All-Day Wear – Alcohol Activated Body Paint

Hi folks! A commenter asked some really interesting questions about how to manage and touch-up alcohol activated paint while you’re at a convention hall or other event. That’s certainly something I’ve experimented with a lot and I’ve found some things that do and don’t  work so well.

So, how do you keep looking like this all day long?

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Yup, those hands are painted.

It’s easier than you think with just a few tricks.

First of all, the makeup kit has got to be small enough to fit in my pocket. Carrying bulky things around while I’m trying to enjoy myself is no fun.

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This is too big!

You really don’t need that much alcohol to touch up your makeup, even if you’ll be at your event all day long. I have showered and slept in this paint and it only needed minor touch-ups. It’s got some wicked staying power!

So let’s downsize that bottle of isopropanol.

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These are all viable solutions for a travel bottle of alcohol. From left to right: a bottle of alcohol hand-sanitizer (empty it out and put the 99% isopropanol in it), a glass tincture bottle with an eye-dropper included in the stopper, a narrow-spouted plastic bottle with a cap, and an empty shampoo travel bottle.

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My personal favourite is the narrow-spouted plastic bottle. It controls the flow of alcohol exactly where you want it and doesn’t tend to spill all over your hands. It can be hard to get one small enough. I recommend checking out a craft store.

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The tincture bottle is another viable option. It’s made to hold alcohol to begin with and the eye dropper allows you to control the alcohol very precisely. You’ll need to set the bottle down on something while you work so that’s a downside. Also, be aware that you should try to keep it upright in your pocket as much as you can so that the alcohol doesn’t go into the bulb of the eyedropper as it will dry out the rubber and eventually make it crack. Probably not in one day but eventually.

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The pop-top shampoo and hand-wash bottles are also workable solutions though the holes tend to be larger so the alcohol comes out faster. They can also leak a bit so allow me to show you a simple solution to keep that from happening.

Take ordinary plastic wrap and cut a small piece of it.
Take ordinary plastic wrap and cut a small piece of it.
Fold the plastic wrap into a small square.
Fold the plastic wrap into a small square.
Place it over the mouth of the bottle and smooth it down.
Place it over the mouth of the bottle and smooth it down.
Screw the cap of the bottle back on, gently but firmly.
Screw the cap of the bottle back on, gently but firmly.

Your bottle will now have a home-made seal on it. You’ll need to remove that bit of plastic to touch up your paint but you shouldn’t need to set it down anywhere.

Something to keep in mind about touching up your alcohol activated paint: you will most likely need to touch up the fingers you’re holding the sponge with as the alcohol will probably get on them as well. Don’t worry about it. This is completely normal.

Now, here is a tempting bottle that will not work. I will explain why.

This will not work.
This will not work.

The cork-stoppered vial looks pretty cool and it has its uses but it will not hold isopropanol for long. The cork stopper is highly porous and the alcohol will evaporate right out of it! Yes it’s happened to me before. No, you don’t want that kind of mess on your pants.  Trust me on this one and go with the safe options.

So what else is in the kit?

A dinky lil' pocket mirror.
A dinky lil’ pocket mirror.

This folding mirror came from the dollar store and is pretty much the same size as the colour pot itself when folded up. I can easily hold this little guy on my palm with the paint pot in the same hand, leaving the other hand free to use the alcohol and sponge and touch up my face. I’ve re-touched my makup while sitting on a park bench using this technique.

No muss; no fuss!
No muss; no fuss!

This sort of thing is extremely helpful when LARPing (Live-Action Role-Play), doing an outdoor event, or simply being in a convention hall where the lineups for the bathroom are outrageous. You will not need a mirror, or a sink, or a table to set your stuff down on. I do all of my touch-ups just sitting on a bench with my stuff on my lap or in my hand.

So what does the whole kit look like?

Bottle of isopropanol, 1 flat makeup sponge, 1 paint pot, 1 tiny mirror, 1 waterproof eyeliner, 1 tiny pencil sharpener (optional).
Bottle of isopropanol, 1 flat makeup sponge, 1 paint pot, 1 tiny mirror, 1 waterproof eyeliner, 1 tiny pencil sharpener (optional).

If you’re not used to cosplay or costuming, the temptation is great to carry a whole bunch of stuff with you that you simply will not need. I won’t bring anything larger than this with me even if I’m going to be at an event that is 8-10 hours long or more. I may or may not add a tube of lipstick of the appropriate colour to the kit but this takes up very little space.

The eyeliner you see here is to touch up areas that are small on my face such as my eyelids and the corners of my lips (especially after eating). You’ll want to get one of the same colour as your body paint. This makes for easy touch-ups without having to open up the alcohol and the paint. I prefer using the very soft creamy pencils because they go on smooth no matter where on your face you put it. This means that the tip of the pencil wears down easily and sometimes breaks off so I like to carry a wee sharpener with me just in case. Always waterproof to resist sweat and natural wear and tear. You can put it on your lips as well which is why I sometimes omit the lipstick entirely.

I put all my stuff in a sealable sandwich bag just in case of accidents. Better safe than sorry! This should easily fit in a pocket or pouch. If you find it to be too bulky, feel free to divide and conquer by putting half your kit in one pocket and half of it in another to even out the load.

No need for a pack pony or suitcase of gear. Your kit should fit in a pocket where you can forget about it until you need it.
No need for a pack pony or suitcase of gear. Your kit should fit in a pocket where you can forget about it until you need it.

As always, feel free to ask questions or comments. I love talking to y’all. Happy costuming folks!

Author: Ethan Kincaid

Ethan Kincaid was born in 1985 in Brockville, a sleepy little town on the St. Lawrence River. He graduated from Carleton University in Ottawa with a degree in Linguistics and a minor in Japanese Language. After finishing his education, he settled down there with his wife Kaitlyn and became a full-time writer. In 2011, he moved to Montreal and discovered its vibrant writing culture. In 2015, Ethan moved to Helsinki, Finland with his wife; he works as a props crafter and part time author. His first book, Blood of Midnight: The Broken Prophecy is the first of a new fantasy trilogy. The greatest joy in his life lies in helping budding writers find their voices. In his words: "I like to shake people until cool stuff comes out!"

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