Spirit gum is a skin-safe, resin-based adhesive best known for its application in gluing costume prosthetics to the face. Though inexpensive and readily available, spirit gum is not always the best adhesive for every type of prosthetic. Differences in skin sensitivity, material types and design often lead to different requirements in the formula and texture of a glue. There are many glues you can use in place of spirit gum, depending on your prosthetic and makeup needs.
The same liquid latex that is poured into molds for casting is sticky enough to use as a prosthetic adhesive. Dab the wet latex on the inside of the prosthetic and press it immediately to your skin. Use a couple dots of latex for a light tack job or coat the entire outside edge of the prosthetic for a firm hold all over. Use all-purpose liquid latex or latex-based prosthetic adhesives, designed to be more user-friendly and easier on the skin.
Silicone adhesives are the only glue appropriate to use with prosthetics made from silicone rubber. There are many brands of silicone adhesive, and their formulas vary in what kind of solvent, or dissolving agent, is used to liquefy the silicone for application. Silicone adhesives dry to be flexible and stretchy and, compared to latex, are far less likely to induce an allergic skin reaction.
Like spirit gum, benzoin is an adhesive made from plant resin. It is similar to spirit gum in application, appearance and texture. This adhesive is somewhat more difficult to find, though you might locate it in drugstores. It is not to be confused to benzoin products sold as antiseptics, nor with tinctures of benzoin intended for the removal of bandage adhesive.
Certain brands of prosthetic adhesive are formulated to work like, and resemble, construction contact adhesives, but in formulas designed to be gentle enough for use on skin. With contact adhesives, glue is applied to both the skin and the prosthetic and allowed to dry before the two are pressed together. This creates a particularly strong bond, but it's very important to get the positioning of the prosthetic right on the first try.
Collodion-based adhesives are much less popular now than they were in the 1930s, when they were a movie industry standard. Nowadays, it's more often used as a scar makeup rather than a prosthetic adhesive, due to the fact that it tends to shrink when it dries, stretching the skin. It is also highly flammable.
- "Creature People: Behind-The-Scenes With Hollywood's Top Artists In Special Makeup Effects;" Scott Essman; 2008
Lauren Vork has been a writer for 20 years, writing both fiction and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in "The Lovelorn" online magazine and thecvstore.net. Vork holds a bachelor's degree in music performance from St. Olaf College.