Military makeover - innovations in camouflage makeup

No longer for simply hiding your face, the new generation of military makeup will protect it too.
Written by Rose Eveleth, Contributing Editor

Soliders aren't exactly the first people you think of when you think of make-up. They're certainly not featured in the glossy pages of the fashion magazines. But soldiers actually rely on makeup for their lives - as a form of camouflage. New research has added another benefit to smearing on the stuff: protection from bombs.

Face paint isn't new in the soldiers arsenal. It's been used, in one way or another, for thousands of years to hid a warrior's face from his or her enemy. Robert Lochhead, a researcher at the School of Southern Mississippi, presented a report recently describing how makeup could be used to protect soldiers from the heat of detonated bombs. As you might expect, these bombs are pretty dangerous. "The detonation of a roadside bomb or any other powerful explosive produces two dangerous blasts," Lochhead says in the press release. "First comes a blast wave of high pressure that spreads out at supersonic speeds and can cause devastating internal injuries. A thermal blast follows almost instantaneously. It is a wave of heat that exceeds 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit. That's as hot as a burning cigarette. The thermal blast lasts only two seconds, but it can literally cook the face, hands and other exposed skin."

So this new makeup can help to protect soldiers, at least a little, from this intense heat. This was a much bigger challenge than one might expect. First, the military mandates that all camouflage include 35 percent DEET - the insect repellent. DEET also happens to be extremely flammable. But that wasn't even the hardest part. The press release says:

The trickiest part was that the University of Southern Mississippi team had to avoid the use of mineral oil, mineral spirits, fatty substances and other traditional hydrocarbon makeup ingredients. Hydrocarbons can burn in contact with intense heat in the flame spectrum. The team turned to silicones, which are not as flammable because they absorb radiation at wavelengths outside of the intense heat spectrum. Silicones have been replacing hydrocarbons in many commercial cosmetic makeup products as cosmetics companies improve products to confer better feel properties and transfer-resistance.

Now, the new makeup will be tested further. The goop has already passed the lab phase. And, of course, it could help more than just soldiers. Firefighters might use the stuff too.

Via: Eurekalert

Image: Retrograde Works, LLC

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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