Foam latex is a lightweight, soft form of latex which is used in masks and facial prosthetics to change a person's outward appearance. The Wizard of Oz was one of the first films to make extensive use of foam latex prosthetics in the 1930s. Since then it has been a staple of film, television, and stage productions, as well as finding use in a number of other fields. Its original formulation began in 1936 and was the work of makeup chemist, Charles Gemora. It was first used on The General Died at Dawn for some Asian eyelids on actor Akim Tamiroff.
To create foam latex, a liquid latex base is mixed with various additives and whipped into a foam, then poured or injected into a mold and baked in an oven to cure. The main components of foam latex are the latex base, a foaming agent (to help it whip into a froth), a gelling agent (to convert the liquid foam into a gel), and a curing agent (to turn the gelled foam latex into a solid when baked). A number of additional additives can also be added depending on the required use of the foam.
Foam latex has also seen heavy use in the field of stop motion animation, being used to form the skin and muscles of many puppets. The characters in The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline were made partially of foam latex. It is also used in place of clay in productions such as Celebrity Deathmatch in which the various celebrities who appear to be made of clay are in fact foam latex over wire armature.
Latex foam is also widespread in the manufacture of modern soccer goalkeeper gloves. The material has proven to be the most effective way of allowing players to grip the football in wet and dry playing conditions, as well as providing damping properties which help in catching. A variety of treatments are applied to latex foam to produce different types of foam with varying properties to assist performance. Some, for example, are designed to offer a high level of grip; whereas others are designed to offer maximum durability.
- Miller, Ron. Special Effects: An Introduction to Movie Magic. Twenty-First Century Books, 2006.
- Drexler, Donna. The Foam Latex Survival Guide. Burman Industries, 1996.