Silicone Lekku or Latex.... which is best?
Silicone and latex lekku each have different qualities, and it's up to each costumer to decide which elements are best suited for their needs!
Silicone lekku are MUCH more flexible than latex, so they will move in a more natural fashion. Latex is stiff, and will have little movement.
You can paint latex lekku with the same body paint that you use on yourself, but the paint does rub off. Silicone is difficult to paint, so the best option is to select a color that matches your body paint and keep the silicone that color permanently.
Latex is a natural product, and it can break down over time. I have seen latex headpieces last six years, but I've also seen them start to develop cracks after six months. Latex is sensitive to heat, sunlight, and humidity, but cracks can be repaired by painting on new layers of latex. Silicone is much more durable, and can withstand a range of conditions for years without showing any signs of wear. Silicone is susceptible to tearing if it is cut or punctured, so it should still be handled with care.
Silicone is considerably more expensive than latex, so silicone lekku cost more than latex headpieces. I feel that the price difference is balanced by the fact that silicone lekku have a much longer lifespan than latex.
While the weight for both styles of lekku tends to vary a bit with each casting, I have found that the silicone headpieces tend to weigh slightly more than latex headpieces, especially in the longer styles.
"What is your recommendation?"
My personal favorite is the medium length silicone lekku. I like the flexibility and durability of the silicone, and the medium style gives a nice length without the extra weight of the longer lekku.
Water or Alcohol Based Paint... or a Hybrid?
There are many choices when it comes to picking out a brand of body paint. I personally prefer alcohol or hybrid based paints. They are much more expensive, but it's worth every penny when you can spend the whole day in costume without worrying about how well your paint is holding up! My favorite paint (and the only brand I use for my own costumes) is Reel Creations. It looks great all day long without appearing shiny or feeling tacky, and it never stains my white costumes!
ALCOHOL BASED PAINTS:
Alcohol based paints come in either dry cakes that must be activated with alcohol, or as a liquid. Bottles of the liquid paint are the easiest to work with, though the cakes come in handy for folks who want to ship their paint overseas. Alcohol based paints can be applied with a brush, sponge, or airbrush. I get the best results by sponging on a very thin first layer, and then airbrushing a second thin layer over the top to even out the color. These paints are more expensive, but they will last many hours without needing a touchup. You must use a makeup remover to wash off alcohol based paints. Soap and water won't work!
Popular alcohol paint brands: Reel Creations, Endura, Temptu
These paints have the durability of alcohol based paints, but they can be washed off with soap. (Honestly, though... it's better to take them off with a good remover. Soap takes way too long!) They are sold as a liquid. I have been very happy with hybrid paints; most of them really do last as long as alcohol based paints!
Popular hybrid brands: ProAiir Hybrid, Olive Branch, Graftobian F/X Aire
WATER BASED PAINTS:
Water based paints are commonly sold in dry cakes that must be activated with water. They look nice and are easy to apply, but they have a tendency to rub off over time. Applying a makeup sealer over the body paint can help. Many people prefer water based paints because they're much more affordable and wash off easily with soap and water. If you decide to use a water based paint, it's a good idea to take a 'repair kit' to events so that you can touch up your body paint throughout the day.
Popular water based brands: Superstar, Fusion, Graftobian Pro Paint, Ben Nye, Kryolan, Snazaroo, Mehron, Wolfe