Gooey Face Paint: How to Fix It and Prevent it from Happening (Again)

image: How to Fix Gooey Face PaintFACE PAINT gone gooey? Before you give up and toss it in the bin, read my best tips for fixing gooey face paints, and better still, how to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Let’s start with a question from V, who asks:

Q: “Please Help? My face paint has gone gooey. How can I fix this? I suppose I have put too much water in them. I’ve tried to let them dry out by removing the lid but it still super soft and very hard to use, it sticks on the brush. Any advice would be much appreciated.”

A: Thanks for the question, V. You're not the only one, so I thought I'd write this article. 

TLDR - the most common cause of gooey face paint is being over-saturated, and more often than not, this happens to white, as it's the colour we use the most as face painters and therefore it gets more water added than any other colour. It's also more likely to happen with a smaller pot than a larger one but can also occur with a large pot and any brand. Professional face painters will often carry 2 whites in their kit so they can swap over during the gig, to prevent the white from getting overused.

What is gooey face paint?

Basically, gooey face paint has become difficult to work with because it’s too soft. But more than that: gooey face paint is sticky, with a consistency like toothpaste or tacky putty. Or even a thick soup.

Gooey face paint shouldn’t be confused with soft face paint, which I’ll discuss in a moment… gooey face paint is almost impossible to use. If you want to fix it, you’re going to need patience. And the understanding that, if it's too far gone, it's too far gone. 

But don't give up yet. 

You'll find my best tips for fixing gooey face paint, and how to prevent it from happening in the first place, below.

First, let's look at some of the reasons why face paint has 'gone bad'.

Why has my face paint gone gooey?

Face paint definitely shouldn’t be gooey, unless it’s a cream face paint, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

We're talking about pro-quality, water-activated face paint which comes in a dry cake form. When new and unused, the face paint cake will be solid, and dry and relatively firm to the touch. It activates when it comes into contact with liquid, eg water.

So now we have the basics out of the way, some of the most common causes of gooey face paint are:

  • Over-saturation ie you've added too much water to the face paint - the percentage of water will build up over time, making the paint water-logged;
  • Overuse - the cake is a favourite and is used frequently, which also results in it becoming waterlogged;
  • The face paint paint hasn’t been allowed to dry out properly in-between use;
  • The face paint has been exposed to high temperatures (for example, being left in a hot car, in the sun, or other extreme conditions);

If your face paint has (gulp) become gooey and unworkable, then don't give up hope. Yet...

example of gooey face paint one stroke

Additional Notes (soft face paint?):

But before we discuss ways to fix your gooey paint, I just want to add a note here: if your face paint is soft, but not sticky like toothpaste, then it isn’t actually gooey. It's just soft.

Let me explain: One of the main ingredients of water-activated face paint is wax (usually paraffin), which carries the pigment, or glycerin, or a combination of the two. Wax is hard. Glycerine is soft.

And since the percentage of glycerine in a product will affect its softness, it stands to reason the more glycerine, the softer the face paint.

Therefore a glycerine based face paint, which doesn’t contain any wax, or a low percentage of, will naturally feel soft and sometimes even a little smooshie. But it isn’t gooey.

  • Brands including Superstar and Mehron Paradise contain glycerine, no wax. This makes them soft to the touch. They are 'solid', but if you press your finger, or a brush on the surface, the paint will indent easily, without much effort. This softness makes them perfect for covering large areas, sponge work, and blending.
  • Alternatively, waxed based face paints, like TAG Body Art, Party XplosionGlobal Colours, Fusion Body PaintXO Art Coand Face Paints Australia (and others), feel quite firm/solid to the touch. It takes comparatively more pressure to make an indent in the surface of the cake with your finger tip;
  • The exception to this rule is pearls and metallics. Pearl and metallic face paints contain a higher proportion of glycerine to wax, which makes them softer than regular colours.

Are you still with me? 

If you have any questions or comments after you read this article, please leave a comment below.

How to fix gooey face paint?

Can gooey face paint be fixed? 

It’s worth trying, but if your face paint is too far gone (like the photo below), I’m afraid it may end up in the bin. But try these tips first:

  1. First, check your face paint doesn't have a funky, or "off" smell. Or a moldy appearance to the surface. These symptoms are usually an indication that the face paint is growing bacteria and unfortunately at this point, it's time to dispose of the paint to avoid making someone sick;
  2. Assuming your face paint still smells ok, then remove the lid and allow to dry out for as long as you can before using again. You can try storing it for a few weeks in a container along with some water absorbing crystals. You can even reuse those little satchels that sometimes come with food, new shoes, handbags and the like...
  3. Check back after (at least) a week, and see if your paint has dried out. If not, leave it longer.
  4. If the consistency of your paint hasn't improved in a month, then it's time to say bye-bye and let it go…

How can I prevent my face paint becoming gooey or mushy in the future?

gooey white face paint

That’s a great question, and it goes hand-in-hand with best practice in how to use face paints correctly.

Here are my 10 top tips for taking care of your face paints to ensure they last the distance. For people who work in hot climates (like me), there are extra precautions to take:

  1. Let’s start with storage. I store my face paints without their individual lids. You’ll still need a cover to protect your paints from dust and other contaminants ~ a palette case not only keeps your paints neat and tidy but allows them to breathe in-between gigs. You could also try adding a layer of paper or cardboard over the paints, under the palette lid. This will absorb excess moisture and can be changed regularly;
  2. Manufacturers recommend storing your face paints in a cool, dry situation;
  3. Avoid exposing your face paints to excessive heat, for example in a hot car, or in the hot sun;
  4. If you work in a hot climate, consider using a higher-percentage wax-based brand, eg TAG, XO, Fusion, Global, FPA, Party Xplosion etc, instead of a higher-percentage glycerine-based brand (eg Mehron or Superstar) - these are naturally softer paints. Also noting that metallic and pearl colours are a high glycerine formula and have a tendency to be a lot softer than regular or matte colours.
  5. If you are working outside on a hot day, try placing your face paint palette on top of some frozen ice-blocks (the type you put in a lunchbox or cooler/esky) - this will help maintain a more even temperature and effectively prevent your face paints from 'melting' in the heat;
  6. Try to minimize the amount of water you add to the face paint itself. This one is important! I recommend not wetting the paint directly. The occasional 1-2 water spritz is ok, but note that this should only be done occasionally, and not every time you pick up a colour (unless the paint surface is dry). You only need enough water to make the paint into a creamy consistency, but not so much water that the paint is still wet 15 minutes later;
  7. When using a sponge, I recommend using a water spritzer to wet the sponge until it's damp, not dripping wet, and then pick up the paint. Avoid spraying the paint directly; 
  8. When using a brush, dip it in clean water, then activate the surface of the paint. It really only takes a few drops and you can always add more as needed;
  9. If you find your paint is too wet during your face paint session, use a paper towel to soak up any excess from the surface and give it a little rest, if you can.
  10. Consider having a second white on hand, or decanting half your white into a second container (don’t forget to label it clearly with the brand, colour, batch number and date). Then rotate these paints so they don’t get overused. White is the colour most likely to get overwet, since it is used far more often than any other colour. You can also apply this tip to split cakes and onestrokes - if you find you use a particular colour combination frequently, consider having a duplicate on hand, and switch between the two and that way, you give them a chance to rest and dry out.

Final Tip: Don't worry if the surface of your paint dries out so much that it cracks (the opposite of gooey). Since face paints are water-activated, drying out isn’t a problem. When you add water, they will come back to life.


Gooey face paint can be a real problem for face painters, especially beginners who have limited experience and knowledge. Hot climates create an additional hazard. 

The good news is, you can (and should) take steps to prevent your face paint from going ‘bad’. 

Yes, it’s a little effort, but since your face paints are a valuable investment, then I think it’s worth going the extra mile, don't you?

I'd love to know what you think about my suggestions for fixing gooey face paint. Have you experienced gooey face paint? Were you able to fix it? What worked for you? Or what didn't work...?

Please comment below!

Know someone who might find this article interesting? Please feel welcome to share.


This article was written by Kate Matthews, a professional face painter since 2011 and face paint retailer since 2013. The information provided is a result of her own experience and industry knowledge.


While we make every effort to ensure that material on this site is accurate and up to date, such material does in no way constitute the provision of professional advice. Face Paint Shop Australia does not guarantee, and accepts no legal liability whatsoever arising from or connected to, the accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness of any material contained on this website or any linked site. Users should seek appropriate independent professional advice prior to relying on, or entering into any commitment based on material published here; which material is purely published for reference purposes alone.

7th Feb 2019 Kate Matthews

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