During dark winter, I recommend using hits of brilliant color across bare skin and hair to brighten things up a bit, especially for holiday parties.

I suppose you could call these beauty tips, but they’re also all about breaking the rules and trying out the unexpected. Unlike what maddening women’s magazines might tell you, there is NO age restriction on wearing a bright pop of color on your lids or streaking your silver hair pastel green. Surprise YOURSELF and consider these “tips” a little neon-bright gift to yourself and to everyone around you. (They all wash out…whew!)…

(Iris Apfel, in colorful plumage, agrees!)

Loose Pigment Iris Apfel

My great inspiration is the lapis-blue boy from the remote village of Pikin Slee, Suriname, only a three-hour canoe ride upriver from the next town over; he caught the eye of photographer Viviane Sassen, previously a fashion photographer (which might explain the attraction to the striking hue), as she was compiling intimate portraits of locals at work and at play. He appears to be dusted with chalk, which we can do ourselves….

Viviane Sassen
Viviane Sassen

…using a classic art material doing double-duty as a beauty product. “Hair chalking” became quite popular a year or so ago as a temporary, non-toxic means of tinting your hair, and temporarily altering your appearance. Trendy stores and several well-known brands now sell their own “hair chalk,” packaged up nicely and released as a unique specialty product. It isn’t, really. It’s a chalk-like product that is more pigmented and more finely milled than actual blackboard chalk. Does this sound familiar? They’re essentially chalk pastels for artists!

Loose Pigments hair chalk sennelier

Sennelier, a French brand that also manufactures incredible silk dyes and other pigmented products for art and textile, carries a fabulous spectrum of chalk pastels. At about $2.50 per pastel stick, Sennelier sets can run into the hundreds of dollars. I would personally recommend them over any other brand but only if you have a serious vision and want a range of subtle colors. Otherwise, I’d opt for a more more affordable starter sets of 20 assorted half sticks….And this set of 24 iridescent colors holds lots of possibilities. Sennelier pastels are also sold individually, perfect if you’ve been searching for that one nuanced shade of, say,  Pink Lake 274.


But for, say, your son or daughter’s birthday party, I’d probably go cheap-o. These Non Toxic Soft Pastel Set of 64 Assorted Colors Square Chalk are perfect for “dyeing” kids’ hair as they’re extremely low-to-no damage (perhaps a bit drying); if using a higher artist grade, make sure the pigments don’t contain anything unsavory like cobalt.

Loose Pigments hair chalk child

It helps to get your hair slightly damp before you apply the color:

Loose Pigments hair chalking

Applying the pastels to lighter, or lightened hair will make the colors pop. Use more opaque colors on dark hair. Naturally white/silver/grey hair makes the perfect neutral canvas for hair chalking.  I always thought Emmylou Harris would look fabulous with a little streak of something in that perfect steely ‘do of hers (which is often toned to the brink of lavender, anyway):

Loose Pigments Emmylou

There is something very satisfying about literally drawing on your own hair, changing its color not with a chemical cocktail but with a handful of dry, powdery pigment.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 2.33.39 AM

Another material for brightening the day-to-day this winter are interesting cosmetics. They have been a passion of mine for years, and actually a source of inspiration for some of my performative art. Makeup can very much be about covering yourself up and being displeased with your true appearance…but it can also be a temporary agent for change, transformation, disguise: mysterious, glamorous, even hilarious. Makeup done right isn’t about putting yourself away; it’s about putting yourself on display, demurely or dramatically.

Loose Pigment silver hand

My favorite tried-and-tested, ready-to-wear cosmetic brands that feature kooky, eclectic, BRIGHT colors include: Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics’ pro-grade “lip tars” in every shocking shade from pastel blue to apple green and everything in between; Urban Decay’s thunderously popular Electric eye palette (which gets snapped up despite its hefty $50 price tag); and on the low end, NYX’s delightful Macaron (pastel cream) and Wicked (vampy metallic) lipsticks that are extremely affordable at $6 a pop and come in all sorts of greys, whites, olive greens, yellows, lilacs, oranges, corals, blues….

Loose Pigment UDelectric

But the real fun comes in when you start working with raw cosmetic-grade pigments and natural mica glitter; they’re super cheap and can be used for a bevy of other craft projects like soap- and candle-making and home-pressed eyeshadows.

I strongly suggest you pick up a few of these DIY cosmetic pigments and go nuts on a rainy day craft session, or launch your own line of makeup. TKB Trading is not a pretty website; it looks a bit stuck in the early 2000s, and their powders come in industrially-labeled plastic baggies. But with several hundred shades of pigments and natural mineral-derived mica glitters in both bulk and sample sizes, I have some of their products nearly everywhere in my household. The stuff can and does go into my cosmetics (dabbed on top of Chapstick or worn as eyeshadow), mica glitters in my body wash, and even my paintings, mixed up with some gouache and gum arabic.

Looks can go from subtle…




…to all sorts of ranges in between (check out this Artful Faces Pinterest for inspiration)…


TKB Trading offers “blank” colorless bases for lip, eye and face products as well as lipstick molds, recipe manuals, scoops and mini-spatulas, and quite a few indie makeup designers have released home-cooked lines of makeup using these pre-mixed bases and managed to run a successful mini-business from home.

Here’s a sampling of their fab colorful swatches; watch with sound OFF (Video link HERE.)

My favorites to use as a painting additive are the ethereal Mermaid pigments, which are six white “interference” colors that suddenly flash different colors when they catch the light at the proper angle. Do spend twenty minutes going through all the micas (shimmery powders) and all the matte dyes and pigments and see if anything strikes your fancy.

Loose Pigments sinnae paint

Color can be so absolutely transformative—not only with appearance but with mood, with memory, with creativity—that I’ll use almost any excuse to slip into something brighter (or, in this case, get something bright thrown right in your face!)Just as the teen protagonist in perennial young adult fiction favorite The Giver was utterly changed by seeing a glimpse of red in a greyscale world, color — messy, unplanned, explosive, crazy color — might be able to draw you out of a funk, provide you with a new material for making.

Loose Pigment 5k powders feat

images via Hyperallergic, The Color Run, and TKB Trading

Sinnae Choi

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2 replies on “Personal Celebration: Vivid Colors for Hair, Face, Body (DIY)

  1. Personal expression of color is great for murals (walls), sidewalks, blank canvases, a lovely flowing skirt,
    vivid gypsy-style jewelry, red lipstick, shell-colored nail polish. Skin and hair – NO!

    Painting the human body is tacky. What is more beautiful than glossy hair in it’s natural color or kissed
    by the sun? Clean skin, bright natural eyes as in a child needs no artificial decorations. Your ideas are
    not unlike dressing animals in clothes, poodles in tue-tues, elephants in hats, clowns that people move
    away from.

    The body is a temple. The more artificial crap you put on it and in it, the further you become from
    honoring the beauty and perfection given by nature.

  2. Personal expression is just that, personal, and it’s pretty judgy to blithely label it as tacky. If you’re not into something, why put it into a negative box? Nobody’s pushing you to do anything you don’t want to.
    Art begins in the inner eye of the artist and is by turns serious and intensely playful. Play is intrinsically valuable not just for children but also for adults. It teaches you about yourself, what you value, and what emotionally moves you. Individual expression is always a breath of fresh air in a world where what is beautiful is continually being co-opted by people who want to monetize and monopolize what women think they should look like.
    Please, explore and play and make your own decisions about what beauty can be. We don’t lose by having different opinions. We lose by never trying out different opinions.

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