Medical Review By: Jenna Steffel, APRN, DNP
A slip of the Sharpie, a drip of the hair dye, a misplaced squirt of the tie-dye bottle — it happens. And then there’s the challenge of getting the ink or dye, or the glue or other substance, off your skin, or off your child’s skin.
Don’t panic. In most cases, you probably have something in the house that will remove the stain or stickiness and leave your or your little one looking like nothing ever happened.
How to get hair dye off skin
Simple soap and water may be enough to tackle hair dye if you catch it before it dries. If the stains are on your face and they aren’t budging, apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or cotton pad and dab it on the affected areas. (Don’t use rubbing alcohol near your eyes.) If you don’t have rubbing alcohol, gently rub the stains with a small amount of non-gel toothpaste. Let the toothpaste sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then wash it off with a washcloth and warm water.
People with sensitive skin may prefer to try olive oil. Pour a small amount onto a cotton ball or your fingertip, gently rub in the oil and leave it for up to 8 hours before washing with warm water.
If the hair dye has gotten on your hands, there are more options for removing it because the skin there may be able to tolerate harsher products. Try rubbing the stains with acetone nail polish remover or a paste made with baking soda and gentle dish soap.
How to get food coloring off skin
Food coloring is quite stubborn but rubbing the stains with acetone nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol may do the trick. If the dye doesn’t disappear, try using over-the-counter hydrogen peroxide (3% concentration).
For people with sensitive skin, a gentler option is baking soda. Wet your fingertips with water, dip them in baking soda, and rub the affected area.
How to get super glue off skin
Super glue is super strong, but thankfully, it isn’t so super at gluing fingers together. To remove super glue from fingers, rub a small amount of acetone nail polish remover on the bonded parts of the skin, gently peel the skin apart and then wash the area with soap and water.
Removing super glue from more delicate areas is trickier. You may be able to remove super glue from your lips by washing them with a lot of warm water and then gently peeling or rolling the lips apart. If that doesn’t work, see your doctor.
If you get the glue on your eyelashes or eyelids, flush the area with water. If your eye is stuck closed, seek immediate medical attention.
How to get paint off skin
The way to get paint off skin varies depending on the type of paint. For water-based paints (acrylic, fabric, latex), scrub the paint marks with a washcloth and bar soap or dish soap. Add a little salt or sugar to the lather for exfoliation if the soap alone isn’t enough. Or try wiping away the paint with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol.
For splotches of oil-based or enamel-based paint, paint thinner and turpentine are removal options. Both can be harmful to your health with frequent exposure, but if you’re not someone who frequently has to remove paint from their skin (like a house painter or artist), you can rub away the splotches with a small amount of either if you feel comfortable doing so. Apply glycerin first if you happen to have it on hand to loosen the paint first. Wash the areas with soap and water when you’re finished.
Alternatively, apply a generous amount of mayonnaise, vegetable oil, olive oil, or baby oil. Scrub with your fingers for a few minutes to loosen the paint, then let the oil sit on your skin for another few minutes. Wipe it off with a paper towel and rinse with water.
How to get ink off skin
If your skin has been stained with water-soluble ink (found in rollerball pens and some gel pens), washing with soap and water should do the trick.
If soap and water fail, the ink may be oil-based, in which case, wipe the areas with rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or washcloth. If you don’t have to rub alcohol, try using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, hair spray (one that contains alcohol), acetone nail polish remover, or white vinegar. These may not work quite as well as rubbing alcohol, so you may have to treat the stained areas more than once.
Rubbing alcohol is also effective against permanent ink found in permanent markers such as Sharpie pens, especially if you attack the stain ASAP. Dip a cotton ball in it and hold it on the skin for a few seconds. Repeat as needed. Another option is Amodex Ink and Stain Remover, a Sharpie-approved product available online. It removes permanent ink and many other substances that stain the skin. You can also try applying makeup remover, olive oil, or exfoliating cleansing cream.
If you can’t get permanent ink off, don’t worry, it will disappear on its own over time.
How to get tie-dye off skin
Rinse the skin with water as soon as possible after the dye gets on your skin. If it has already been set, it may come off with plain old soap and water. If it doesn’t, Rit, a dye maker, recommends exfoliating the affected skin with a body scrub or a mix of sugar and hand lotion.
Article Written By: Jessica Brown, a health and science writer/editor based in Brooklyn, New York. She has written for Prevention magazine, jnj.com, BCRF.org, and many other outlets.