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Herpes in the headlines: why hygiene really matters

Why should I care about germs?

Why should I care about germs?

by Kate Matthews

SEVERAL news reports from the US in early 2013 alleged a make-up artist at a Rihanna concert may be responsible for infecting a woman with the herpes virus.  The report in CBS New York on May 31, 2013 noted a lawsuit was underway against MAC Cosmetics in the Manhattan Supreme Court.

This should have face painters and make-up artists all around the world paying close attention.

It could easily happen to any one of us. It doesn’t matter if we’re volunteers or professionals, this kind of thing doesn’t discriminate. And while liability in this case is yet to be determined, the situation highlights the very real possibility of spreading infectious diseases – in this case a lifelong one – and the subsequent legal and financial implications of such an allegation, whether or not it is proved to be true.

Imagine for a moment it was your name or business being accused of spreading herpes; on the front page of your local paper. Do you feel confident your current hygiene practices could reasonably defend your reputation? Have you taken the time to put your procedures into writing and into your contract? If the answer is ‘no’, then it’s time to reassess and put things in order. Without delay.

Let’s face it, hygiene should be on the top of any list of priorities for face painters. Right up there with using quality cosmetic paints. Your reputation and livelihood depends on it.

I’ve heard some professionals laugh it off, saying kids will catch more germs standing in line, or at the local playground. This may be true. Or it may not. Either way – as face painters we have a duty of care. If you don’t know what that means – at the end of this article I have a video that explains it perfectly. Please take a moment to watch it.

Herpes labialis

Herpes labialis

How you operate your business is your business. It’s up to you to decide on your priorities. But if you want to prevent playing a part in the spread of infectious diseases, like herpes, then you’ll need to take hygiene seriously through decisive action to minimise the risks. As I said before, it doesn’t matter if you’re a professional or a volunteer. You have a duty of care to everyone you paint. Ignore it at your own risk. As the Rihanna example proves, the consequences can be very real.

We’ll have to wait and see how things pan out for the woman who has been reported to be suing MAC Cosmetics (update: Feb 2014 – since the original reports in May 2013 I am yet to see the results). In the meantime I encourage you to do your own homework and put in place a hygiene plan you feel comfortable with, and which meets requirements of your local, state and national laws, should there be any that apply to your jurisdiction.

My tips for best practice and hygiene

  • Have your public liability insurance up-to-date;
  • Check for local, state or national regulations for your industry. If you have regulations, make sure you comply. If not, and many face painters are working in areas not covered by regulations, you’ll need to do some extra research and put together a formal hygiene plan. In writing – and include this in all your contracts;
  • Make sure you follow the plan and ensure anyone working with you or under your name has a copy and complies. Having everyone on the team sign the document is probably a good idea;
  • If you’d like to see an example of a hygiene plan for face painters, take a look at my  Health Guidelines. Or you can check out the recommended guidelines published by the Australasian Face and Body Painters Association (AFABA).

Disclaimer: the information contained within this blog is general in nature and is not intended to be viewed as legal or medical advice. It is strongly recommended you contact a registered legal or medical advisor to discuss your individual circumstances before making any decisions.

Further Reading:

You may also be interested in:

Here’s a great explanation on the concept of ‘Duty of Care’ by David Puttnam. Although it focuses on the news and industry, his real life example should get you thinking.

Got something to add? What practices do you employ to minimise the risk of spreading infection and disease? Or do you think having a hygiene plan is an over-reaction. Your comments are welcome below.

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6 comments on “Herpes in the headlines: why hygiene really matters

  1. Marie G
    June 2, 2013

    I agree!! I use hypoallergenic soap at all my gigs to provide better practice for hygiene purposes!! Q-tips are golden!! I always ask moms about blemishes I notice or explain why I can’t paint little Johnny or Jane due to open sores on the face! I always do a special arm design to ensure they are happy but you have to put health first!! Kudo’s on this blog!! I love your lay out too!! I blog on my website as well & perhaps a blog similar would be a good idea!! Thank you!!

  2. Kate
    June 2, 2013

    Thanks Marie for sharing your thoughts. Good to hear you like my blog :)

  3. Adina
    October 23, 2013

    My 6 y/o daughter had her face painted at a traveling circus on 9.27.13. It was an awesome cat painting over her entire face…around her eyes and mouth. A week later she had a horrible herpes outbreak around and in one of her eyes. 2 weeks of pain, blisters surrounding her eye, eye swollen shut for the majority of the time. Eye doctors checking her eyesight. It was a nightmare. NEVER AGAIN will she have her face painted in a public place!! If the virus comes back, and it likely will, it could damage or take her eyesight.

  4. facepaintingschool
    October 25, 2013

    I’m so sorry that happened to your daughter Adina. My goal is to educate face painters about the importance of practicing good hygiene and I think your experience certainly highlights that. Unfortunately some still think hygiene is a moot point, but with education more will help to improve standards across the board. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. I will make sure I’ll continue to
    keep up the warnings within the face painting community. Kate

  5. Kate & Billy McGuire
    December 16, 2013

    Fabulous Kate I have been face-painting for over 22 years & I have signs up for ever for parents and teachers and children to read and adhere to I have had mothers praise me and my hygiene practises i even use a new sponge for all full facepaints around the nose and mouth as yes this is where the herpes virus and others are found ,,,luckily i have also had trainig & worked as an AIN so when i relay this message it reinforces my imortant information for when children and Adults line up to get painted
    some mums have mentioned that their babies were Premi Babies and are the first to remark what a great practice cause they know from the beginning how important it is to keep there little one safe and especially whilst lining up….
    If a professional also takes time out to educate the community the more the better…A small pebble ,,helps makes a ripple effect…….I talk about this a lot with my respiratory specialist and GP as I too have always caught the bugs circulating from the little ones with uncovered sneezing and sick children being sent to school or lining up instead of being kept home with TLC…..Most of the mum are wonderful and if not ….well ..then they get our Workplace Health and Safety issues about hygiene speach …. Lets keep up the education….So glad i came across this page …regards Kate from Katesheart,com,au . ex (Be Happy Parties) ..Happy painting

  6. facepaintingschool
    January 4, 2014

    Hi Kate, thanks for stopping by and your comment. Paying attention to good hygiene practices is essential to professional face painting. Glad you agree :) Kate

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