Liquid latex is a compound often used for special effects makeup and body painting applications.
Liquid latex is usually made of 33% latex, 66% water, and less than 1% ammonia (to increase its shelf life and to control the pH of the solution). Liquid latex is sold in volumes ranging from 2 ounces to 1 gallon, and its consistency is similar to latex house paint. Cosmetic liquid latex contains approximately 0.3% ammonia, while craft and mould-making liquid latex can contain more than double this amount, giving the latter a much stronger odour.
Liquid latex is naturally clear, and dries into a translucent amber colour. Manufacturers add pigments to the product to provide opaque paint choices of multiple colours. The colour of the paint in the jar may initially look chalky or pale, but as it dries, it develops into a rich colour (for example, grey becomes black). Acrylic paint can be mixed with liquid latex for custom colours, but may not be suitable for use in cosmetic applications.
As the latex dries, it becomes quite sticky and will stick to itself if accidentally folded over. Most manufacturers offer a slick spray for latex once it is dry to remove tackiness, allowing the movement of the model's limbs. Alternatively, powders can be dusted over dried liquid latex to create metallic effects. One advantage to the tackiness of liquid latex is that it can act as an adhesive for attaching items such as zippers. Unlike most other body and face paints, liquid latex is removed by peeling it off, since water does not reactivate it.
A four-ounce jar of liquid latex can typically cover an average human body. It is typically applied using a disposable sponge and takes about five to ten minutes to dry depending on how thick it is applied. As it dries, it solidifies to a rubbery consistency and in the process ends up shrinking by approximately 3%.
Removing latex from skin can cause pain or pull body hairs out, similar to waxing. Even though latex is non-toxic, some people can have an allergic reaction to it. The most severe of these happen immediately and are categorised as an immediate hypersensitivity reaction.
Fumes from the ammonia in liquid latex can irritate the eyes when it is used on the face. For this reason, it is recommended that liquid latex be allowed to vent for several minutes before being applied in this way. Appropriate liquid latex safety guidelines should be followed before the cosmetic use of liquid latex.
Liquid latex used for special effects makeup projects like scars and gashes incorporate flesh-coloured latex that is applied to the skin and then built up using materials such as tissue paper and cotton.