Body painting has been practiced, from tattoos to henna body painting for as long as there has been writing. Although it has and is done on both sexes, the most famous descendant is used just for women. That type of body painting for women is simply known now as as make up. That, however, is hardly the most dramatic example of body painting on women. Before we can understand where we are now with body paint, let us look at where we have been.
Traditional Body Painting
The use of body paint can be seen in antiquity world wide. It is seen in Africa, North and South America, and throughout the Pacific rim. In different areas it had different meanings. In some cultures it was seen as a mark of beauty, used in effects such as face painting, while others a mark of status or even used it religious rituals. It is in religion in the early part of the last millennium that we see it in Europe. There it was used by clerics under their robes to show devotion. Body painting on women would still have centuries to go in western culture.
Max Factor brought it to more mainstream heights during the 1933 worlds fair but it was the 60's movements that brought it to the common American (and not much to their liking.) It faded away again during the 70's and 80's only to be brought back by a series of famous models who did full nudes while painted. This time it was deemed much more socially acceptable. At last the world started to embrace body painting on women.
Modern Day Body Painting
While any sort of paint on skin, such as face painting little balloons on children, team colors on adult sports fans, or even clown faces can be considered body painting, the generally accept definition is of fine work done on a nude or semi-nude women.
Nowadays, body painting on women is generally done in a way similar to the way semi-permanent tattoos were done in India. They use mehndi henna. While these do not was off easily at all, they also have the advantage of not running either so they work well for modeling shoots or different outdoor activities. One of the most famous example of body painting on women came during a PETA protest against the fur trade where two women protesters were painted and protest in just the paint. Rachel Hunter also did a photo shoot for Sports Illustrated wearing a painted on suit to rave reviews. Perform a Google search for their body painting videos and you will see that none of those women looked the least bit nude.
Body painting on women has become a new art form with the female body as a canvas. With such artist as as Yves Klien and Joanne Gair and festivals around the world it is not likely to go away soon.