Many of the Halloween masks (and some costume components) made today are incredibly realistic. This is because they are made using a material called Latex. While the use of latex is not new to the costume industry, the cost has dropped dramatically making it more common for use in Halloween costume masks. The flexible attributes of latex make it ideal for masks. When purchasing an item made of latex, it is important to understand what latex is, how to care for it and what to expect.
What is Latex?
Latex is a milky white liquid composed of rubber particles dispersed in water. This material is whipped with air to form a foam. This foam is then heated to produce foam rubber called 'Latex'. Synthetic latex is inherently hypo-allergenic and anti-microbial. It breathes to remove body moisture. It is not a plastic foam like polyurethane. It is denser and designed to last a lifetime. Unlike urethane, Latex will feel as good a year from now as it does today.
How Latex Masks Are Made
The first step in making a mask from latex is the creation of an oil-based clay sculpture mold which is fabricated to the desired design. Then, industrial gypsum (also called Cal 30) is molded to the sculpture to make a 3-D replica of the sculpture. This makes it into a mold imprint which is recreated into the latex product using a special liquid latex casting compound called, "slush latex". This particular type of latex sets and cures at room temperature. Once the product is formed, a rubber-based latex paint is air-brushed on the mask followed by a perma-wet top coat which preserves the latex mask.
What if the latex item arrives distorted or appears damaged?
When an item made of latex is packaged, shipped or stored, it may temporarily take the form of the packaging. This is because of the unique nature of latex and its ability to form around whatever it is pressed against. For this reason, a latex mask or costume accessory may appear to be distorted or damaged when in fact, it is fine. When purchasing an item made of latex, we suggest you remove the item from its packing, set it aside and allow it to reshape. If the item appears distorted, use a blow-dryer (on low heat setting) or other low heat source to restore the item back to its original shape.
What if the latex mask doesn't fit?
If you purchase a latex mask and think it doesn't fit, we have some suggestions. First, latex masks are rarely too small. If anything, they will be larger. Most latex masks are one-size only and the designers keep wear ability in mind when creating them. If the mask is too large, we suggest cutting pieces of soft foam rubber or unused sponges and gluing them inside the mask using spirit gum or rubber cement. If the mask is too tight, you might consider cutting a slit in the back of the mask.
What is the best way to clean a latex item?
If your latex mask is dirty, rinse with warm soapy water. You should also clean the latex mask on the inside with warm soapy water to remove any make-up, saliva or perspiration. Never clean a latex product with anything that is petroleum based, including Vaseline.
How do I care for my latex item?
One of the best ways to store a latex mask is on a styrofoam wig stand. This allows the mask to retain its natural shape and form when storing. Avoid storing or displaying latex items in direct sunlight or heat as doing so can cause the colors to fade and the mask to loose its elasticity or even crack. If you do not have a styrofoam wig stand, the next best option is to stuff the mask with cloth or newspaper so the mask will keep its shape. We also suggesting storing in a sealed plastic bag or in a sealed display case.