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Body Painting Lets Beach-Goers Color Themselves Beautiful

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Not all the graffiti you’ll see at the beach this summer will be on the walls. Some beach-goers will be wearing it on their bodies.

They’re treating their skin as if it were a canvas.

Body painting is nothing new. The ancient Egyptians did it. So did Goldie Hawn--she often appeared on television’s “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” wearing just a bikini and painted-on peace signs.

On these warm spring days, kids are already hanging out at boardwalks on the Southern California coast in their bikinis and boardshorts, showing off their latest masterpieces on their bellies and backs.

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“When the weather gets better, there’s more people who want to do body painting because they’re exposing more of their body,” says Janor St. Pierre, owner of Hollywood Magic in Costa Mesa.

Body painting is also popular at children’s parties, street fairs and, of course, Halloween.

Some people prefer to paint themselves freehand, using a brush and vial of body paint. Others who are less artistically inclined can paint on ready-made tattoos that last three to five days.

“A lot of people want to wear tattoos, but they’re not ready to commit,” St. Pierre says.

Body paints last about a day and are formulated to wash off with soap and water.

“These are specially manufactured for the skin,” says Linda Shropshire, saleswoman for Fantasy Costumes in Brea, which also carries body paints.

St. Pierre warns people not to use other types of paint on their skin.

“We’ve had people come in who have tried to paint themselves with watercolors,” she says. Although watercolors are nontoxic, they can stain.

Even safe, nontoxic body paints can irritate the skin if a person is allergic to a dye used in the product, says Dr. Vandana Nanda, assistant professor of dermatology at UC Irvine.

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“For the most part, body paints are probably OK, unless you’re allergic,” she says. Then body paints can trigger a skin irritation that can last up to seven to 10 days.

Nanda recommends that a person test the paint on a small patch of his or her skin to check for an allergic reaction. If no itching or redness develops, the paint is probably OK to use.

It’s also a good idea to apply sunscreen when using the paints, since the paints probably offer little or no protection against sunburn.

What people choose to paint is up to them. The golden woman in the James Bond movie “Goldfinger” is always popular for Halloween, St. Pierre says. To get the look, women sponge themselves all over with gold body paint.

Hollywood Magic carries body paints for $3 a bottle and a body-painting kit for $8.50.

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