Lately I have been very intrigued by the idea and practice of decorating the body using natural colorants. Natural ways to create the colorants include infusing oils with herbs for color using plants that have high amounts of pigments. Some of these plants include indigo, madder, henna, and alkanet.
A few years ago, I played with natural dyes for cloth and it was super fun. I made an indigo dye vat and colored cloth for a reupholstering project and also for children’s activities. We took all these pieces of unused natural fabrics (like drop cloths, old curtains and so on) and dyed them reds, blues, purples, yellows using Staghorn sumac, indigo, grapes and goldenrod.
For that purpose, the plant materials were decocted into water and then the cloth was either soaked or simmered with the resulting liquid dye. The cloth was also usually prepared with a mordant (a fixative for the color) and then dyed.
So, how does it work when we want to paint the skin? Sure, the plant could be powdered and made into a paste to apply. This is awesome too. I am curious though if a more glossy or transparent effect could be made by first coloring the oils and then using them directly on the skin.
This is what I am experimenting with now! I’d like to create colored oils to be used for body painting, decorating and generally celebrating the beauty of the body. We will see if infusing oils with herbs for color works or if the finished oils will not show up on light skin.
Here is my favorite place to find most of the materials for infusing oils with herbs for color.
You can learn general techniques for infusing oils here: