It’s October which means it’s time to bring back my SFX Basics series. For this edition, we’re going to talk about a product called Spirit Gum and Spirit Gum Remover.
Special effects makeup (usually referred to as FX or SFX makeup) is used throughout Hollywood to bring our favorite characters to life. It doesn’t matter if it’s Jason from Halloween or Iron Man from the Marvel– at some point, these actors have special effects makeup and prosthetics glued to their faces. Granted, a lot of CGI is now being used but hey… that’s the magic of film.
The product we are talking about today probably has been used in theatre since the for literally hundreds of years and remains a staple for easy adhesion. It’s not the strongest stuff out there, but it’s perfect for cosplayers who are new to SFX makeup and are looking for something that is easy to administer and can survive a day at comic-con.
So let’s get started.
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What is Spirit Gum?
If you want the Wikipedia definition, Spirit gum is an adhesive, made mostly of SD Alcohol 35-A (the solvent, or “spirit“) and resin (the adhesive, or “gum“).
In cosplay, Spirit Gum is used mostly to glue down wigs (it’s stronger than eyelash glue) or to apply facial hair or prosthetics. Thankfully, this stuff is easy to find and can be purchased year-round on Amazon. You’ll see it pop up a lot more in your local chain stores around the Halloween season as they’re typically included in those cheap makeup kits (Pro Tip: don’t use those… they suck).
How To Apply Spirit Gum
Applying this SFX product is relatively easy. It’s best used for lightweight items such as facial hair or for gluing down your wig. I actually used it to add on the frozen “crystals” to my Jackie Frost cosplay.
All you have to do is paint a layer onto the back of your prosthetic, wig, or facial hair. You’ll have to wait for it to be tacky before you place it on your face or body. You can test it out by dabbing your finger onto the area where you place the adhesive to check the consistency. If it’s still wet or slimy, it’s not ready to be applied.
For extra security, you can use this same technique on the part of your skin where you will be placing the prosthetic so that you will have a double layer of Spirit Gum to secure it. However, this technique isn’t really necessary for wigs or faux facial hair.
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For SFX Makeup and Cosplay
Spirit Gum is perfect for when you plan on wearing a prosthetic all day (i.e. at a convention). It works especially well with heavier prosthetics. I generally don’t glue down my wigs (because laziness), but I’d recommend this adhesive over eyelash glue or heavier adhesive like Pros-Aide. You can also use it to help hold down masks, gloves, or other loose accessories you may have in your cosplay.
Some characters that might require this SFX adhesive are:
- Elves (Lord of the Rings, WoW, Skyrim): Use it to apply elf ears.
- Poison Ivy: So you can attach leaves arbitrarily on your face and body
- Gandalf/Captain Jack Sparrow/Aquaman: Pretty much any character that requires you to glue some faux hair to your face.
- Nebula: To hold down the wig cap and her mechanical eye fixture…things
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This product has been used in theatre as early as the 1870s. Crazy, right? Since it’s inception, professionals have been able to garner a formula that is pretty safe. The only real cause for concern when using this product is that it may cause some irritation on the skin. More so if you don’t remove your heavy prosthetics properly with Spirit Gum Remover.
Spirit Gum Remover
In case you couldn’t guess, Spirit Gum Remover is used to remove Spirit Gum. The remover smells vaguely of peppermint and can be used to remove a variety of SFX products, such as Rigid Collodion. I highly recommend having this in your SFX makeup supply kit, simply because it’s the safest and easiest way to remove a prosthetic after a long con day.
In order to remove your prosthetic, wig, or facial hair without hurting yourself, make sure to use Spirit Gum Remover.
You will need:
- Spirit Gum Remover
- Cotton Balls
Simply pour Spirit Gum Remover on a cotton ball and wipe the solution where you originally applied the adhesive until it safely lifts the prosthetic from your face.