Female masking is a sub-form of cross-dressing that involves, in addition to the wearing of women's clothing, a mask (usually made from latex) that gives a pseudo-real representation of a female face.
Pictures of masked participants in this activity may have a reasonably life-like appearance although the immobile nature of the mask presumably means it would be unlikely to work in real-life situations. However, given the never-ending cycle of research and development in special makeup effects, it seems likely that a more lifelike mask will become available, if not commonly affordable. For example, latex is the most commonly used material for these kinds of masks, due mostly to how easily it may be obtained and its relatively low cost. It also mimicks the slightly translucent nature of human skin when properly cured, and it is simple to alter the color tone of the end product to match desired flesh tones. However, it is not as flexible as human skin.
An alternative material is silicone, which is somewhat more supple than human skin. However, it is more expensive and somewhat more challenging to work with.
Another option (used extensively in the Farscape television series) incorporates a form of gelatin that is not only easy to work with but is highly reusable. The drawback is that the material is not very durable; the use of adhesives to allow the prosthetics to move with the performer's facial skin usually dictates that a given mask may only be donned once, and then must essentially be re-crafted from scratch after removal.
An additional complication is the wearer's own skin: a primary concern is that flesh needs to literally breathe, hence a strong recommendation for using a porous material for masks of any sort intended for extended wear.
Female maskers often have an interest in mainstream media that features characters disguised with a rubber mask; this was a frequent plot device in the TV programme Mission: Impossible and features in many other science-fiction films and TV programmes. There are several on-line archives of images and video-clips that feature this, particularly scenes in which the mask is removed to reveal the true identity of the character.
The 1996 Mission: Impossible movie, as well as a few commercials released prior to that point and increasing numbers afterward, utilized computer-altered morphing images to create a highly realistic, on-screen 'peel' in which a mask is removed without using the traditional cutaway to exchange actors. The technique remains in development, as it requires a variation of green-screen technology to either:
- * Remove a mask that already resembles the face of the performer beneath,
- * Superimpose an image of one performer's face over that of another's (one example may be observed (perhaps inevitably) in the 2006 Mission: Impossible 3 movie), or
- * Utilize a specially-constructed mask prop that functions as a partial motion capture garment, which can then be digitally altered into the desired 'disguise mask' during relevant scenes.
In order to properly utilize the second variation, the lighting and camera angles for both performers must be matched as exactly as possible. It is possible to digitally 'correct' most variations in such elements, but this option crowds into Option #3's territory.
The ever-increasing power and affordability of high-end computer graphics should make the third option ('virtual' masks) more commonly available. However, scenes in which Character A (played by Actor A) is disguised as Character B (played by Actor B) will still require Actor B to portray Character A disguised as Character B, at least for the foreseeable future.
It is worth mentioning that there is a small but growing industry focusing on prosthetic genitalia, most commonly a 'false' vagina for male-to-female crossdressers. While these prostheses seem to be thematically consistent with masking, current indications suggest that 'pure' crossdressers using the prostheses are not likely to engage in masking, and most maskers prefer to purchase additional facial masks.