Why Face Shells Are Important

Any #cosplayer or #costumer who wears a spandex hood or mask will quickly learn the value of wearing a #FaceShell underneath. This is especially true for #SpiderMan & #Deadpool #cosplayers.

But what is a face shell and why is is important? Typically, a face shell is a molded piece of plastic worn between the face and a spandex hood that is worn above it.

Spandex is a very stretchy, form-fitting material. When worn, spandex (or Lycra) very quickly takes on the shape of the what it is covering. Hence, when it is worn over the face, the wearer’s facial features will quickly be visible beneath the spandex hood. When the wearer talks, observers will quickly see the moving lips of the mouth beneath the spandex hood. However, when viewing live-action Spider-Man or Deadpool movies, one thing that’s obvious is that when the actor beneath the costume talks, his moving mouth isn’t visible, nor are his other facial features. In the case of Spider-man, the face is supposed to be very smooth. In the case of Deadpool, a very distinctive facial shape should be present.

Thus, simply wearing a spandex hood or mask over a bare face and head can’t achieve the correct facial shape for the character being depicted. Also, movement from talking distracts from the illusion that the hood or mask is trying to create.

A face shell solves the problems of not having the correct facial shape and hides mouth movement because it causes the spandex hood being worn over it to take on the shape of shell. And, as long as the shell extends to cover the mouth, any movement by the mouth and lips will be hidden beneath the shell and not cause the spandex to move with it. This is illustrated by Spider-Man cosplayer “SonicSpiderman” in a video that he posted to YouTube, and which we have shared here.

There are some important considerations when wearing a face shell that SonicSpiderman doesn’t talk about in the video, but we will share here from our own experiences wearing them.

  1. The face shell should be sized correctly to the size of your face and head. You won’t be able to wear it if it’s too small and if it’s too big, it will leave edges where the spandex moves away from the shell and towards your head underneath. Also, it may become uncomfortable when the spandex is worn over it because the spandex will press the face shell more tightly against the head & face. (We address discomfort issues below.)
  2. The face shell should be well ventilated. The head is one of the human body’s primary means to cool itself. This is why our heads sweat when our bodies begin to head up from exertion and/or when the ambient air is hot. Wearing a mask or hood of any kind can exacerbate the heating of the head and while spandex itself is very good at allowing moisture and heat from escaping the body, a plastic face shell is not. Thus, it is very important for the face shell to be well perforated to permit airflow underneath and a way for heat and moisture to escape. If it’s not well perforated, after a short amount of time (especially in a warm, humid convention hall) not only will you start to feel very warm with the mask on, beads of sweat may collect at the bottom of the face shell and begin to seep out and cause an unsightly wet spot on the bottom of your mask.
  3. The face shell should be completely smooth on both sides. Any sharp edges on the face shell should be smoothed by sanding. Otherwise, it may cause discomfort and potentially damage the spandex material if it stretches over a sharp edge and snags. Snagged spandex can’t be repaired and may be difficult to hide, especially since it would be on the most visible part of the costume: the head & face.
  4. A small amount of foam padding may be needed on the inside of the face shell. If the face shell becomes uncomfortable when the spandex hood is worn over it, a small amount of strategically placed foam padding can alleviate the discomfort. But, it’s very important not to overdo the padding because it will reduce air flow and ventilation. Our advice is it use if sparingly if needed. We’d recommend foam padding that is typically used in pillows: very soft, but not too thick and easy to cut with scissors. For attaching foam padding we recommend Velcro so that it can be removed and re-positioned as needed. Encasing the foam padding in some fabric simplifies adding the Velcro. Sticky Velcro should be sufficient and the fabric can be glued into place over the foam padding.
  5. Make sure magnetized eye covers are secure and not likely to fall off when the mask is worn. If they aren’t sufficiently secure, you should consider adding more rare earth magnets to the face shell and the eye covers.
  6. Keep extra rare earth magnets & glue on hand while you’re in costume. Should a magnetized eye piece fall off and one or more of the rare earth magnets that hold it to the face shell falls off when it hits the floor, you may need to do an on-the-spot repair. If you don’t have any extra rare earth magnets & glue on hand if this happens, then you’re stuck with a mask that isn’t complete when worn and you won’t be happy.
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