First of all, in all seriousness, this post is just my own observations and musings. There are many different styles out there and this is not the only way to do things. Take this article as it may and I hope it gives you some ideas.
I recall saying on a few occasions, that it is the small details that really set an impression apart. There is sometimes a very fine line between an impression and re-enactment, and I still consider these two to be separate things. Impression passes the squint test, re-enactment needs to take it up a level. Certain eras of history re-enactment need to rely mostly on replica items today, since the originals are not available, or are so rare that they are museum pieces. It will take a while for some items that we use to get to that level, but even now there are some items that are so rare that I would not consider taking them to the field or an airsoft game. I am an airsofter after all, and I use the gear and impressions I post here as much as possible.
The small details I talked about before the long rant above includes the topic of this post. Camo cream and facial camouflage. There are quite a few different styles of doing it (I was taught one back in the day, which is different than what you see in my images) but the basic principle is the same: make your face look so awful that the human eye has trouble picking it up. The same principle applies to all camo as well. The intention is to hide yourself and disrupt shapes (the human shape) that the human eye can pick out. Camo cream usage is quite simple: Light color for the areas which are usually left in the shadow (below your jaw, eyes…) and darker color for the areas which are usually left in the light (like you forehead). At the same time, you can take the shadows and stretch them with the darker colors. This means displacing the shadow to a different part, which fools the naked and untrained eye even more. As I said, there are different ways of doing it and many styles. Still, the basic idea is to hide and not be seen.
The Light Green and Loam – Old School facial aesthetics
When looking at images from the 1980s and early 1990s, the Rangers are using a very distinct way of painting their faces. The colors they are mostly (if not always) seen using are the light green and loam. The style in which they paint their faces is, to me at least, quite a trademark as well.
The way I do it, is by beginning with the darker color (loam), and paint some lines. Beginning from the tip of my nose, I move on to my cheekbones and from there, start pulling downwards, towards the bottom of my ear. I do the same on both sides. Again from the tip of my nose, I again pull downwards, towards my jaw and down on my neck with loam. One more line goes up towards my forehead. Once these are done, I cover other areas with the lighter color (light green) and use my fingers to spread the color and even out/face the edges between the two colors. You are free to add more and different styles. For example, making some additional darker lines with loam to your mouth area, going down, is possible. I usually use the loam to cover my ears as well. Do not forget your eyelids. Nothing stands out more than suddenly seeing two lightly colored eyelids flapping around in the forest. Same goes to your lips. Get that stuff on there!
Above are a few actual images on the way I was attempting to describe how to do the face camo. As you notice, there are some small and subtle differences between the images and Rangers. None are completely similar, but the basic style is the same.
There is always the problem of getting the stuff off from your face as well. I know I have had it in the past, but there is a good method to make washing easier and also spreading easier. I use a very creamy/oily facial cream before applying the camo cream to my face. Just spread that cream on your facial skin before applying the camo cream. There are so many different brands, that I will let you decide which one to use. The one I use does not make the camo cream come off any easier due to perspiration or rain. And besides, you will need to re-apply camo cream at some point eventually, if you are out there for longer periods. It will eventually come off. The cream also protects your skin, to some extent, from the camo cream.
The second handy tool, and a necessary item in the field in general, is baby wipes. The non-alcohol types. These are absolutely essential and they make removing camo cream even easier, especially with the use of the cream I was talking about. It is most effective on shaved skin, naturally, so a stubble will make removing camo cream a pain in general.
Above are a few different images of how I have applied camo cream. The first two (me wearing the M81 Woodland camo) have been made using the method I described above. The cream was applied on the skin before the camo cream (I hope you are still with my with all the creams!), and removal was easy. In the image of me wearing 3rd pattern jungle fatigues, I have just used a black color to smudge my face, since I did not have my own camo cream with me. Works quite as well, since it breaks the color and I attempted to apply it unevenly, as to break shadows and normal form. I did not use the cream, and removal was not as easy.
The main reason behind the way I usually paint my face is the fact that it seems to have been the most commonplace way of doing it by the Rangers. I am aiming for certain impression with the setups and doing these small things the right way add to the look of the overall setup. It is effective, but there are other ways of doing it as well. If you want to do something specific, the small details do matter, but also remember to keep it within the rules of fun. This is a sport, and the main thing is having fun. And looking cool.
What creams then?
There are a lot of different kinds of camo creams. The light green and loam is still around, and I have been using a Rothco/Miltec one for quite a while. The color is quite good, it works, and stays on for a good period of time. I have also used (when not doing anything Ranger specific) some British army camo creams, the 2-tone tube one and the 3-color ones as well. Both are awesome, but the 3-color one tends to get a bit rough over time and is a bit of a mess to use. There area also reference images of a 5 color set, which has a mirror on the inside. These can also be located on Ebay but I have not tried those. If you do a search for Hunters Specialties Camo Compac 5 Color Face Paint on Ebay, you should be able to locate them (yes, the t from ‘compact’ is missing on purpose, as it was missing from the listing as well). These have the stylish light green and loam as well, but they are named different in the description.
I recently acquired some really old US cam cream in light green and loam, ranging from the 1980s until the mid-1990s. Have not yet tried these out and someone would probably say that do not use them, but I am eager to try them out. If my skin falls off, then it is on me. For you, my good readers, I would recommend getting fresh camo cream out from your local surplus stores and leave the older ones to the shelve. I have used aged camo cream in the past, and my skin did not fall off. Keeping my fingers crossed that luck is still on my side.
If you do not need a specific color, like I do for the impressions, using whatever camo creams works is the best solution. Issued military creams usually have some insect repellent in them and maybe some IR capabilities, but if you are not that concerned about those qualities, then commercial ones will do the job as well. Insect repellent can always be added later on if needed.
I hope this post was informative and gave you some ideas. At the end of the day, take my advice with a bit of salt, as I am biased towards the old school Ranger way of painting my face. I was taught another method, which again was different than the one I have shown here. There are even more methods, country specific ones even, that I have not discussed here. The internet is full of different styles and ways. Find one that suits your needs and go from there. Just remember, the point is to make your face invisible.