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For those of us who take costume-making and cosplay seriously, wearing a costume can be more than just putting on some clothing and calling it a day. We go all out with accessories and the tiniest details that make our costumes come to life.
Sometimes, however, those accessories can’t be clipped on or hung. Instead, they need to be glued to our skin. If you’ve worked with skin glue before, you know that there are some skin glue products that are more effective and durable than others.
But despite our love for costumes, we also have to consider health and safety when using skin-safe glue on our face. So, which skin-safe glues and adhesives are safe to use on our face? We explore each one.
Regular Elmer’s Glue
Many would think that the easiest solution to skin-safe adhesives for your face would be Elmer’s Glue or any similar everyday craft glue used for school and office purposes. Elmer’s Glue is said to be safe and non-toxic, and if you’ve ever experienced using it, you might notice that there are no harmful side-effects when the glue dries. You can easily peel off the dried glue or wash it off with water.
Elmer’s glue is generally non-toxic. It’s not recommended that you eat glue, but it won’t kill you unless you eat it in extremely large amounts. It’s also not recommended that you apply it to raw skin or open wounds.
From a dermatological standpoint, however, Elmer’s Glue should not be used on your face. For one, if you have facial hair, it will be uncomfortable to remove glue. And you may not see it, but there are tiny invisible hairs on your skin which can make peeling uncomfortable. It won’t change your skin color or cause discoloration, but it can be extremely uncomfortable and cause irritation.
Another reason Elmer’s Glue shouldn’t be used as a skin adhesive for your face is that it wasn’t meant to be used on the skin. The manufacturer can assure consumers that the glue is non-toxic, but hasn’t been tested for skin irritation and allergies. Because Elmer’s Glue is water-based, which means it has preservatives. However, it’s highly likely that the preservatives used in skin glue to make it safe are not the same as the preservatives in Elmer’s Glue.
Spirit gum is a skin adhesive commonly used on face and body prosthetics, wigs, and fake facial hair. It’s been made and sold by various companies, but spirit gum generally contains alcohol used as the solvent (or spirit) and a resin to serve as the “gum. Spirit gum has been used since the 1870s in theater performances.
Spirit gum requires a remover to safely remove it from the skin. Some everyday spirit gum removers include alcohol or vaseline, but manufacturers usually also offer a spirit gum remover for effective removal.
In terms of safety, spirit gum is made of materials that can be toxic when ingested, so it’s best to keep it away from the mouth and eye area. While most people may not have an allergy to spirit gum, it’s safe to do test it out before applying it to your face.
Put a small amount of spirit gum on your forearm and let it dry. Keep it there for two to three hours and then remove with spirit gum remover or any alternative remover. If your skin doesn’t turn red and your skin didn’t feel itchy or uncomfortable during the whole process, you’re not allergic and can apply it to your face.
Using Spirit Gum
You can buy spirit gum from costume stores, craft stores, or specialty stores, or on online websites like Amazon. It’s the most popular type of skin-safe adhesive, so you’re likely to find this over other skin glues in other physical stores.
When buying spirit gum, try to research product reviews, as some spirit gums have a stronger hold over others. In this case, we recommend Graftobian Spirit Gum.
A regular-sized bottle of spirit gum costs less than $15, and you can find sets of spirit gum and spirit gum remover at around the same price as well. This makes it relatively more inexpensive compared to other skin-safe glue types.
Attaching latex accessories to your skin with spirit gum is relatively easy. It can also be used with other accessories made of different materials except for silicone. Removal and cleanup from your skin are also easy and quick, but if you don’t wash your prosthetics after use, there can be a spirit gum build-up.
Liquid latex is used to attach latex prosthetics, body painting, or, on its own, special effects. You might have seen makeup artists and SFX artists use liquid latex to create wounds on their face or more wrinkles to look older.
Liquid latex (or flesh latex, as other people call it) is made up of latex, water, and less than one percent of ammonia for preservation and to control the acidity. Before applying it to your skin (especially near your eyes, nose, and mouth), expose the latex to air for a few minutes to let the fumes from the ammonia escape.
It is non-toxic, but again, you shouldn’t be eating this. And given its name and the fact that liquid latex contains a third of latex, if you know you’re allergic to latex, you should avoid using this. Latex can be washed out.
Using Liquid Latex
While liquid latex does a good job for special effects, I wouldn’t recommend it for the purposes of skin adhesives. First, it only usually works well with latex prosthetics. It can be difficult to blend liquid latex with other types of prosthetics to give it a natural look.
And even if you do use latex prosthetics, it can only be used short-term. The liquid latex that attaches itself to your prosthetics cannot be removed. If you’re repeatedly using your prosthetic with liquid latex, it will slowly build up. So, instead of a thin edge you can easily blend into your skin with latex, it’s bulky and hard to blend.
So, in short, liquid latex is good as a special effect and can help blend latex prosthetics if used for the first few times. However, it slowly destroys your prosthetics. Given the longer drying time and effects on your prosthetics, you’re better off using liquid latex only when necessary and using other skin-safe glues instead.
If interested, you can buy liquid latex in craft stores, costume stores, or online. Here’s a pint of liquid latex for sale* on Amazon for less than $10.
Skin Tite is a silicone rubber used to attach silicone-based prosthetics to your face and body. Just like liquid latex, it can also be used on its own to create a skin effect and not just a skin adhesive. Unlike spirit gum and liquid latex, Skin Tite is a specific product manufactured by Smooth-On.
While it sounds similar to liquid latex except it caters to silicone, its main selling point is that silicone, unlike latex, is more elastic and can adhere to places in your body that move a lot. If you tried using spirit gum or liquid latex on your finger knuckles, elbows, neck, and other joints and places with repetitive motion, it’s highly likely to break due to the constant movement. Skin Tite, however, is made of silicone rubber, so it will bend or flex accordingly with your body, preventing breaking.
Skin Tite is ACMI-certified safe. It can be mixed with different pigments and thickeners to achieve your desired color and consistency. It can easily blend with your skin to achieve a smooth and natural finish.
Using Skin Tite
Skin Tite one of the more expensive skin adhesives in the market. This is because it’s a professional-grade adhesive used by professional special effects makeup artists for theater, film, TV, and other high-end productions. And if you know how to use Skin Tite, you can achieve the same appearance. You can buy Skin Tite online or in specialty stores. On Amazon*, Smooth-On is selling a set for around $30.
Like other skin glues, it’s best to test if you are allergic to it before applying a large amount to your face. It can easily be peeled off after use. Make sure your skin is clean before application, as natural body oils and some skin products can make it difficult to cure Skin Tite.
Before applying and after peeling or removing the skin-safe glue, it’s important to keep your skin clean. Prior to applying skin adhesive, wash your face with a mild cleanser and then moisturize with aloe vera gel, jojoba oil, or any facial moisturizer. Most skin glue products contain alcohol or other substances that can cause drying, so moisturizers can seal in the moisture.
After using skin glue, wash your face with a mild facial cleanser. This will get rid of the residue that remains on your skin, which could clog your pores and cause pimples.