Your browser (Internet Explorer 6) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.

Prosthetics – to reuse, or not to reuse?

We had been asked about reusable prosthetics hundreds of times before we created our first silicone appliances. It sounds like an easy enough task to produce something that can be used time and again; there are hundreds of rubbers of all different strengths on the market. The problem was creating something durable, flexible and reusable with invisible edges, which is pretty much the holy grail of prosthetics (in fact finding the holy grail might be easier!)

We used gelatine for our prosthetics from the outset; it’s flexible and recyclable (the overflow material can be melted and used again) which made it economical, but not really reusable. A lot of customers had reused our pieces by not using too much adhesive to apply the prosthetic and not blending the edges, but we never felt comfortable calling them truly reusable.

Ripped Face prosthetic
Our Ripped Face is now made in both single use and reusable materials

Foam latex was one option, but it presents problems. First off, some people are allergic to latex. Not a huge portion of the population, but as we sell in thousands to people round the world we were bound to come across people who would react badly. On top of that, foam latex is only so reusable. Foam Latex appliances are soft and light which is great, but soft, light prosthetics can tear, and foam latex will eventually dry out and crumble as it’s exposed to daylight.

The only other option was silicone. the problem with that was that in order to get invisible edges, silicone prosthetics are encapsulated, which means a very thin layer of flexible plastic is sprayed into the prosthetic mould before the silicone is poured in. When the prosthetic is applied, alcohol is used to melt the edges of the plastic into the skin, making the join disappear. A fantastic technique, but once again this meant that the piece wasn’t truly reusable – once the edge is melted, its gone forever.

So, against all of our artistic instincts we chose to do the exact opposite of what we would usually strive for; to make prosthetics with a defined edge that wouldn’t be blended away. Tom sculpted beautifully detailed upper and lower face prosthetics to produce a full face zombie effect, and he finished them with a neat, thin edge that was very slightly rounded (almost impossible to see) to avoid tearing.

Reusable Silicone Zombie Brow
The first reusable prosthetic was our zombie brow

Before the application day, we were wondering how we would make the edge disappear. Blood? Dirt? Sweat? We kicked around ideas and decided we would just have to wait until the prosthetics were on our model to see what would work best, and film whatever we did so our customers could get the same effect. However, when the day came around, we simply forgot about it. The edges ‘disappeared’, despite the lack of any blending at all. Sure, if you looked hard for them you can see them, but how many people in zombie prosthetics get examined up close? For the most part our customers would be either at parties, performing at haunted houses or be filmed in the half light of a horror film. It worked, and no one was more surprised than us at just how well it worked.

Silicone Zombie Makeup
The full makeup… spot the seams?

After we had applied the prosthetics (and filmed the process for the video at the bottom of this post) we headed out to a secluded farm house to shoot our ‘movie scene’. Tom brought out all of his best movie making tricks (creating cobwebs on a zombie using nothing but glue and two blocks of wood…? The guy is old-skool cool!) and we fired up the smoke machine for a long night of filming a guy in military costume creeping around a creaking, groaning, dimly lit house before he met his inevitable demise. The highlight of the evening (for most of the crew anyway) was listening to 3 grown men shut in an old, dusty cupboard built into the fabric of the house along with lights and cameras, trying to act and direct in the near dark.

A few months later we released Sil-Blend, a two part paste that can be used to blend the edges of our silicone prosthetics if you really do want to make the seam disappear. By mixing parts A and B in equal amounts, you can add material to the edge of the prosthetic creating a perfect blend – however it permanently adds material to the prosthetic, so you need to give it a little thought before applying.

Sil-Blend Silicone Blending Paste
Sil-Blend was the answer to blending edges on our silicone appliances

You can enjoy the fruits of these struggles in the video below, and if you would like to try some of our reusable silicone prosthetics, you can see the full range on our website – we’ve added werewolves, vampires and lots of other cool pieces – and if you do make sure you show us your application!

Got a makeup FX question or comment?

We love hearing from Nimba Creations customers, Cosplayers, Actors, Movie Makers and Makeup FX artists at every stage of their career. If you’ve got a question or comment about our products, Makeup FX or want to show off your lastest creation you can contact us via our Facebook Page.

Leave a comment  




Submit comment