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All about Neon/UV Face Paint Regulations

Neon Face Paints

We get a lot of phone calls and e-mails from customers with questions about Neon and Glow in the Dark face paints. We created this post to use as a quick guide to help you decide if you want to use these types of paint, and to understand the FDA guidelines concerning their use as a cosmetic. 

Their Properties

The first thing we need to do is define some common terms so that we know what we are talking about from the get go. 

Neon: although, in the face painting world we use this term to refer to UV reactive paints, by definition it is a colorless odorless mostly inert gaseous element that is found in minute amounts in air and is used in electric lamps. Technically our paints are not neon, though they appear to glow like a neon light, and most are labeled as Neon. 

UV Reactive: it is a product that glows under black light. This product needs the presence of a black light to glow, and it won’t glow without one. UV reactive paint can also be called luminous paint or fluorescent paint. 

Day-glow: most of our neon face paints are day-glow, meaning they also have a glowing effect under regular day light. That is not the case for those brands that use the only set of FDA approved neon pigments in existence, since those pigments only glow under black light and are very dull under regular light.

Glow In The Dark: these kind of paints don’t need a black light to glow. They only need to be exposed to regular light to be charged. Once charged, they will glow in a dark room. They also react under black light, but a black light won’t charge them, so exposure to black light won’t help to make them glow in the darkness afterwards. Glow in the dark paints are only good when used in large surfaces. Small detailed work can rarely be seen because the glow is not as intense as it is when the surface covered is much larger. Also, they are usually not very good for line work due to their creamier consistency.

So, when a face paint company calls their paints Neon, or UV, or DayGlow or Fluor most of them are referring to the same property: they glow under black light. 

Now that we know what the product is and what the differences are, we can talk about cosmetic regulations.

Cosmetic Regulations

In the USA, only a few UV reactive pigments have been tested by the FDA to be used in cosmetic products. Those pigments are not very vibrant under regular light but they glow well under black light. Also, the color range is very limited. 

There are many UV pigments in the market, a majority of which haven’t been tested yet by the USA FDA to be used in cosmetics, so according to their regulations, any product using them cannot be labeled as a cosmetic and should not be used as a such.

According to the FDA, cosmetics are "articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body...for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance" [FD&C Act, sec. 201(i)].

The fact that the FDA hasn’t tested the pigments yet doesn’t mean that they are in any ways dangerous to the skin. It just means that the FDA hasn’t looked into their safety yet. The good thing is that many companies have conducted their own tests with independent labs and those tests have established that the pigments are safe to be used on the skin, according to these companies.

Unfortunately, those tests are not enough to make the product compliant with USA FDA regulations, but they do provide a level of security when deciding to use the product, or not.

To get around compliance issues, face paint manufacturers have decided to label UV/Neon face paints as “Special FX Products, “Not for use on Skin”, or “Prosthetic Paints”, etc. They all have the same intention; warn the customer that the product is not considered a cosmetic in the USA. This has been in effect for over 30 years.

These regulations change from country to country, in countries like Australia, face paints are regulated as craft paints, so neon pigments are not an issue. Because paints are sold all over the world, but the USA tends to be the biggest market, most companies label their paints to be in compliance with USA FDA regulations. So, if you are in Australia, for example, the “Special FX” warnings don’t apply to your country, but a company in Australia may still use them.

Neon Paints that are FDA Compliant for Cosmetic Use

Diamond FX makes a UV/Neon Violet, Blue and White that are compliant with Cosmetic regulations according to them. Ruby Red has a nice range of colors including: white, yellow, green, pastel green, pastel blue, blue, purple, pink and orange. This is the biggest range of FDA compliant UV/Neon paints available in the market at the moment. Snazaroo also has a small range of colors that comply with FDA regulations as well as Mehron, in their Fantasy FX line.

Ruby Red also makes a clear UV color that can be applied on top of regular face paint. The color won’t show until exposed to UV lights. Once exposed to Black Lights, it will have a greenish glow with subtle variations depending on the color laying underneath it.

These pigments, as mentioned before, are not as vibrant under regular light as the non FDA complaint pigments used in other brands, but they do glow well under black light.

Kryolan has now launched a new line of cosmetic grade UV face paint colors that are complaint with US and European cosmetic regulations and we have them available! We will be testing these soon and let you know what we think of them.

Glow in the Dark Paints that are FDA compliant for Cosmetic Use

As far as Glow In The Dark paints the FDA has only approved one pigment with such quality and it is a whitish pigment that has a yellow/greenish glow in the dark. There are some companies offering a much wider range of glow in the dark colors, but they do not comply with USA FDA cosmetic regulations, although some do comply with EU cosmetic regulations.

Mehron, Ruby Red and Endura all produce FDA compliant glow in the dark face paints.

It is worth mentioning that all the of brands we import go through the FDA when they arrive to the country, and the FDA checks regularly for labeling compliance. 

Many times, like it happens with Henna, or real Tattoo inks, the FDA is very aware of the use of the product and knows that it is in violation of their regulations, but since they do not consider it a hazard (because they haven’t received many complaints about bad reactions) they do not put much effort into stopping the sale and use of those products. The FDA has said before that they concentrate their efforts onto those products that are known for having adverse effects.

The future could change, at some point either the FDA will choose to test those pigments if they consider it a public health priority, or the food and drug industry companies could request an FDA approval after following the steps required by the FDA to do so.

In any case, what is most important is that you know what you are using and buying, and you make informed decisions. It is also not a bad idea to check with your entertainers insurance company to see if you will be covered when using products that are not compliant with USA cosmetic regulations. Many insurance companies don’t have an issue with that as long as the product is regarded as safe. Others have in their language that they require FDA compliant products to be used or that the manufacturer must not advise you on their label that the product is not intended for cosmetic use.

Could Face Paint companies pay to get neon pigments approved by the FDA?

The answer to this question is basically no. The approval process it not as easy as to simply pay, request and get an answer. The FDA has to have an interest in the product, which usually means that there has to be a high demand for that pigment for them to invest their time and resources to look into. In order to request approval of a new pigment the FDA requires extensive testing that is expensive to conduct and can only really be afforded by very large industries like the pharmaceutical or food industry, the two biggest users of FDA approved pigments. 

No Warnings so no Worries?

We have noticed from reading posts online that many customers believe that if the product has no warnings on the website they buy it from, or on the label, even though it is neon, then everything is ok. There is something to be said about that. If the product comes from a reputable vendor and it is of a well known brand, likely the product is indeed safe. But, if the product clearly has UV pigments yet the manufacturer doesn't disclose them and you see no warnings on their label, that doesn't mean that the product is FDA compliant. It might be FDA compliant, if the pigments used are the ones that look dull under regular light, or It just means that the manufacturer chose to conceal that information from you. We see many eye shadow palettes coming from abroad that when exposed to UV lights glow like a disco party (and also glow under day light), yet they have no information at all on UV pigments being used. If you got a UV reactive face painting product that has no label warnings, ask the manufacturer what UV pigments did they use. Currently, the only FDA approved pigments that are UV reactive are: D&C Orange No. 5, No. 10, and No. 11; D&C Red No. 21, No. 22, No. 27 and No. 28; and D&C Yellow No. 7. You can mix these pigments with regular non UV pigments to obtain other colors, so for example you can mix UV Yellow No. 7 with a regular blue pigment to obtain a UV green, but it won't be a day glow kind of green, it will be dull looking under regular light. So, for example, If you see a product with a UV reactive green that also glows under regular light, it is likely made with non FDA approved pigments.

We applaud those manufacturers that are open and honest with their users about their products and what current regulations say about them while at the same time doing their own testing to make sure that what they are offering is safe.

About eight years ago we at Jest Paint started to research this topic and required manufacturers to learn more about their products and to label the products according to our regulations in the USA. At the same time we were first to openly disclose those warnings on our website so customers knew before they spent their money and could make an informed decision. Once we made the move, many stores followed, and today we are happy to say that most stores disclose that information up front. We do encourage you to ask your retailer to post those warnings on their website, just because they are not posted it doesn't mean that the product label won't have them.

Should and Can I Use Neon face Paints?

That is something that we can't answer for you. That is a personal decision for you to make. We can tell you that thousands of painters, including well known instructors use them and have been using them for over 30 years without issues. Do remember that no one has determined the pigments to be unsafe (like for example with the pigment used in the so called "black henna" which has been determined a very dangerous pigment). The situation with neon face paints in the USA is the same as with regular henna and regular tattoos: the pigments are not approved by the FDA to be used in that way, yet the FDA knows every one uses them like that, and the FDA has not done much to prevent it because they don't consider it a high risk.
Please consider talking with your insurance about this as well, some companies have wordings on their policy that require painters to follow manufacturers guidelines, which in many cases would mean not to use the product on the skin based on the label, while other companies have no issues with them as long as they have been tested and proven safe. Talk with your insurance company and find out what is their stand on non FDA compliant neon paints.

A side note: FDA complaint vs FDA Approved

The FDA doesn't approve a finished cosmetic product. No matter what some manufacturers might say, their cosmetic products cannot be FDA approved. The FDA only approves pigments to be used in cosmetic applications. Those pigments can be used by any cosmetic company. 

If a cosmetic product uses FDA approved pigments for cosmetic use and complies with all other label and ingredients regulations, then the product is in itself FDA Compliant. Companies cannot submit a finished cosmetic product to the FDA to get their approval, that is why claiming to have done so is incorrect. Companies can only say that they comply with, meet or follow FDA regulations.

At any given time, if you have questions about a pigment used, you can check the FDA list of approved pigments here.

You can check our entire range of neon face and body paints as well as special fx neon paints on our website.

Feel free to contact us if you have any other questions, we are always happy to hear from you.

Disclaimer: these are opinions based on our personal experience, we are not lawyers, chemists or health officials, so we recommend for you to contact a professional before making any decisions. We are not in any way giving legal or health advice and we are not liable for any decisions you make or stop making based on the opinions provided above.

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Sherry - June 16, 2020

I bought a Fusion Body Art palette – one of the new most popular ones – from another source and just noticed today the Special FX Product warning on the label. I wish I hard read this article before purchasing the product. I really appreciate the thorough nature of this article. Now I have to go see if my particular insurance will cover my using this product. I am now “informed” – thanks to your article – and will be much more cognizant of purchases going forward. BTW – this is NOT a slam at Fusion Body Art or the vendor – I was the one who didn’t understand and it is my responsibility to be informed. The colors are absolutely stunning and while I am not concerned personally with using neon on my own skin – I want to be especially cognizant of what I offer/use with my customers. Thank you again for a very well written article about this subject.

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