Of all the different types of paint and mediums out there, you might have heard about acrylic being one of the safest to use.
It’s mostly non-toxic, and of course, it’s water-based. Even so, you might still find yourself asking this question: is acrylic paint safe for skin?
After all, creatives are very prone to making a mess, and since most of us paint with our hands, it is not a big surprise why our hands are always exposed to having paint on it.
In fact, it’s not just our hands. We can get paint on our arms, face, even our feet, especially if we’re really in the zone.
Before anything else, allow us to appease your anxiety by saying that acrylic paint is generally safe.
However, this doesn’t mean that they can’t be a serious health threat if you’re not careful.
Today, we will tell you about both the health benefits and safety risks of using acrylic paint as a medium, but in order to do that, we need to understand the nature of acrylic paint itself.
Understanding Acrylic Paint
Acrylic paint is made up of an acrylic polymer emulsion combined with the necessary color pigment.
Taking a quick trip back to your chemistry class as a kid, an emulsion is a mixture of two liquid substances that shouldn’t normally mix.
If left to their own accord, like oil and water, they would normally separate.
On the other hand, when mixed using a special process, the secondary substance can be incorporated into the first, making it look like a single liquid.
From the name of the emulsion, there are two main substances: acrylic and polymer.
Acrylic is a colorless, plastic substance that can be made into a liquid form, but what makes it great as a painting medium is the following properties:
- It doesn’t turn yellowish, even when exposed to sunlight, and even in the passing of years.
- It is very weather-resistant. Your works can last for a very long time.
- It is generally non-toxic.
Anyway, let’s move on to the second substance, which is a polymer. This substance serves as a binder.
You see, the polymer has a molecular nature where its particles fall into a stable hexagonal structure that can effectively trap color pigments and bind them to their place.
Now, the only substance left in your paint is the color pigment.
You derive these pigments from different chemicals and minerals.
Most of them have natural sources, and since they are only mixed in small amounts, to give you the color you want, they are also generally considered harmless.
The Health Benefits of Painting with Acrylic
You probably have an idea of the health benefits of acrylic paint.
Here are the main points:
- It doesn’t require working with solvents and thinners as much as oil paint needs.
Honestly, oil paint on its own is as safe as acrylic, but when worked with heavy metal solutions, then it becomes a more hazardous medium to use.
- Acrylic is water-based.
This means that it can easily be washed away with water. If it does get on your skin, you can remove it with warm water and soap and know that your direct contact and exposure to it can be easily minimized.
- It is non-toxic.
As we have mentioned above, acrylic is not classified as toxic. However, this doesn’t mean that you can ingest it.
As long as you use your acrylic paints for their intended purposes, you should be safe.
The Health Hazards of Painting with Acrylic
That said, it doesn’t mean that all acrylic paints are off-the-hook in the safety department.
Here are some known risks:
- Some acrylic mediums contain formaldehyde, and when used, the medium releases it into the air as it dries.
Formaldehyde is harmful when inhaled. Aside from formaldehyde, one study reveals that in taking a closer look at six different acrylic paint brands, it was found out that they release odors that, in ill-ventilated environments can pose health risks.
- Not all pigments are created equal.
Some are toxic, while others are only toxic or harmful if ingested in large amounts.
Finally, others may not be harmful at all.
- Like pigments, acrylic paints come in different qualities too.
Big brands have safety standards that they strictly adhere to.
That doesn’t go for lesser-known brands, though, that might even be distributing their products knowing full well of their health risks.
Is Acrylic Paint Safe for Skin?
We are aware, though, that most of the points we have talked about above can be avoided by buying quality paint and not using it irresponsibly with conscious intent.
Of course, who would proactively drink acrylic paint?
We know that you are mostly concerned about something that happens inevitably: is acrylic paint safe for skin if your hands are constantly exposed to it while painting?
The answer is no. First of all, acrylic paint was not created to be used on your skin, especially on your face.
If your hands have been exposed to acrylic paint, you should wash it off as soon as possible.
Don’t allow it to dry because, as we have mentioned above, acrylic paint hardens when it dries, and it is formulated to trap pigments to a surface.
In doing so, it robs the skin of its flexibility and blocks its pores that can irritate.
What’s worse is that its particles can cling to your skin’s hair and can cause pain if you try to peel it off.
How to Remove Acrylic Paint From Your Skin
Hence, here is a quick guide on how to remove acrylic paint from your skin should it be exposed to it:
- If the acrylic paint is still wet, you should wash it off immediately with soap water.
- If the paint has already dried, it can be washed away by plain water anymore. However, you can still remove it with oil.
- Pour baby oil or apply an oil-based grooming product on the affected area. Having said that, you can use cold cream as well.
- Apply the baby oil or grooming product on the problem area. With your fingers, massage it in using a circular motion. Allow a couple of minutes for the oil to break the paint down.
- Once you notice that the oil is already breaking down the paint, wipe it off with wipes.
- If small particles are clinging to the hair of your skin, gently remove them by scratching them off with your nails.
- If this is still not enough, you can try removing the remaining paint off your hands with alcohol. Dab a cotton ball or pad with alcohol and press it on the problem area.
- Again, allow a few minutes for the alcohol to get absorbed by the paint.
- With the same cotton ball, wipe the paint off your skin.
- If this is still not enough to remove everything, repeat the water-oil-alcohol method until you have successfully cleaned everything off from your skin.
So you see, it takes a lot of work in order to remove acrylic paint from your skin, so if you ever think about putting it there on purpose, stop.
Also, remember that while acrylic paint is not toxic for us, its component can be totally damaging to our aquatic resources.
Thus, if possible, don’t wash your hands or throw away acrylic paint wastewater through your sink.
How to Prevent Your Hands from Getting Paint on Them
After the tedious process of removing acrylic paint from your hands, you might be thinking about ways to avoid getting paint on your hands in the first place.
There only really is one sure way, and that is to use gloves. We review a great set of gloves for painting in this article.
There are different gloves that you can use, but one type that we have found comfortable to work with are garden gloves.
They are usually made of breathable material and is designed to be used while gripping tools, a welcome feature in holding brushes, as well.
We understand that it takes a lot of getting used to. The sensation of wearing something over your hands while painting can be a bit overwhelming at first, especially if your work requires details and delicate control.
It’s going to be worth it, though, if you do get used to it in the long run.
The alternative to that is simply being more conscious or attentive. Make an effort to prevent getting paint on your hands while painting, and once you do notice it, wash it off immediately.
More Tips on How to Paint Safely
Moving on, aside from using gloves, here are more tips on how to paint safely and more responsibly:
1. Read the Label Paint Carefully
Acrylic paint manufacturers have carefully labeled their products because there are pigments and other ingredients that may be hazardous to one’s health and even cause allergies.
Hence, make sure to read the product label carefully, especially before purchase to make sure that you are not buying something that you believe is unsafe.
Aside from that, a detailed product label is also a good indicator that the brand is trustworthy compared to other products that don’t have them.
2. Don’t Expose Your Paint to Sources of Heat or Fire
We don’t recommend you to smoke inside your studio because some components of your paints and mediums can be highly flammable.
3. Don’t Eat, Drink, or Smoke Inside Your Painting Studio
Another reason why you shouldn’t smoke while painting is because it can also make you prone to ingesting your paint by accident.
For this same reason, you should avoid eating and drinking.
We get why a lot of artists enjoy drinking coffee or tea while painting. We need that caffeine boost, as well.
If you really can’t paint without your favored drink, then put it on a separate surface from your paints.
Most of all, don’t hold the cup from its rim. Hold it from its handle.
4. Avoid Touching Your Face While Painting
Doing so may accidentally transfer paint to your face and worse, your eyes.
5. Don’t Expose a Lot of Skin While Painting
In connection with the previous tip, we recommend painting with as much body coverage as possible. Wear pants and long-sleeved shirts.
6. Paint in a Well-Ventilated Area
As we have mentioned previously, there are components released into the air as the paint dries, which is recognizable through the odors produced.
As such, it will a big help if you paint in a room that allows a lot of fresh air in.
In fact, if possible, paint outside. We personally love painting from the porch. How about you?
7. Don’t Paint With Distractions
Finally, we get the merit of painting with kids or pets around. They can serve as inspiration.
On the flip side, though, they can also be a distraction. Plus, doing so will also be putting them at risk.
Depending on the age, a child can easily mistake your paint for food, or a pet can potentially knock things over, especially solvents. It’s simply not worth putting them at risk.
By keeping the tips we have shared with you in mind, you will be able to lessen the risk significantly.
Being a painter, you are aware of the fact that regardless of any medium you use, it will always come with health risks.
There are only ways where you can reduce the risks.
At most, you can consider using digital tools as your medium and create digital art instead.
Knowing that you can still produce art in the same quality, as we believe that art cannot be measured by its medium, nor even the skill of the artist, but of its heart, only that the sensory experience will change.
Thank you for reading all the way through. We hope that this post has helped you answer most of your questions regarding the safety of acrylic paints, especially while wondering, is acrylic paint safe for skin?
Please feel free to explore other articles on our website, as well since we believe that they are also beneficial to your artist journey. Don’t stop creating!