How To Get Sharpie Off Skin: Ways, Tips, And Precautions

Written by Eshna Das , Certified Skin Care Coach

Permanent markers, including the popular brand Sharpie, can be used on a variety of surfaces like wood, metal, plastic, and even cloth, but not skin. They use a special ink made from chemicals such as xylene and toluene that make the ink last long. It is not until you see a Sharpie mark on your or your child’s skin that you get worried about its safety and find yourself desperately searching the net for “how to get Sharpie off skin.”

As most permanent markers are quick-drying and fade-resistant, it can take a few days to remove the marks. For days when you need to remove the marker a bit early, you can safely try out any of the ingredients listed below.

How To Remove Permanent Markers From Skin?

A Sharpie mark on your skin can go away in a few days with your regular washing and bathing, but if you are in a hurry, you can try out the below household items to get rid of those faster.

Household Items

  • Sea Salt Scrub

Sea salt is known to be a natural exfoliant. When mixed with warm water, it can gently help the marks to come off (1). Be careful not to rub it too harshly as it could irritate or scrape the skin.

  1. Measure and mix equal parts of coarse sea salt and warm water to form a paste. Usually 1 tablespoon is enough. You might need more, if it is all over the body.
  2. Gently massage the paste on the painted area for a few minutes.
  3. Rinse off with lukewarm water.
  4. Pat dry and apply moisturizer.
  5. Repeat twice a day.

Using this sea salt scrub twice a day would help remove the top layers of ink while exfoliating the skin. While this may not erase the complete ink immediately, it would certainly help fade it out enough to not be noticeable.

  • Olive Oil Or Coconut Oil

Olive oil and coconut oil being easily found in most households can come in handy in “body paint” emergencies. Oil not only acts as a moisturizer, but it also helps maintain your skin barrier.  These natural plant oils also help ease any skin irritation or inflammation (2).

If you use olive oil or coconut oil as a body massage oil or moisturizer regularly, then chances are the permanent marks aren’t that permanent yet. The oil coats your skin’s upper layer forming a barrier between your skin pores and the permanent ink (3). Further, when applied to remove the stains, it can attach itself to the pigments in the permanent ink and help lift those out gently.

  1. Take some olive or coconut oil in your hand.
  2. Rub it all over the marks in gentle circular motions.
  3. Wipe it off with a paper towel or washcloth to lift away the ink.
  4. Rinse off the oil residue with a mild soap and water.
  5. Repeat as required.

As with most natural methods, this might not remove the complete stain immediately but can significantly reduce the pigmentation and intensity. Some people have also found using almond oil effective in removing the marker stains. Though you should be careful about using oils like tea tree oil which could be harsh and irritating for delicate skin (4).

  • Baby Oil

The idea behind using baby oil is the same as the above oils. It can attach with the excess oil on the skin and the marker ink to help remove the ink pigments. Baby oils have the added advantage of being exclusively tested and approved for babies skin. Being very gentle, it can be your first choice in removing permanent marker stains from your child’s body.

  1. Take some oil in your hand.
  2. Apply it gently to the affected area.
  3. Massage it in with light circular motions.
  4. Wipe it off with a wet washcloth.
  5. Rinse off any excess residue with a mild cleanser.
  6. Repeat 2-3 times a day.

Like other natural home remedies, you might need to repeat this a couple of times a day to get rid of the marker stains completely. While using it on your baby’s face or hands, be careful to avoid any contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth.

  • Banana Peel

As per anecdotal evidence, some people have also found banana peels useful in removing permanent markers off skin.

  1. Unpeel 1 ripe banana.
  2. Rub the inside of the peel on the marker-painted area in circular motions.
  3. Continue for a few minutes.
  4. Rinse off with water.
  5. Repeat with another peel.
  • Butter

When you don’t have any other oil or lotion at home, you can use butter for its similar properties.

  1. Start by taking a small portion of butter.
  2. Smear it over the marker stain.
  3. Wait for a couple of minutes.
  4. Gently rub the butter onto the marker stain with a soft cloth.
  5. Continue rubbing till the stain gets faded and removed.
  6. Rinse off with warm water and a mild cleanser.
  • Toothpaste And Mouthwash

The toothpaste that helps lighten the stains on your teeth might also come in handy in potentially lightening the permanent marker spots on your skin. Follow it up with your alcohol-based mouthwash to erase it further.

  1. Squeeze out enough toothpaste to cover the painted area.
  2. Rub it gently into the skin using your fingers. The toothpaste exfoliates the top layer of the skin, helping to remove the ink.
  3. Add a little bit of an alcohol-based mouthwash to a damp washcloth.
  4. Rub it in gently to let it work into the skin.

Mouthwash works like any other alcohol-based product in removing the stains, albeit safely.

In case you don’t have any of the above in hand or can’t wait for these natural oils to work, you can use any of the lotions and creams commonly found at home mentioned below.

Creams And Lotions

  • Sunscreen

Sunscreens, especially the spray-on and quick-drying kinds contain alcohol. This helps dissolve the ink pigments of the permanent marker.

  1. Spray enough sunscreen to cover the marker-stained area.
  2. Let it stay on and sink in for a few moments.
  3. Use a paper towel or washcloth to wipe it off.
  4. Repeat at regular intervals to erase it off completely.

Alternatively, you can also spray some sunscreen on the paper towel and use it to wipe off the marker stain.

  • Shaving Cream

Shaving cream usually contains a blend of oil and soap. Both these components can be helpful in lifting off the ink from the skin.

  1. Take enough shaving cream in your hand to cover the affected area.
  2. Leave it on for sometime to let it sink in and work on the ink stain.
  3. Using a damp washcloth, work the shaving cream onto the skin.
  4. Rinse off with lukewarm water and pat dry.
  5. Apply moisturizer to soothe the skin.
  6. Repeat as required.

Chemical-based Removers

Household chemical-based cleansing products and removers usually contain some amount of alcohol that can help remove permanent marker pigments in urgency.

  • Rubbing Alcohol

Applying rubbing alcohol  is probably one of the quickest ways of removing permanent marker from skin. It is usually available in pharmacies or drugstores. You would need a strength of 90% or higher to make it work faster.

  1. Dip a cotton ball in some rubbing alcohol.
  2. Apply it to the marker stain and let it work for a few seconds.
  3. Wipe away gently with the cotton ball. Avoid rubbing, as that might cause skin irritation.
  4. Repeat a few times until the mark is gone.
  5. Moisturize the area with any dermatologist-approved moisturizer.
  • Nail Polish Remover

Nail polish removers with their acetone and alcohol content are usually effective in removing markers from skin.

  1. Take 2-3 drops of nail polish remover on a cotton ball.
  2. Dab it on the marker-painted skin.
  3. Hold it in place for some time to let it work on the stain.
  4. Wipe away gently.
  5. Repeat as needed.
  • Hand Sanitizer

Another alcohol-based product usually found in our homes and travel bags these days, is hand sanitizer.

  1. Apply a few drops of hand sanitizer onto the marked skin.
  2. Rub gently with a soft cloth or cotton ball.
  3. Repeat this process at intervals to remove the Sharpie stain completely.
  • Makeup Remover

Makeup removers, especially the ones for waterproof eye makeup, can help remove the marks of Sharpie on skin as well. Since it is safe for the eyes and works on waterproof makeup, it would also work well on Sharpie ink pigments.

  1. Take 3-4 drops of makeup remover on a cotton ball.
  2. Dab it onto the affected area and hold for sometime.
  3. Massage it in circular motion for a few seconds.
  4. Rinse off gently with warm water.
  • Baking Soda And Water

Another common multitasking cleansing chemical found in our homes is baking soda. It is known to work on any kind of stubborn stain, so might as well work for those Sharpie marks.

  1. Mix one teaspoon of baking soda with just enough water to form a paste.
  2. Rub into the skin for a minute or two.
  3. Rinse off with warm water.

Alternatively, baking soda mixed with toothpaste will be doubly as effective and help you get rid of the marker stains faster.

Other than the above, your hair spray, perfume or dishwashing liquid might come in handy as well in removing the stubborn Sharpie stains. Going further, we have a few tips and precautions to help you assist in removing the permanent marker ink safely and effectively.

Tips And Precautions To Get Sharpie Off Skin

  • Choose Skin-safe Ink

While Sharpie stains can be occasional and accidental, they should only be used on their intended surfaces. You should not use permanent markers on your skin to make any sort of face painting or tattoo as it is not meant for use on skin. If you are interested in making tattoos or body art, you can get skin-safe markers specifically designed for that. Those are also waterproof but free of any harmful chemicals.

  • Keep Child-appropriate Markers

Try to keep permanent markers out of reach of small children. Keep child-friendly markers and paints at easily accessible spots around the house. There are many kinds of erasable and washable markers available for kids that can be used for face and body painting. Similarly, keeping canvases and drawing boards handy for kids would encourage them to use it more often than scribbling markers on their skin.

  • Always Do A Patch Test

Whenever you are applying any non-skin product to your skin for the first time, make sure to do a patch test first. Apply a little bit onto a hidden spot on your body and wait for sometime to check for any irritation or allergy. Once you are assured of its safety, then only go ahead and use it to remove the Sharpie marks off your skin.

  • Avoid Eye And Mouth Contact

While using any cream or lotion on kids’ skin, be careful to avoid any contact with eyes, mouth or hands. Even if it is baby oil or lotion, you should avoid it near the eye and mouth area.

  • Alcohol Is Flammable

While using household items like nail polish remover, hand sanitizer or any spray that contains alcohol, be careful that the kids are under adult supervision. Alcohol easily evaporates in the air and is highly flammable (5), (6).

How Long Does It Take To Get Sharpie Off Skin?

With the natural oil secretion of our body, and regular bathing and washing, Sharpie marks can come off on their own in a few days. With rubbing alcohol or any other chemical-based removers, you can get the Sharpie off your skin the fastest. Usually, with all other natural oils and household items, it might take repeated use for 1-2 days to remove the Sharpie marks completely.

Summary

Permanent markers would eventually fade off your skin with regular washing and the natural oil production from your pores. If you have a special event and have been desperately wondering “How to get Sharpie off skin”, you can try any of the household items above. However, you should be careful not to scrub or rub your skin hard to avoid any irritation or harm. Also, make sure to read the ingredients and do a patch test before using anything for the first time on your skin. In case you develop rashes or swelling from the ink of the permanent marker, you should consult your doctor for any potential allergic reactions.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Is a Sharpie marker really bad for your skin?

Yes. Sharpie is not meant to be used on skin. All permanent markers contain chemicals that make the ink fade-resistant and waterproof. While there might be non-toxic permanent markers available, it is always best to read the ingredients before use.

Does vinegar remove Sharpie from skin?

Vinegar has been found to be helpful in removing Sharpie stains as per anecdotal evidence. Still, you should dilute it with water and do a patch test before applying, especially if you have breakouts and acne-prone sensitive skin.

Can you get a Sharpie off with water?

Sharpie being a permanent marker, is meant to be waterproof. It is meant for metal, wood, glass, and other surfaces. If you get it on your skin, lukewarm water along with a mild soap or oil-based cleanser might help you get the Sharpie marks off your skin.

References:

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Skin Care with Herbal Exfoliants
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/224892687_Skin_Care_with_Herbal_Exfoliants
  2. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5796020/
  3. In Vivo Investigations on the Penetration of Various Oils and their Influence on the Skin Barrier
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22092829/
  4. Tea Tree Oil: Contact Allergy and Chemical Composition
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/cod.12591
  5. Isopropyl Alcohol
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/isopropyl-alcohol
  6. Safely Using Hand Sanitizer
    https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/safely-using-hand-sanitizer
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