Dealing with an allergic reaction to face paint this summer

How to cope with an allergic reaction to face paint via Toby & Roo :: daily inspiration for stylish parent and their kids.

Doesn’t he look awesome?! Unfortunately, a reaction is something that you won’t know will happen until it does, and when it is mild like Toby’s there are a few things you can do at home and should ALWAYS do that will help to sooth your child’s reaction.

I remember the time we went to our first ever school Leaver’s party. It was fab, and it’s so humbling to think that Roo has actually left that school and almost finished his first year of secondary! I was so proud to be a part of Reuben’s school at that time, it reminded me of my first school when I was a child. The relationships between the teachers and students, the family atmosphere, the kind-hearted generosity of everyone from parents to older kids, who helped out and offered various treats from homemade foods, to giving their time at the drink stand or face painting area.

It was truly awesome and the boys had a wonderful time – especially during the end of term water fight.

Both boys surprised us by wanting to get their faces painted. I’m assuming it was the other children getting it done that spurred them on, or maybe they have just grown in confidence over the past few months, but whatever the reason both boys had face paint applied by the lovely mummies who gave their time to help out and run the face paint stall.

Reuben had a lion (despite telling me for nearly 40 mins before he was going to be Captain Americaaaaa!) and Toby opted for a challenging Spider Man. Needless to say both boys were insanely happy with the results (how awesome do they look?!) and continued to play like lunatics on the loose for a few hours until home time.

Toby fell asleep in the car and as he has never really had sensitive skin before and we both remember going through phases of pretty much permanent face-painted awesomeness, we left him in the face paint and just plonked him in bed.

Unfortunately Toby woke up with a swollen, bright red and boiling hot face. He was anything but a happy bunny, though thankfully the reaction was really mild and we’re unsure of whether or not this was purely because of the face paint or if it was due to the amount of time the paint was left on (whoops!). I thought as its face painting season I would jot down a few of the things I learnt that might help if your child has a MILD reaction. These in no way infringe on what a professional tells you, but it’s what helped me.

How to cope with an allergic reaction to face paint via Toby & Roo :: daily inspiration for stylish parent and their kids.

Just because one child has a reaction, doesn’t mean your others are more likely – Roo doesn’t have any adverse reaction to face paint and never has.

  • Always go to A&E/Minor injuries.

It doesn’t matter how mild the reaction, if a skin reaction occurs on the face ALWAYS go and seek medical advice. The reason being is that facial reactions can cause issues with eyes and breathing. It’s better to be safe than sorry. We were told not to worry, keep an eye on Toby and bring him back if it hadn’t improved in 2-3 days or if he developed anymore symptoms. If you wait and then your child has breathing problems, it could be so much more serious.

  • Make sure it’s allllllll off.

Using something like a wet flannel can be really helpful, and leaving your little one in the shower was also great for us. It let the steam get to his face and then I wiped him down with a wet flannel just to be sure. As a few people have commented below, wet wipes are really bad for removing face paint, I thought this was just a myth and spoke to a few pros that said they had never heard of it, but better safe than sorry.

  • Don’t apply ANYTHING to a facial reaction unless it’s recommended by a doctor.

No creams, no ointments, nothing. Just cool water or something recommended/prescribed by a doctor. I say this because the face is a super sensitive area, and something you might think will help that would normally help other areas, might make it worse. When Toby was little and had nappy rash I was given Aloe Vera cream and thought it would help – it made it far far worse because he doesn’t respond well to Aloe Vera. You really wouldn’t think aloe Vera could harm, but it did. Just be careful and leave well enough alone unless told otherwise.

  • DO give antihistamine if you child is old enough or allowed it (ie read the instructions).

I used an antihistamine liquid I bought from the chemist that was suitable for Toby’s age group and could be given every 4-6hours. I was told by the doctor that these are more effective than the once a day style antihistamines you can buy for kids, but check first.

  • Keep your kids out of the sun after a reaction for 2-3 days.

This is what I was advised, any reaction of this kind should be kept out of the sun, otherwise it might irritate it further. I’m not talking go dracula style here, but a big sun hat and avoiding being outside in full blown heatwave sunshine is best.

  • Think quiet time. Real quiet.

Toby just sat on his iPad all day and I do mean pretty much all day. The antihistamine took it out of him and he was sore, so I left him to it and dished out cuddles on demand. I played his favourite movies, read him some of his favourite books and just let him chill out. I also utilised our “poorly time means treat time” clause and let him have sweets, chocolates and ice cream to his hearts content. Oh, and slices of ham with cubes of cheese because that’s his ultimate lunch!

I hope that helps if you find yourself in a similar situation. Tobes is fine and we’ll test drive face painting another time when we’ve done a sample test on his ankle or something! If your kids got severe allergic reactions to face paint in the early years but still cannot imagine celebrations without them, you could try learning photo retouching. Thus, you could create various paintings and make them happy without issues. Moreover, If gaining great experience, you can even try working as a remote photo retoucher later and find a new career path.

Harriet x


  1. Avatar
    August 2, 2019 / 8:57 am

    PLEASE edit your post and remove the suggestion of Wet wipes! This can be one of the main causes of reactions and by leaving it on your post after professional painters have informed you is irresponsible. Not everyone will read the comments.

    Another professional face painter.

    • Harriet August 2, 2019 / 9:33 am

      Thanks for pointing this oversight out to me Emma, I’ve edited – to be completely honest I thought I had already edited it as it’s from 2015, so I’m really grateful you bought it to my attention. Sorry for the oversight. H 🙂

  2. Avatar
    November 1, 2018 / 1:31 am

    I used rose art paint and was doing the wide mouth so I took a shower it didn’t come off so I tried achol burned Luke hall tried different stuff and it bunes my neck what can I do the red paint won’t come off it bunes when I shower what do I do that don’t burn my neck

  3. Avatar
    John Standish
    July 9, 2018 / 10:51 pm

    That happened to me

  4. Avatar
    May 22, 2017 / 2:53 am

    This has been very helpful!

  5. Avatar March 14, 2017 / 6:01 am

    That’s excellent advice. Will try it for sure. I am looking forward to more articles like these and is hopeful of positive results.

  6. Avatar
    March 5, 2017 / 5:37 am

    Poor baby. Looks like the artist laid down red all over, then went over the red with white. Red should never be that close to the eyes. Volunteers often don’t know what they are doing and also don’t know proper hygenic practices. If you allow a full face like that in the future, make sure the artist is a professional. I would stick to just cheekart if they are not.

  7. Avatar September 1, 2016 / 8:30 pm

    As a professional face painter please DO NOT use baby wipes to clean the skin. Baby wipes are a common reason to creating reactions in the first place due to the chemicals in them reacting. Although I understand your little one had the reaction before wipes they was a possibility it could have made the reaction worse. Thankfully it didn’t. To remove paint safely you should use a soft towel/flannel and warm water with a non fragranced soap only.

    If your child has never had a face paint when you see one next ask them to put a small amount in the croak of the elbow. Leave it there for 3 hours and wash off as above. If no reaction is shown after 3 DAYS then you can be as sure as possible your child is safe to have the paint on their face. Obviously there are different brands of face paint however all professional painters will only use recognised brands such as Kryolan, Superstar, TAG, Ruby Red, Snazaroo, Grimas and Diamond FX.

    If you ever see someone using craft paint DO NOT let them paint your child. Craft paints may be labeled as non-toxic which they a for normal use. However they are not meant for prolonged use on the skin due to containing chemicals such as formaldehyde which if left on the skin can cause VERY BAD reaction and SCARRING!

    I hope this has been helpful.

    • Harriet September 3, 2016 / 1:18 pm

      Very helpful! I actually use water wipes, so not risk of reaction there!

  8. Avatar
    August 3, 2016 / 12:52 pm

    This has just happened to me after my grandaughter painted my face yellow! I’m old but can tell you it is not mild discomfort on the skin it feels like a torch is being wiped over my skin to touch it. I washed it off gently with a sponge and water. Then applied coconut oil. The reaction has continued for a while, so I am holding a cool cloth over the affected part of my face. It hurts like a laser peel.

  9. Avatar
    July 29, 2015 / 12:33 am

    Please remember that you should NEVER use a baby wipe (or makeup wipe) to remove face paint! This can react with the ingredients and cause an initial reaction or make a reaction worse. As stated above, liquid or normal soap rubbed until it becomes all muddy, then add water to rinse.

    (Face painter here!)


  10. Harriet July 28, 2015 / 3:48 pm

    A liquid handsoap or normal soap wet just enough to get the paint lifted is the easiest way to remove it. Face paint is generally water reactive so putting too much water onto the facepaint can make it harder to remove. The soap lifts the paint off the skin, then use a wet soft face cloth to wipe it off, repeat if needed and obviously take care near the eyes smile emoticon.

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