’s faces, so if you’re painting for a crowd, this is the kit to go with! The paint in this kit ($19.80) is theatrical quality, paraben-free, hypoallergenic, and water-based, so cleanup is easy.
Face Paint Application Tips
When it comes to actually painting your child’s face for Halloween, Alyce offers these tips:
- If you’ve never used face paint before or your child has allergies or sensitive skin, do a patch test of the color on their arm first.
- Use a spray bottle to lightly mist the face paint cake to get it damp, then blot the sponge on it to pick up color. If the paint cake gets too wet, the face paint will be too thin and will run or drip off your child’s face.
- Apply the base layer of color with a sponge by patting it on your child’s face. If you rub the sponge on your child’s face, you’ll end up with lines in the makeup.
- “Richer blues and greens tend to stain the skin a little, so they might be more difficult to get off,” Alyce says. “I’ll sponge on a light layer of white down first and that puts a little bit of a barrier to prevent staining.”
- If you want to use loose glitter as a finishing touch, apply it where you want when the face paint is still a little wet to ensure it sticks.
5 Easy Halloween Face Paint Ideas & Tutorials
Looking for face painting ideas, inspiration or tutorials to take your little one’s costume to the next level? Check out our favorite tutorials below. Don’t see one that works for your child? You can always do a quick search on YouTube or search Snazaroo’s tutorials.
1. Skull Face Paint
Paint a skull on your kids’ face to turn them into Mr. or Miss Bones! To achieve this look, you’ll need black and white face paints, a #4 round brush, ½- and ¾-inch flat brushes, and a face paint sponge. While the face painting is done on an adult in this video, Julie Tattam, the host, offers tips for doing this look on a child. Watch a Youtube tutorial here.
2. Cat Face Paint
Have a little kitty on your hands this Halloween? This super-easy tutorial uses makeup products you likely already have at home, but you can easily achieve this look with face paint, too. You’ll need light pink, white, and black face paints, a sponge, and a thin brush. Watch a Youtube tutorial here.
3. Día de los Muertos Face Paint
If you’re celebrating Dia de Los Muertos or your child is dressing like a calaveras for Halloween, the outfit won’t be complete without face paint! For this, you’ll need white, black, one or two colors of your choice, gems to add as decorations, eyelash glue, a sponge, and medium and thin rounded paint brushes. Bonus: This video also talks about the traditions of Dia de Los Muertos. Watch a Youtube tutorial here.
4. Spider-Man Face Paint
Little web slingers will absolutely love this Spider-Man look! Is your child dressing up as another superhero this year? Just do a quick search online to find the tutorial you need! To achieve the Spider-Man look, you’ll need white, black, and red face paints, and three paint brushes: chisel, medium, and fine. Watch a Youtube tutorial here.
5. Unicorn Face Paint
Rainbows and glitter…need we say more?! Complete your magical little one’s unicorn look with this step-by-step tutorial. You’ll need white and light pink face paints, a rainbow split cake (the Blue Squid face paint kit above comes with one or you can choose your favorite color combo), a sponge, a ½-inch flat brush, a thin rounded brush, and (of course) glitter. Watch a Youtube tutorial here.
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