Blog: Living Mannequin make-up effect development

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Mannequin man

 Blog: Living Mannequin make-up effect development

mannequin man - published 24/10/2018 (updated 02/07/2023)

History of my living mannequin make-up effects

When I first started as a living mannequin, I used to use a water based make-up (Aquacolor from Kryolan); this was great to use and easy to apply with a damp sponge. The only issue I found was that in Summer or under the hot lighting on an exhibition stand, the make-up would start to run as I started to perspire, which would then require regular re-application of the make-up.

After a number of years of using Aquacolor, I started looking for an alternative. Whilst in the Charles Fox shop in London (now Kroylan), I purchased and later experimented with some oil based Kroylan (paint stick) theatrical make-up, or panstick as it is know generically. This make-up doesn't run when you sweat, which is great. In order to give a more plastic mannequin effect, I used it without the fine powder powder that would normally be applied to seal it. This did mean that anything you wore would get make-up on it, especially on the collar. I later discovered some clear sealing liquid that can be applied to minimise this, without losing too much of the mannequin shininess effect.

I continued to use various pan-stick colours for many years, initially quite dark shades, one called beige tan, progressing then to lighter skin tones, as the vogue for mannequin colouration changed with the years.

Then one day I had a requirement to create a CPR dummy character for some basic life support training. I looked around to see what I could find on the internet, and thought initially that I would use the rubber face off a real CPR dummy. I obtained a couple of CPR dummy faces from manufactures, but found that the dummy faces were too small. My next thought was to make my own out of latex.
I thought of making a mould of my face and then pouring latex in it to make a mask, as they do in prosthetic make-up, but it was all starting to seem a little too complex. Then I thought, what if I applied the latex to my face directly.

Using normal latex on your skin is not a good idea because it contains a lot of ammonia, which will burn your skin, however I discovered that you could buy low ammonia liquid latex. Initially I could only get hold of a bright pink colour. I tried applying this liquid latex to all of my face, and the effect was pretty good, although I quickly learnt that if you get the latex in your eyes, they water and ruin the make-up, which used to happing a lot in the early days.

I looked around again on the internet and experimented with various brands of liquid latex, some very odd colours, but eventually I found more skin tones. I tried at one point to used clear latex and to colour it, but if I used a powder for colouration I needed to use a large amount, to achieve a strong colour, which was costly, and if I used liquids for colouration, then the latex would get too liquid/runny and be much harder to apply.

The liquid latex make-up is applied in layers with a sponge. Each layer must have dried before the next layer is applied, a hair-dryer can be used to speed up the process. The first layer I tend to pat on, while the latter layers I tend to wipe on. I usually apply 5 or 6 layers which can take from about 45 to 50 minutes for a basic covering. The sponges soon start to get sticky and will pull the latex off if you keep using them. I normally get through 3 or 4 for each application.

These days I don't use panstick for my living mannequin make-up and I prefer to use liquid latex in order to get the most realistic mannequin effect. To achieve the colour I now mix various skin shades with white liquid latex, in order to achieve the exact colour I'm looking for.

I've been asked to supply both totally black and totally white living mannequins. To achieve the white living mannequin effect, many more coats of latex need to be applied to achieve a strong white colour covering.

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