What is a Latex Mask?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A latex mask is a common feature on Halloween, where there may be numerous ghosts and ghouls on display, in addition to plenty of known political figures that may scare or delight depending on political preference. These masks are also commonly used on movie and film sets to create special effects or to transform actors into various creatures. Many masks are available at stores and costume shops and they may be sold as latex or rubber masks.

Woman painting
Woman painting

Most latex masks are made using a mold. Once the mold is created, latex or other substances that are synthetic are poured into the mold and allowed to dry. Back and front parts of a full head mask may be joined together with various adhesives, and when the mask is fully formed and dried it is painted and decorated. The average latex mask in a costume shop is designed to fit most people, so it won’t represent a perfect fit for any one individual.

When skilled costume designers want to create masks that look most realistic, they create the mask mold directly on the face of the person who will use the latex mask. This provides a much closer fit over the contours of a unique face and may look more true to life. There are online instructions for making masks at home, but these do require quite a bit of work, and possibly some extra help during the mold creation process, where the face must be covered with materials that make it difficult to see.

Instead of using full masks, some people buy latex prosthetics instead, and these are widely thought more realistic by the special effects world. They have the disadvantage of requiring direct attachment to the face, which means using special adhesives, and this can be time consuming. It’s usually easier to simply buy a good looking or extremely horrifying latex mask instead for basic costumes.

There are some cautions about using latex masks. Wearing them for a long time can be hot and uncomfortable. Poorly fitting masks can obscure vision, and may not be the best choice for young trick-or-treaters. Moreover, some people are allergic to latex, and though not all latex masks are made of natural latex, some are and may provoke severe allergic reaction or minor skin irritation.

On the other hand, at costume shops and plenty of department stores during Halloween, numerous masks are inexpensive, though some can be high in price. Each latex mask offers a way to present a dramatically different appearance. Rubber masks tend to be more durable than simple plastic masks, and can easily be saved for future Halloweens or costume parties.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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