Forums > Hair, Makeup & Styling > Safety, Hygiene and Sanitation for Makeup Artists

Makeup Artist


Posts: 550

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I've started this thread as a place for gathering information together about health and safety that should be of concern to the makeup artist working in a studio or on location.

General Concerns
When using equipment always follow the manufacturer's recommendations; never use equipment outside of the conditions it was designed to handle. I've noticed that makeup artists and photographers often use equipment past the recommended limits for that equipment. This is evident in things like using higher wattage than recommended lamps in light fixtures and overloading extended light stands. For example this light stand has a maximum load capacity of 9kg. At full extension and at a 6º inclination the maximum load capacity is only 0.9kg or one-tenth of the original maximum capacity.

Often, the excuse for using equipment beyond the recommended limits is "I've been doing that for a year [or other time period] and it has always been okay." Physicist Richard Feynman, reporting on the Challenger disaster, commented on the dangers of using past success as a predictor of future success (from Appendix F - Personal observations on the reliability of the Shuttle, The Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident Report, June 6, 1986)

The Challenger flight is an excellent example. There are several references to flights that had gone before. The acceptance and success of these flights is taken as evidence of safety. But erosion and blow-by are not what the design expected. They are warnings that something is wrong. The equipment is not operating as expected, and therefore there is a danger that it can operate with even wider deviations in this unexpected and not thoroughly understood way. The fact that this danger did not lead to a catastrophe before is no guarantee that it will not the next time, unless it is completely understood. When playing Russian roulette the fact that the first shot got off safely is little comfort for the next.

Do not abuse equipment, use it only for its intended purpose. A screwdriver is not a pry bar or chisel. A wrench is not a hammer. An extension cord should not be used to suspend lights. Maintain equipment so it is always in good working order. Inspect for defects and damage before and after every use. Bends in the main supports of a light stand will weaken it. If a piece of equipment is damaged, do not use it; repair or replace as soon as possible.

When you work in a studio look around for things which may affect your safety or the safety of others. I've been in studios where someone had added wiring by stapling lamp cord to the ceiling to bring in additional power. I've seen lighting stands overextended to the point where the flash head was wobbling back and forth several inches.

ACTRA - Practicing Safe Sets

Safety and Injury Prevention
Pain is Optional – for Wardrobe Workers
Motion Picture Safety Primer – Production

Electrical Safety
CSA Safety Tips - Electrical and Extension cords
UL Product safety tips - Extension cords
Use of ARRI Lighting Equipment - Safety Instructions
GFCI Fact Sheet (U.S.)

Safe selection of Cosmetic Products and Tools
Always use the right tools and materials for the job. There are several threads in which people don't understand proper selection and use of materials which will be applied to the skin. For examples see body paint and What to use for writing on models Artist paints may still contain lead and other hazardous components. Lead is still allowed in artist's paints by law in the U.S. (see § 1303.3 (c)2).

Concerning safe artist paints; these are only safe when used as directed. From the Art & Creative Materials Institute, Inc. - FAQ:

Products such as face paints, surgical/skin markers, nail paints or polishes, etc. are considered cosmetic products under the law because they are intended to be applied to the human body and are regulated under the requirements of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. ACMI-certified art material products are expected to have incidental or limited skin contact as a foreseeable or predictable use or application of the product under the laws and regulations of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Cosmetics (including body paint) usually have a vehicle or binder, a colour (pigment or dye), additives (opacifiers, preservatives) and sometimes a solvent. In the U.S. the FDA regulates cosmetic ingredients; color additives are usually the items of greatest concern. Note that even if a colour is approved for cosmetic use it must be approved for that specific use.

No matter whether a particular color is subject to certification or exempt from certification, U.S. law prohibits its use in cosmetics (or any other FDA-regulated product) unless it is approved specifically for the intended use [FD&C Act, sec. 721(a)(1)(A); 21 U.S.C. 379e(a)(1)(A)].

Here is the Health Canada webpage General Requirements for Cosmetics. The regulations are similar to the U.S.

Acrylics represent a large range of products. Many cosmetic products, including medical-grade adhesives and body paints, use acrylic components. See Preparation of an Adhesive in Emulsion for Maxillofacial Prosthetic (Int J Mol Sci. 2010; 11(10): 3906–3921) for details on developing an acrylic-based pressure-sensitive adhesive for prosthetics. Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer at Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Skin Deep Cosmetics Database and Acrylate polymer at Wikipedia (some of the acrylates in cosmetics are copolymers)

Hygiene and Sanitation
Don't apply makeup to:

• non-intact skin (non-intact skin: Areas of the skin that have been opened by cuts, abrasions, dermatitis, chapped skin, etc.)
• any mucous membrane

As soon as you try to work on either of the above areas it will open up a host of problems including storage, cleaning and use of your equipment (items used on non-intact skin and mucous membranes are semicritical items). You may run afoul of the law for doing what are termed controlled acts if you go beyond certain bounds in the application of makeup.

Makeup artists must keep their tools clean but we don't need to sterilize anything. Intact human skin is very good at keeping germs out. There are pathogens everywhere in the environment, anything that is sterilized quickly becomes non-sterile unless properly stored. When something sterile touches something non-sterile, it becomes non-sterile as well. Using powerful disinfectants, soaps, solvents or other solutions to clean brushes and other tools can cause more problems then they solve. Roughened surfaces can hold and shelter micro-organisims. Use the proper solutions to clean your brushes, following manufacturers directions. Never soak a brush in water or a cleaning a solution; it can loosen the ferrule and cause wooden handles to swell and split.

Over washing of hands can cause problems. From Hygiene of the Skin: When Is Clean Too Clean? (Emerg Infect Dis. 2001 Mar-Apr;7(2):225-30)

Even with use of antiseptic preparations, which substantially reduce counts of hand flora, no reductions beyond an equilibrium level are attained. The numbers of organisms spread from the hands of nurses who washed frequently with an antimicrobial soap actually increased after a period of time; this increase is associated with declining skin health. In a recent survey, nurses with damaged hands were twice as likely to be colonized with S. hominis, S. aureus, gram-negative bacteria, enterococci, and Candida spp. and had a greater number of species colonizing the hands.


Finnish investigators demonstrated that after frequent washing the hands of patient-care providers became damaged and posed greater risk to themselves and patients than if they had washed less often. A mild emulsion cleansing rather than handwashing with liquid soap was associated with a substantial improvement in the skin of nurses’ hands.

Anything else to add? Do you have a story of your own concerning safety that you would like to share?

Oct 08 12 03:14 pm Link


Roro Fitria Amanda

Posts: 21

Adamsville, Alabama, US

Thanks for share smile

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Oct 12 12 10:35 am Link