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Face paints make for a fun activity for kids’ birthday parties, but they're also a necessity in any cosplayer or professional makeup artist's toolkit who are creating realistic-looking special effects makeup.
We tested and researched numerous face paints to find the best formulas, evaluating them on color payoff, ease of use, and value. We also consulted Sheilagh Maguiness, MD for her professional insight on ingredients and skin safety. Our top pick, Kryvaline Face Paint Kit, offers vivid colors, pro-level wear, and a smattering of fun stencils.
Here are the best face paints for kids and professionals.
Best Overall: Kryvaline Face Paint Kit
Biodegradable, environmentally-friendly glitter
Full range of colors
Pro-grade tools included
Packaging is on the flimsier side
This bright, cheery face paint set delivers a smattering of colors: you’ll find every primary color, which can function as great bases for mixing and creating other hues. In addition to the basics, this kit also contains face paint pans filled with less-conventional colors, like slate gray and mauve. There’s even a pan of numerous blue hues, which range from moody to sky-colored. Of course, the kit also contains stark white and stark black, which are often necessary for detailing.
The kit contains a set of professional-grade makeup brushes, too, one of which is ultra-fine and perfect for detailing. For a more overall paint-job, or for creating a base, use one of the included sponges. The formulas are blendable, extremely creamy, and vibrant. They’re safe, too—each of the paints is FDA-compliant, hypoallergenic, and non-toxic.
Lastly, this all-in-one set is complete with stencils (you’ll look like a pro even if you’re a beginner!). You’ll also find sequins—as well as biodegradable face glitter—for adding a sparkling, finishing touch.
Best Professional: Make Up For Ever Flash Color Palette Multi-Use Palette
Creamy and blendable
May require setting spray for ultra longwear
Make Up For Ever is known for its top-of-the-line pigments and richly colored makeup products. It’s a favorite brand among seasoned professionals and burgeoning makeup artists alike. This palette contains every color you could possibly need, including basic black and white, as well as primary colors and two metallic hues. Each pan is extremely pigmented, so a little bit goes a long way; thus, the palette lasts quite a long time.
Moreover, each creamy pigment is extremely blend-friendly, vibrant, and perfect for creating intricate, realistic designs on the skin—whether it’s for special effects, cosplay, or just for fun. The colors are buildable, too, so you can create a dynamic look. While the price tag isn’t the cheapest, these pigments are a prime example of getting what you pay for.
Best Glow in the Dark: Midnight Glo Black Light Face and Body Paint
Incredibly vibrant under blacklight
Some of the colors glow less than others
These all-over skin paints take facepainting to a whole new level, thanks to their ability to glow under a blacklight. The kit contains eight pots of glowing, non-toxic paint. Note: these paints require blacklight in order to fully show up in the dark. For this reason, they’re perfect for certain concerts, festivals, and parties that may have black lights. (Psst: blacklights are surprisingly affordable if you want to buy a bulb for your own personal use!) These paints feel rich and creamy, and glide on any inch of skin you so choose to paint. The colors have a neon effect as soon as you apply them, which is striking on its own. Under a blacklight, though, they increase in luminance and remain super-bright for hours. This paint dries quickly, is smudge-resistant (even if you’re sweating!) and is surprisingly easy to remove.
Best for Halloween: Mehron Makeup Special FX Kit
Professional-grade special effects makeup
Realistic-looking blood and wound materials
All-in-one kit: contains everything you need
Whether you’re looking to create uber-realistic fake wounds, blood that looks disconcertingly real, or a frighteningly realistic zombie look, this pro-level special effects kit is a primo pick. In addition to face paint in colors ranging from basic black, white, and an array of neutral skin hues, it also includes different types of faux blood, including coagulated blood, stage blood, and even some raised silicone wounds.
The kit also includes liquid latex for creating skin lesions. You’ll also be able to create realistic-looking bruises, wrinkles, and so much more. The sky's the limit with this kit, and it’s beginner-friendly enough to not feel overly intimidating, while also meeting higher standards with pro-grade special effects.
Best for Kids: Snazaroo Face Paint Set
Some of the colors are on the more sheer side
This 12-color face paint set is perfect for kids or parents who’d love to give their kids a professional-looking face paint. It’s super easy to use, thanks to its array of blendable colors and ease of application; plus, this set comes with a fantastic instruction book that provides step-by-step guidance to creating an array of different looks (complete with photos and the exact colors needed to create each look).
This set is cruelty-free, gentle on sensitive skin, and surprisingly easy to work with. The colors are varied and buildable, last for hours without rubbing off (even during kids’ playtimes), and wash off easily without excess rubbing or tugging on kids’ delicate skin.
Best of all, this kit is an incredible value for the price. It lasts dozens of face paint sessions, so you can rest assured that every kid at a birthday party and beyond will receive their fair share of fantastically whimsical face painting without running out. (FYI: Here’s another kid-friendly face paint option we like).
Best For Sensitive Skin: CCbeauty Professional Face & Body Paint
Impressive number of colors
10 different brushes
Kind to skin and fragrance-free
Some of the colors are less opaque: may require a few layers for full coverage
This palette has one of the most impressive color arrays we’ve seen in a face painting kit: a whopping 36 different hues. Each is smooth to apply, thanks to the oil-based formula that gives a lovely glide and skin feel. It that won’t crack, shrivel, or dry out the skin.
The kit comes with an impressive array of different-sized brushes, too, which is great for detail-work. Thanks to its sturdy plastic container, this kit is easy to transport, without risking an explosion of multicolored makeup in your kit, travel bag, or suitcase. We also love that this set is cruelty-free.
Best Crayons: Mosaiz Face Paint Crayon
Mess-free retractable design
Cannot be sharpened
These kid-friendly crayons make face painting a fun, intuitive, minimal-mess activity for little ones. We love the array of colors, ranging from bright pink to lilac, to silver and gold. There are 12 colors total, and each is super-easy to use, thanks to the crayon-like format and brush-free application method. Each stick is twistable, meaning that the color can easily retract as soon as the little artist is done.
All in all, this set is a good one to have on hand for creative kids or adults who love to whip out face paint on a whim without breaking the bank. Perfect for recreational use, we think it's a great idea to incorporate these paints into your next Halloween craft night.
Our best overall pick, the Kryvaline Face Paint Kit offers the primary staples every artist needs, along with face paint pans filled with less-conventional colors, like slate gray and mauve. For something you can wear beyond sunet, we also love the Midnight Glo Black Light Face and Body Paint. It contains eight pots of glowing, non-toxic paint, and the paints require blacklight in order to fully show up in the dark.
What to Look for in a Face Paint
It’s important to check the ingredients in any face paint. “The FDA designates what color additives are safe for application to the skin,” notes Dr. Maguiness. Interestingly, FDA compliance is even more crucial when it comes to neon and fluorescent face paints. “Only one ingredient is considered FDA-compliant for a glow-in-the-dark option, and that's luminescent zinc sulfide,” Dr. Maguiness shares.
If you’re looking for vibrant, opaque color payoff in a single stroke, you’ll likely need to spend a little more money for a high quality or professional-grade face paint kit. While these kits may be more expensive than others, their saturated pigment often means using only a fraction of the amount per project that you’d use from a kit of lower quality. If you foresee yourself using face paint frequently, a professional-grade kit may be worth the money.
Just as skin care quality matters in terms of how it makes your skin feel, face paint quality can also make a difference—particularly if you have sensitive skin or acne-prone skin. If you're dealing with either of the two, Dr. Maguiness suggests doing a patch test prior to painting.
If you’re buying face paint for young kids, consider mess-free options, such as a retractable crayon-style face paint. If you’re a skilled painter, artist, or cosplayer, you’ll likely want to invest in a palette containing numerous colors with rich pigment payoff. Beginner face-painters may find stencils helpful; luckily, many face paint sets include stencils.
Is paint safe to apply onto skin?
Yes and no, depending on the face paint you’re using. While face paint can be safe to apply to skin in many instances, it’s crucial to do your research prior to purchasing. “To provide some background on why this is important, in 2014, the FDA did an analysis of ten face paint kits and found higher than allowed levels of heavy metals, including lead and mercury, which are particularly toxic for children," notes Dr. Maguiness.
Thankfully, she adds that these incidents have led to real improvements and higher standards in this niche industry.” Nevertheless, “It's still necessary to carefully read the label when you’re looking at face paints on the market today.” Dr. Maguiness advises picking a face paint that’s labeled FDA-compliant, paraben-free, and hypoallergenic.
What supplies do you need to start face painting?
The answer to this question depends on the type of face painting you plan on doing. If you’re face painting for a kid’s birthday party, you may want to choose an all-in-one face paint kit with the likes of stencils, glitter, and how-to guides for different designs.
If, however, you’re going for a gory halloween look that involves creating believable gashes, you’ll want to look for a bevy of supplies in addition to the paint itself, like liquid latex, setting spray, and adhesive, which are often included in special effects kits.
If you’re an adult cosplayer, the best face paint may be a palette containing numerous bright colors that allow for mixing, blending, and vibrant pigment payoff. Depending on the look you’re going for, you may also want to consider body paint. Many professional-grade palettes are also suitable for body painting.
How long does face paint last?
Face paint can last quite some time on the skin—until you manually remove it. On that note, “Definitely don’t leave it on overnight,” says Dr. Maguiness. “Prolonged duration of application may enhance adverse skin reactions.”
To remove face paint, first identify whether it’s an oil-based paint or a water-based paint. If it’s oil-based, Dr. Maguiness advises using an oil-based cleanser to remove. For best results, she recommends following with a regular gentle cleanser or micellar water. Water-based face paints are typically easier to remove. She says a simple cleanser and water should do the trick.
Why Trust The Spruce
Sophie Wirt is an NYC-based writer and editor, has been penning product reviews, interviews, and investigative pieces—primarily within the beauty industry—since 2015.