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Coronavirus and us

Image courtesies Shutterstock

The coronavirus has well and truly infiltrated Europe, and as vendors we come into contact with a huge amount of people making us amongst the highest risk.

The coronavirus has currently caused over 3000 deaths* so far, Due to the quick advance of the disease, and the dangers involved for those high risk, it has caught both WHO and media attention. Whilst very dangerous, there are simple steps we can take to dramatically reduce the risk to us and our clients.

What is the virus?

The coronavirus is from a family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome. These viruses were originally transmitted between animals and people. In this particular instance, the virus came from unsafe meat at a local market in Wuhan, China. It’s worth noting several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans, and this is not a new disease.

Signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. The recommended incubation period is 14 days, with symptoms appearing at about 5-6 days.

What should we do?

Well, the most obvious thing is to maintain high levels of hygiene with yourself and your kit. Not just for Coronavirus, take these steps to ensure even the common cold does not pass your brush.

  • Do NOT paint anyone displaying any cold/flu symptoms. This should be standard anyway, but I know sometimes we let it slip, as a painter I know how hard it is to say no to kiddies. If you’re PPF you might want to consider a sign at the beginning of your line stating “we cannot paint any child displaying cold symptoms, including snotty noses”. If on a contract booking, add it to your terms and conditions. Do not waiver from it. As bad as you might feel saying no, you’d feel a lot worse if someone got sick due to you. We have no way of knowing where the person in our chair has been on holidays, or who they’ve been in contact with. So play safe, not sorry.
    It is worth noting that cases of coronavirus have been reported to be asymptomatic (not displaying symptoms whilst carrying the disease), but for the most part, you can tell when someone is sick in all influenza and coronavirus based cases.
  • Sterilise your brushes after each event, and wash your brushes between each face. This again is a practice we should be doing anyway. I know when you get home from a long day all you want to do is nap, but clean your brushes before you sit down and don’t let them fester. The quicker you sterilise equipment, the less time any virus has to grow.
  • One sponge per person. I know this continues to be a contentious subject amongst our community, but it is, without doubt, the most hygienic method of sponging. You can reduce the usage by having colours on both sides of the sponge, but don’t share them between people. Paint the nose and mouth area last.
  • Keep a pack of tissues and hand sanitiser in your kit. If you need to sneeze remember: Catch it, Bin it, Destroy it. Failing a tissue, sneezing and coughing into the crook of your arm is the safest place.
  • Clean your kit regularly. I know.. I know… kits get messy. But there is a difference between messy and dirty. Keep your paints away from sticky fingers, change your water regularly and sanitise your hands often.
  • Sanitise your hands between kids. Okay, I know I just said that, but I see it missed so often! Whilst the parent is getting that child in the chair (you shouldn’t be, you’re not insured to lift the child), quickly spritz your hands with hand sanitiser. Get into the habit of doing it every time, and it soon becomes second nature.
  • Remember that the antibacterial properties in your face paints are not designed to ward off infections, and not to be used as a fail safe. They’re predominantly designed to stop mould and bacteria growing on the paints, not the skin it’s painting.
  • Be prepared for cancellations. So many times I read the words “I was really relying on that gig….” but we can’t. In our industry, it is important to remember that plans vary quickly and that our wage will always be flexible and subject to change.
    Perhaps negotiate with the venues a contract and payback scheme rather than a standard PPF. We have done this to “high risk” festivals before, and it protects us from cancellations, whilst they can claim the cost back on their festival insurance***

Hopefully, most of my readers will look at this and go, well duh! But we have been asked a few times what impact we think this will have and I have to say, right now, we cannot possibly know. We have to assume that personal and kit hygiene will be sufficient, and continue as normal.

If you think we’ve missed something obvious, please let us know!

*at time of writing.
** data provided by
*** depending on their insurance.

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Hand Made Palettes, what to watch when you’re buying.

So here’s a post guaranteed to cause trouble 😂

It’s come up a few times in the last month and we’ve been asked more than once about it as it’s something we used to do too.


The fact is, to follow the rules (which is what we went out of our way to do) is just not profitable. We are not going to say who what where and when, but recently some rather unsafe products have shown up on social media selling sites that really concern us.

So here are some key points that will help make your decision informed:

~ Palettes are only at best insured under SFX. They must be labelled appropriately at all times.~ Appropriate labelling (at this time) requires batch numbers, ingredients, a production address, country of origin, shelf life and minimum age.

~ Even if the company has product insurance, does not guarantee you are insured to use them. In fact, some insurers we have spoken to have been very clear that if you use a product they do not feel is suitable or safe they will void your insurance, regardless of how “insured” that product might be.

~ The so called product insurance requires the product to be made in a sterile environment, only using ingredients suitable for the UK (currently still under EEC) and undertake any suitable testing. Insurers won’t stop companies from making the product, but they might void the insurance at time of claim.

~ Products made cannot have mixed batches, or mixed paint companies.

~ Whilst the original ingredient companies (Global etc) cannot stop you making the products, they can refute any attempted insurance claims under unsafe usage. We believe this also technically applies to re potting, so always check with your insurer first.

~ Most insurers now do not allow Neon that is not marked cosmetic, so neons are normally not allowed in hand made palettes.

~ Asking a company/a company specifically choosing to make a one stroke already made by a paint company, is quite an affront to the paint companies. As artists, we understand better than most just how precious our work is, so to attempt to get a cheap knock off is morally wrong, even if it’s not legally so.

We no longer offer palettes, because not only can we not realistically guarantee the safety of the product on anything else than SFX (which we labelled), we’ve just found it is simply not profitable when following all the rules. By the time we had labelled them correctly, logged batch codes, sterilised the area before and after, bought whole new colours to avoid mixing, etc… it was all simply too much. We could definitely have made more money if we had skimmed on weights and rules, but that is just not how we role.

Hopefully, armed with this information, you will have no problems buying safe products in the future.

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Neon – a big ol’ can of worms!

Neon is certainly the buzz word at the moment, and not necessarily for all the right reasons.

In the UK, one of our largest organisations recently released a statement stating that neon colours would not be covered under your insurance unless they specifically state on the back that they “are for cosmetic use” or “conform to EC 1223/2009”.  This was after extensive discussion with several large UK insurance companies, but unfortunately different people are being told different things, by different insurers. This is leading to a lot of confusion on social media, and we want to provide our knowledge to help  alleviate some of the stress.

The first, and most important thing to note is that the organisation who released the statement is not at all to blame for the confusion. The truth is; this is not a policy change, or new piece of legislation, but simply something we as an industry chose to ignore.

If a manufacturer wishes to call a product cosmetic, it must undergo rigorous testing under cosmetic guideline “EC 1223/2009”. This particular testing looks at multiple layers of the product; ingredients, reactions, safety, supply chain, restrictions, prohibitations, labelling, product claims and more.  In fact, this particular document is 151 pages long, contains over 1000 recognised substance categories, 35 articles and 16 annex… in other words there’s a lot to get through.

If (as is the case in neon) there are one or more ingredients that are not recognised as safe by the EC then the product cannot be listed or sold as cosmetic by the manufacturer.

You have to understand, this does not immediately mean that the product is not safe, but simply that the EC do not feel it meets their strict guidelines. In fact, all manufacturers have had their neon products individually tested by cosmetic companies to ensure safety, and I like to believe they wouldn’t sell something they didn’t think was safe (not least because that’s a liability nightmare).

But here is where it affects you; insurance.

Now, in actuality, there is no legal requirement for you to have insurance in the UK, but if anything happens, you’d be liable.  You could end up with thousands of pounds worth of compensation to pay, and it could utterly destroy you.

Insurance works to take liability of cost away from you by using a system called “pooling”.  It something used in every insurance industry where they group together a lot of different risk factors, and undwriters and actuarials then work out the chance of compensation vs the claim cost vs premium.  When you pay insurance, you’re not just paying for your risk but for every face painter. Which is why it is so important that we self-regulate our industry.

In order for the insurance company to take the cost away from you, they have to limit the chances of a claim.  They do this with the one and only law we really have to work with; EC1223/2009.  This means, whatever the EC say is what any insurance company will take as law, and what you must abide by if you wish to be covered by them.

All of this is quite a mouthful to take in, but in actuality it can be split down into simple bullet points;

1) If the EC do not recognise a product, they will not accept it under their guidelines.

2) This does not make the product unsafe, but as the insurers rely on EC Law they will likely not insure it.

3) It is the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure that their products are labelled as EC approved.

4) The insurer will expect the labelling of your product to say one of two things; “this product is accepted under EC1223/2009” or “for cosmetic use” (which implies it meets EC cosmetic guidelines). If your product does not say this, then you can assume your product would not be covered in the event of a claim.

5) Some products will state for SFX use, and some insurance companies will allows the product if you have SFX in your insurance. However this is down to the individual insurer, and they have the right to refuse if they feel the risk is too high.

6) It is your choice as to whether you use neon, but remember you do so at your own risk. It is also within the insurers right to invalidate your insurance if they feel you are not safely following manufacturers guidelines.

7) not having the labelling normally implies it doesn’t meet the legislation. EC labelling is expensive and lengthy, if you have it, you’d flaunt it. Unfortunately ignorance will not be bliss.

8) The only way to be sure is to have it in writing from your insurer as to whether a particular product is safe, and the insurer may not want to, and is under no obligation to, confirm that a product is. The truth is, in the event of a claim they will fail safe to any laws that exist, regardless of what they have previously said, and you may find yourself in hot water as a result.  This, you will normally find, is within the fine print of your contract.

By no means is our understanding an exclusive overview, but our advice to you is; if in doubt, leave it out. We have gone through the shop to label as best as we can, according to what the manufacturers have labelled. If we cannot see EC labelling, we will state this. If it has advice for SFX from the manufacturer, we will also announce this.

But, the choice as whether or not to use these products, knowing what you now know, remains yours.

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Biodegradable Glitter, and all that means!

Micro-plastics are classified as any plastic fragments that are less than 5mm long, and as anyone who has glittered themselves know; it gets everywhere. For environmentalists this is a big problem.

There is an estimated 19 billion tonnes of plastic currently floating around in our oceans* and at least one quarter of that is believed to be micro-plastics.  As David Attenborough will tell you this plastic is getting into the guts of fish and marine life, and actively changing the biodiversity of our oceans.  In fact, on the current path it is estimated there will be more plastic in our oceans by 2050 than there will be fish.  So what are we to do?

“Plastic is the enemy, ban it all!” Right?  Nope, don’t panic! Biodegradable glitter is here to save the day.

Biodegradable glitter is made from Eucalyptus tree extract.  This is metallised with a thin layer of aluminium (under cosmetic guidelines of 0.1%) and then a dye is placed on top, then cut.

That said, there are many different “fake” bio options out there, so below is a guide to help you make sure the stuff you buy is the best on the market.

Biodegradable glitter is not as shiny.
Biodegradable glitter is still very new in its manufacture. This means as yet the quality is not as equal to standard glitter as we would like. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is the plastic in standard glitter that allows for iridescent shine, holographic behaviour and all the other fancy options standard glitter has.  Since the only other shiny element in glitter is the aluminium, this is currently the bit that is giving biodegradable glitter its shine.  Of course, aluminium has to be kept to a minimum in order for it to be face cosmetic safe and thus comes the lack of shine.  Manufacturers around the world are working hard to find suitable alternatives, including mine who are currently experimenting with the use of synthetic mica into the glitter process.  Of course all the experimenting, and then certification takes time, and so when it comes to sparkle, you’ll just have to be patient.

Biodegradable glitter is soft.
With the lack of the hard PET substance, it shouldn’t be surprising that biodegradable glitter is softer and sometimes easier to curl than regular glitter.  This doesn’t mean it will melt on your face, but it is a good way to tell the quality and aluminium levels of the glitter.

Sometimes the dye doesn’t stick.
PET was annoyingly also the ingredient that holds and seals good quality glitter. Lacking this ingredient means sometimes you may find little streaks in the colour.  This is something the manufacturers are working hard on. Currently they run the sheets through the machines multiple times to coat the metallised eucalyptus, but of course the more times you do that, the more expensive the glitter will become.  Small streaks are the price we currently pay, to keep the cost similar to standard glitter costs.

Not all biodegradable glitter is marine biodegradable.
There are a lot of biodegradable options on the market, but biodegradable actually has two meanings; marine safe biodegradable and compostable.
Compostable glitter will not break down in the oceans. It requires a specific type of environment, of oxygen, microorganisms and warmth, which cannot be found in our seas. 
However marine biodegradable goes one step further in also being eventually soluble. We say eventually because the process can still take upwards of 6 months, but this is still considerably less than the 100 years plus of PET.  
Never be afraid to ask your supplier exactly what kind of biodegradable glitter it is, and you can always ask for the decomposition sheets, which will look a little like the below:

(A side note for trade; remember when asking for data sheets that if the supplier alters the document to hide their manufacturer details, your insurance will deem the document invalid.)

Biodegradable glitter can be used in gels, just not long term.
The half life of good quality biodegradable glitter is about 3.5 months, which means it takes about 7 months plus to break down (depending on environment conditions). Of course we would expect the dye to have left the sample long before then. This means as a supplier we cannot sell biodegradable glitter in our gel pots, but doesn’t mean you can’t make them up at home (subject to your insurance allowances).  We would expect you can probably get away with making it up a week or so before your event, depending on the type of gel you use, and the quality of the glitter you have bought.

There are no shapes in biodegradable glitter (at this time).
The cost to manufacture hex glitter (the regular shape) is 10x that of its standard glitter brother.  When they cut shapes, they also have to take into account the cost of waste material, and the stranger the shape, the worse this becomes. There is also an issue with the way the machines handle cutting the metallised eucalyptus, and waste material has been found to clog some machines.
 After extensive research, we believe at the moment on the market there are no marine biodegradable shapes of cosmetic quality. That’s not to say there won’t be before long.  As the demand for biodegradable glitter grows, the cost to manufacture will lower (everything is always cheaper in bulk) and then the manufacturers can again look introducing shapes.  This isn’t far out of the market, and I recommend watching this space.

Plastic is not always the enemy.
Saving the environment is not just about removing plastic, but also about recycling and reusing.  For example; Crafty Stock package our biodegradable glitter in reusable plastic seal bags and plastic pots.  We had looked at cardboard and paper alternatives, but often these contain non recyclable cellophane windows, which somewhat defeats the purpose.
Also there are other environmental impacts we should be taking into consideration.  Did you know that cardboard has a much higher carbon footprint than plastic?  A recent statement from Plastics Europe confirmed: ‘Only 1.5% of all oil and gas consumed in Europe is used as a raw material to produce plastic packaging, whereas 90% of it is used for heating, transportation and energy generation. If food was packed using other materials than plastics, the related energy consumption would double, and greenhouse gas emissions would nearly triple. This would also be accompanied by a 360% increase in the weight of the packaging’.**
Being environmentally friendly is not just about banning a bad thing, but about educating ourselves on the best ways to use and reuse what we do have.  We need to teach ourselves not to flush wipes down the toilet for example, but stick them in the bin where they can be broken down in a controlled landfill environment, or washing and reusing our plastic packaging rather than binning it.  In fact, if you are willing and clever enough with it, you can even continue to use regular glitter, as long as you dispose of it in a safe manner, and not down our drains.

 Hopefully this gives you a little insight into the world of biodegradable glitter, but if you have any questions, as always, please feel free to contact us!

*source: Science Journal
**source: Kempner