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Pondering the perils of paint

Diehard sports fans have a variety of ways to express their devotion: signs, hats and all sorts of apparel. There are some, however, who take it a step further with the power of paint.

For generations sports fans of all kinds have immersed themselves in the colors of their favorite teams with the simple hope of rallying fellow fans and maybe getting on TV in the process.

The Beef Studs is a student organization that paints members’ bodies green and gold for sporting events. The Studs were created in 2002 when a group of medical students wanted to see more school spirit at USF, so they decided that painting their bodies and wearing helmets and towels would help boost team morale from the end zone. The group has become a tradition, growing from its original 10 members to more than 300.

Using their basic design, the Studs’ traditional paint job takes no longer than five minutes to complete using a large paintbrush, said Bennett Smith, education major and president of the organization.

“We use acrylic paint that stays on for about the entire game. We simply wash it off in the shower in about 10 minutes,” he said.

While skin painting is supposed to be all fun and games, there is some risk involved. The acrylic paint most sports fans use can be bought at an arts and crafts store for a few dollars. However, this paint is not intended for skin, but rather for wood, plaster and other material surfaces.

Local entertainer Jeannie Sommer, also known as “Wags the Clown,” has been painting kids’ faces for more than 10 years. Early in her career, she consulted her doctor about paint safety. He warned her that acrylic paints can cause allergic reactions in some people and contain toxins that could be harmful to the skin.

Jeannie was also warned about using glitter. She said her doctor told her that craft glitter could contain glass and other abrasive pieces, which could get in a person’s eye and cause serious damage, particularly if they cut the retina.

For insurance reasons, everything Sommer uses to paint faces must be FDA-approved for safety. Snazaroo, an approved brand of face paint, even sells a “sports package” containing three small palettes.

Dr. Mary Lien of USF’s dermatology department said acrylic craft paint can be dangerous to the skin. She does not recommend using any paints that are not made specifically for the body.

“The acrylic craft paint has chemicals in it that can cause a rash, and some contain nickel which can cause an allergic reaction,” said Lien. “The acrylic paints that painters use — that can actually cause cancer.”

However, Heath Crouch, a freshman music major and member of the Studs, said that the acrylic paint they use never made him feel uncomfortable or irritated his skin.

For body painters on a budget who want to be safe, there are many homemade paint recipes online at familyeducation.com and recipezaar.com, most of which contain cold cream, cornstarch and food coloring.