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War on skin cancer

Posted: February 12th, 2016 | Feature, From the Cover, Top Story | No Comments

By Margie M. Palmer

Former SEAL creates line of camouflage face paint laden with sunscreen

The U.S. military has traditionally paid close attention to combat gear such as weaponry and body armor for its elite fighting forces, but for years, it has overlooked a basic but very important piece of equipment — camouflage face paint.

Former Navy SEAL Nick Norris is working to change that.

The North Park resident deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, places where the weather is extreme and the sun is overbearing. On these deployments, he was quick to notice that the military-issued camouflage face paint was substandard. Not only was it lacking sun protection factor (SPF) to screen or block the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation, it also washed away easily with water or sweat.

Nick Norris-FRONT PAGEwebtop

North Park resident Nick Norris models his Predator Warpaint designed for our troops and hunters. (Courtesy of Predator Warpaint)

“The military overlooked innovation on low-dollar items because, let’s be honest, they’re focused on things like body armor, armored vehicles, weapons, and all things life and death,” said Norris, 34, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 2003 and spent more than 10 years with the SEALs.

“Improving sunscreen to protect against skin cancer, or things that happen 30 years down the line, aren’t really a top priority. The effects of sunburn may not be seen until someone is in their 50s or 60s, which is why we wanted to create a camouflage face paint with a high SPF that’s simple and easy for the end user to apply, especially since they need to wear it anyway.”

Before Norris left the military, he wound up crossing paths with local real estate broker and philanthropist Craig Irving at a fundraiser for the Naval Special Warfare Family Foundation.

Founded by Irving, the foundation provides support programs and events for San Diego’s Naval Special Warfare community, and has raised more than $1 million since its inception in 2009.

“When I left the military, I went to work with Craig and one day we wound up talking about camo face paint. He’s a lifelong surfer and has dealt with some minor skin cancer issues throughout the years and he asked about the type of sunscreen that people in the military wear,” he said. “I told him that sunscreen had always been an afterthought. That’s when we got to brainstorming.”

With that, the idea for Predator Warpaint was born.

“The camo face paint that was issued to us never prevented sunburns during multi-day training events, and it usually ended up sweating off my face before we even made it to our hide site,” Norris said. “Our armed forces deserve innovation in every product they use in the field — and face paint is no exception.”

The product is as innovative as it is necessary; the durable camouflage face paint boasts SPF 50 protection and it doesn’t wash away.

Nick Norris of North Park saw an urgent need for face paint with sunscreen, ideal for our troops or outdoorsmen. (Courtesy of Predator Warpaint)

Nick Norris of North Park saw an urgent need for face paint with sunscreen, ideal for our troops or outdoorsmen. (Courtesy of Predator Warpaint)

“We basically took some of the best sunscreen technology that’s available to the surf industry. We took the best formulation we could find, we made it as durable as possible and then we manipulated it to become a camo face paint,” Norris said.

“It’s designed for both the military, hard-core outdoor enthusiasts and the hunting industry. For us, it wasn’t just about finding a good product, but finding the best product that we could bring to the market. Reputation means everything and we wanted to make sure what we are putting out there is the best we can provide.”

The initial product was modeled after military specifications for camouflage face paint — including packaging it in a green rectangular clamshell compact. It is sweat resistant, water resistant and passes the required reflectivity tests, Norris said.

It’s also easy and comfortable to wear.

“Predator Warpaint was received very well by the military,” Norris said, noting the company has recently received commitments from the Navy SEALs and Navy Special Boat Teams to purchase their product for use by active duty military forces; discussions are underway with the Marines and Army to put the new product into even wider use.

Norris said that while a big goal was to get their product into the military so it could help protect the men and women who are serving our country, they also want to branch out into consumer hunting.

This, he said, is why they launched a Kickstarter campaign on Jan. 26, found online at kck.st/1mgETIJ, which will run through the end of March.

“Our goal is to provide a brand new circular container that’s made for the consumer; the other cool thing about the Kickstarter campaign is that people have the opportunity to buy our product and donate it to active duty service members on their behalf,” Norris said. “If they need it, great, if not they can still participate and see their dollars go to immediate work by helping buy a product that the military needs.

“Our goal is for this campaign to move the needle in such a way that it will give us the credibility we need to get this product out to the people that need it.”

—Margie M. Palmer is a San Diego-based freelance writer who has been racking up bylines in a myriad of news publications for the past 10 years. You can reach her at margiep@alumni.pitt.edu.

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