A new type of camouflage makeup is able to protect wearers from skin burns. Scientists at the University of Southern Mississippi developed the makeup for use in combat situations, but the team plans on developing a transparent version for firefighters. The new material acts like sunblock, forming a barrier thinner than a sheet of paper that can protect skin from extreme heat for up to 15 seconds. After that time, the makeup itself may rise to a temperature where first-degree (mild) burns may occur, but the extra time should help soldiers to find shelter from any explosion. In some tests, the scientists found that the face paint shielded its test subjects for up to 60 seconds.
To develop the makeup, the researchers, led by Dr Robert Lochhead, stayed away from traditional cosmetic ingredients like mineral oil, spirits, and fatty substances, instead turning to silicones, which are far less flammable. It also includes DEET, an insect repellent that the Department of Defense wanted incorporated into the makeup. DEET is flammable, but the scientists encapsulated the material in a water-rich "hydrogel" that prevents it from combusting. The new compound has already passed preliminary testing, and the team will now explore its potential to keep fabric from igniting.