Body painting is also referred to as body art and categories include facial painting and temporary tattoos. Its origins can be traced to ancient cultures such as Native Americans and is still prominently used today among indigenous groups in
Islands and parts of
Africa, especially for ceremonies such as rites of passages for youths and funerals. Body and face painting consists of using temporary colors that can be removed immediately or last 3-4 days and can be removed with either soap and water or rubbing alcohol. Semi-permanent forms of body painting include the use of Mendhi or “henna tattoo”, which is derived from dyes made out of henna and is popular in
India and Middle Eastern countries. Unlike body paints of the past, modern paints must be approved by the FDA as being non-toxic, non-allergenic and easily washed off. Ingredients include talc, calcium carbonate, steric acid, waxes, guar gum and colorant and for Mendhi dyes, natural brown henna dyes. Since reactions to paints can vary, a patch test should be performed, especially for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin. Any sign of allergy should be noted and the use avoided. Do not apply body or face paint to open wounds or too close to the eyes, and contrary to popular belief, a person will not be asphyxiated with full body paint. Rather, one could suffer from heatstroke since body paints can decrease the chance of perspiration.
Body and face paints are applied using hands, sponges or airbrushing and for Mendhi, natural hair paintbrushes. Elaborate types of body painting often involve painting on a nude body.
The popularity of body painting in the
U.S. is believed to be traced back to 1933 when Max Factor presented a model in full body painting at the World’s Fair in
Chicago. In the 1960’s, body painting became especially popular in Western cultures due to more lax views of nudity. A well-known icon of body painting during this time was the model Veruschka, whose collaborations with makeup artists and photographers can be found in the book “Transfigurations”. In the late 1990’s, the use of Mendhi and temporary tattoos became popular among young women in Western cultures and even some incorporated henna tattoos into their weddings.
Modern body painting has found popularity in magazines, movies and television commercials, while facial painting is popular with children at parties, amusement parks and festivals. Body painting festivals have become prevalent in recent years and the largest is the World Body Painting Festival held every July in
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