The Mark of the Flutist

Welcome to Flute Friday!

This week’s post may not apply to some of my readers but it is an issue I have discussed with many of my students. “What is that black mark on your chin?” When I was younger, I remember the kids at weekly band class often pointing to my chin in wonderment while I shyly disassembled my flute after rehearsal. I never quite understood why the lip plate on my flute reacted to the skin underneath my lip. Was it a reaction to the makeup I sometimes wore with the silver plating on my flute? Why did it show up even when I wasn’t wearing any makeup? Was it caused by sweat or was the metal wearing off onto my skin? Why did it happen on some days and others not? How can I prevent this pesky black mark showing up on my chin during rehearsals?

Flute Chin 1

This black mark is what some flutists affectionately refer to as The Flutist’s Goatee (a strange term since it happens more often to my female students. Perhaps we should rename this to something more eloquent like Flute Lip Tattoos, Fluter’s Chin, or the Mark of the Flutist). It is caused by a reaction to the metal in solid silver and silver plated flutes with sweat and various products applied in and around the chin area including make-up, lotion, moisturizer, lipstick, lip gloss, Chaptsick and similar salves. The degree and severity of the mark depend on individual PH balances. Each of us may have different marks at different times making predicting the presence and type of mark quite difficult. There are, however, a number of ways to prevent Fluter’s Chin before it happens and ways to discretely tackle the issue post rehearsal/performance that are more effective than anxiously rubbing your chin with the side of your sleeve.

Flute Chin 3

Table the Makeup. This may be as difficult for my teenage students as it was for myself. Part of the fun of being an adolescent girl is finally having an opportunity to experiment with face makeup. I learned quickly that the aesthetic payoff of my foundation was not enough to counter the annoyance of that reoccurring dark spot on my chin after rehearsal. This also goes for lotions and moisturizers. Try to leave just the section of skin that comes into contact with your flute clear of products. Use the minutes following rehearsal to reapply as necessary.

Never wear lip gloss or lipstick when playing the flute. This seems obvious but I know how unfair it is watching our string playing colleagues work it with various shades of pinks and reds at performances. It is likely that these products will not only react with our flutes but also could smear all over the lip plate, adding more discoloration to the lip area. Not good.

Flute Chin 2

Purchase a headjoint with a gold or wood lip plate. This is a drastic step but if you are already on the market for a new instrument, look for ones with gold or wood lip plates because these materials do not react the same way with your skin as silver lip plates. When I upgraded to a gold lip plate in my junior year of high school, my lip tattoos vanished until years later when I returned to the silver lip plate.

Flute Chin 4

Use Lip Plate Patches. I love these and use them in the summer months when sweat makes its way onto my chin causing my flute to slip and slide. They are also very good for preventing that pesky black mark on your chin year-round. Lip Plate Patches are simple decals with a mild adhesive backing that attaches to your lip plate. Simple, affordable, and quite comfortable. They are very discrete and can also be used during performances. Available on  Yamaha YAC 1089P2 Flute Lip Plate Patch

Flute Chin Decal

Makeup remover wipes.  These wonderful wipes are not only good for removing makeup but can be used to remove any flute lip tattoos post performance or rehearsal (plus they feel refreshing after having held a piece of metal to your face for extended periods of time). Visit the travel section of your local drug store where you can find smaller packets that will fit nicely in your flute bag. (Or stock up on Amazon:  Neutrogena Make-Up Remover Cleansing Towelettes 7 Count (Pack of 6))

Flute Chin Wipes

Fluter’s Chin happens to thousands of us. Prevention and preparation are key to tackling the reaction between your chin and the metal of your lip plate. Do not be embarrassed. The dark mark left after a rehearsal is a type of badge indicating that you have been creating music. That is something to proud of! But if you’d rather the world see a fresh-faced flutist, then follow the tips I have outlined above and play on.

Have you encountered Fluter’s Chin? What are some of the methods you have used to remove that pesky dark mark? How often does this happen under what circumstances?


Happy Fluting!


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