Explanations of Tail Materials
Different types of tails are made out of different materials, and have different properties because of it. Don't know anything about neoprene or silicone? Unsure of what kind of tail to buy that would best would suit your needs? Don't worry- we've laid out all the information for you right here!
We strongly suggest you read this page because some materials used by commercial tailmakers can be unsafe. Educate yourself on the materials your tail would be made of before buying.
Fabric- Spandex (otherwise known as Lycra, Elaspan, Creora, ROICA, Dorlastan, Linel, and ESPA) are what bathing suits are typically made of. These tails are lightweight in and out of water, very stretchy, dry fast, and are easy to get in and out of quickly. These tails are a good option for beginners, children, and people who want an inexpensive tail.
Be aware that if you choose to have it painted, a fabric tail's paint can scrape off from wear and tear, and will need touch ups to keep it looking nice.
Neoprene- This is a synthetic rubber product that is made in sheets, and typically lined with spandex. This material is the same materials used to make wet suits, and is durable and somewhat insulating. They are somewhat stretchy (but less so than spandex) and more form fitting- therefore somewhat harder to get in out of. Keep in mind that neoprene is positively buoyant, and may make you float in the water. Be aware that if you choose to have it painted, a neoprene tail's paint can scrape off or fade from heavier wear and tear, and may need touch ups to keep it looking nice.
Since this is a synthetic rubber, typically those with latex allergies do not have a problem with neoprene. However it may be possible, so if you have a latex allergy please be aware of this.
Molded Latex- Natural latex, cast in a mold for a realistic shape. This material has little stretch, and can be very difficult to get on and off. Typically either a lubricant or a powder (such as baby powder or cornstarch) is used to get these tails on. They are buoyant in the water. Do not order if you have a latex allergy. Be aware that with use, some people have developed latex allergies from using latex mermaid tails.
Full platinum silicone- Silicone is a type of rubber, platinum silicone (sometimes known as Dragonskin), is the highest grade of silicone, used in making medical and special effects prosthetics. This material is "skin safe", for safe use in being directly in contact with the skin, where other silicones typically are not. "Full platinum silicone" are tails that are cast out of silicone using molds for a realistic look, and are completely made of this skin safe silicone; with exception to the monofin in it, and a power-mesh liner that is typically used for extra durability. These tails are mostly neutrally buoyant in water, making for easier sinking and swimming.
This material is fairly stretchy, and is also very sticky against bare skin. Since these tails are made to be very form fitting, they can be difficult to get into, and a lubricant such as a water-based personal lubricant or baby oil must be used. It is durable but not indestructable, and may need repairs every now and then. A properly made silicone tail should NOT have any paint come off, unless chunks are taken out of the silicone. However if you do need to touch up or repaint for whatever reason, the only way to repaint a silicone tail is with more silicone that is pigmented.
Silicone is also heavy. Typically a silicone tail weighs anywhere from 25 to 60lbs. For these reasons we DO NOT reccomend silicone tails for beginners. There are several reasons why we do not recommend them for beginners, please see that list HERE before considering buying one.
Even though it is rubber, silicone is inert and therefore can be safely worn by those with latex allergies. Silicone allergies are very rare, but possible.
Urethane- A type of rubber that is more expensive than silicone, but also much more durable. Unlike silicone, a urethane tail can last decades with minimal need for repairs. The urethane is molded for a realistic look.
Urethane (also known as polyurethane) does not contain natural latex, and therefore is safe for those with latex allergies.
Partial silicone, partial latex (on a neoprene or neoprin base)- Platinum silicone on a neoprene or neoprin base. The base is constructed, and the scales are separately cast out of silicone then adhered to the base of the body of the tail, and the silicone is applied directly to the fluke of the tail and textured by hand. A partial latex tail typically the same, but done with natural latex rubber. Although some tailmakers do not cast the scales, but instead texture them with netting or grating for a fish-scale look.
These tails generally do have much stretch, as adhering the scales onto the body reduces the neoprene or neoprin's elasticity. They are form fitting, so typically they take longer to get on, and you may use a powder or lubrication to do so.
Partial tin-cure latex or tin-cure silicone (on a neoprene or neoprin base)- These tails are made with a base of neoprene or neoprin (see below for neoprin) with a coating of tin cure latex or tin cure silicone on top to create a realistic looking texture. They are somewhat stretchy but take some time to get on and off, and are positively buoyant in the water.
Although they are a lower cost for a more realistic looking tail, we discourage people from buying these tails as they are made of non-skin safe and potentially hazardous materials. Tin-cure silicone is not skin safe, but beyond that most tailmakers do not use actual pure tin-cure silicone, but rather bathroom or aquarium caulking. All tin-cure latex is caulking. These materials are not only not made to be used this way, but can potentially cause bad reactions and health issues. These materials are categorized by the EPA as 'Hazard Categories' promulgated under Sections 311 and 312 of the Superfund Amendment and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA Title III) and is considered, under applicable definitions, to meet the following categories: "Immediate Health Hazard, Chronic Health Hazard" Some people who have used these tails regularly have shown damage to their systems, as noted in the MSDS for said materials, in routine blood work. Such damages include kidney, liver, and respiratory systems, as well as depression of the central nervous system.
If the paint is not mixed in with the latex or silicone, the paint will also gradually come off and the tail will have to be repainted and cured with a heat gun every time the paint comes off. The material is also prone to crumbling away from the base material, and/or partially uncuring when submerged for too long (making for a hazardous situation as the material is much more toxic when uncured). People with chemical sensitives should absolutely not own one of these tails.
Neoprin- Neoprin is a "spacer" material that has a similar look to neoprene and is a cheap alternative- however neoprin and neoprene are two very different materials. While neoprene is essentially black rubber backed by a layer of fabric on each side, neoprin's core is made up of many many tiny fibers that hold the two sides together.
This fragile "core" of the fabric allows it to stretch great amounts. However it lacks elasticity. Once stretched it does not return to it's original shape well, and instead it distorts easily. Many find that tails made from neoprin stretch too much for it to fit them properly, especially in the water- even after only one use. It will continue to stretch as it is worn, and a tail made from this material may require multiple size adjustments (taking it in). Also the fabric is very impressionable, making for permanent wrinkles, creases, and impressions from wear and other regular use (such as storing the tail).
Another downside to this material, is that becuase the water penetrates the core it can take much longer to dry. This is especially a problem when combined with tin cure latex, as the latex is damaged by the water and can start to un-cure when left wet for too long.
it is also a much lower quality option. It is HIGHLY recommended that you not buy a tail made of neoprin. Invest a little
Neoprin is a cheaper alternative, but more money and instead get neoprene- it is well worth it and will save you trouble down the road, as well as making for a much longer tail life. You can find a thread with photos and a video on the difference between neoprin and neoprene here.
Lexan Plastic (monofins)- Lexan plastic is a brand name clear polycarbonate plastic sheet. Its strong, flexible, and clear. Despite the strength of these plastics, the stresses encountered while swimming is very high, and monofins made out of Lexan can crack or snap much easier than those made out of more flexible plastics like polyethelene or polypropylene (what Finis recreational monofins are made of).
If you are worried about the higher likelyhood of a lexan monofin snapping or cracking, be sure to ask the tailmaker about their replacement policy before buying a tail with a lexan monofin from them.
Acrylic (monofins)- Acrylic sheeting is a type of plastic. Acrylic should NEVER be sued to make a monofin! Acrylic sheets will shatter under the stress of swimming, into razor sharp pieces and can cause severe injury! Plexiglas is a type of acrylic. We strongly recommend that you NEVER buy from a tailmaker that uses acrylic to make their monofins!