Alternatives to spirit gum
For Fake beards, Lacefront wigs, Prosthetics and more
Cosplay is a hobby full of love-hate relationships. You love cosplay – but ever so often you wake up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday, ready to get into the most uncomfortable outfit in existence and glue things to your face with that nasty smelling awful disgusting stinking and skin-irritating godless adhesive that is spirit gum and wonder why the heck you can’t just have a normal hobby like… like knitting. Or something.
Of course if you fast forward three or four hours, you will be having the time of your life as the character you adore together with people you love and it will all be worth it. But getting there is sometimes a real challenge when the bed is so soft and you know that you have to go through spirit gum hell. Especially when you have to glue down a lot of stuff. Like a complete fake beard. Because you just had to chose that hillbilly hate preacher from Far Cry 5 for today.
Little did we know that there are alternatives to spirit gum that would make our mornings and the whole convention days so much easier!
In this article we want to introduce our favourite spirit gum alternatives to you and talk honestly about their pros and cons.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase, we receive a small commission that helps us run this site. <3
Alternative #1: Pros-Aide
I think it was a fellow Far Cry cosplayer who introduced us to Pros-Aide. We were awkwardly trying to bond by complaining how much we hated gluing on beards and they asked us why we didn’t simply use Pros-Aide. At that point I had no idea about how much of a gamechanger that would be.
What is Pros-Aide?
Pros Aide is actually a medical grade skin adhesive which is also used to apply prosthetics and epithesis (1). It is also widely used by professional make-up and SFX artists.
It’s acrylic-based formulation makes Pros-Aide ideal for sensitive skin. It does not cause irritation like spirit gum often does and once it’s dried, the bond is very resistant to water. It is also non-toxic and completely safe (2).
But that’s just what it says on the tin. Our Far Cry 5 costumes gave us the ideal opportunity for field trials on multiple days. So here’s our experience.
Why we like Pros-Aide
Pros-Aide does not put you through hell with that awful smell of spirit gum that is already associated with PAIN in our brains. It has a pretty neutral smell so that is definitely a pro.
What we have come to adore about Pros-Aide is the fact that its bond is flexible. That means it does not render your face immobile once you glue on your crossplay beard. Smiling while wearing a full beard?? IMPOSSIBLE! Well, not anymore. Believe me, this will save you some awkward moments in which someone thinks they said something wrong because your face is stuck in a permanent frown.
The bond is also pretty strong once it is set. We usually bring the skin adhesive of choice with us if we go to a convention, just in case. I think we needed it only once when we used Pros-Aide. At MCM London we partied all night (at least til curfew) at the Fox and our beards were still mostly intact (which led to a disturbing encounter at the restrooms where a drunk girl tried to beat me up for being a creepy old man).We still can not claim it was super comfortable to wear a fake beard with this make-up but it’s definitely more comfortable than spirit gum.
Another pro is that – once it is dried – Pros-Aide is completely transparent. If you put some powder on it, it has a matte surface. Nobody will notice the glue under your lace in contrast to when you apply spirit gum which is quite suspicious with its tell-tale shine.
And now the best part: Removing your beard/prosthetic/lace-front wig is so much easier and way less painful with Pros-Aide. While taking off anything that was glued down with spirit gum should be considered a violation of the cosplayer’s most basic human rights, Pros-Aide doesn’t hurt you.
What we don’t like about Pros-Aide
Still, there are downsides to using Pros-Aide, mainly concerning its removal. We suggest you use make-up wipes and/or old washcloths for it. Because those tiny bits of Pros-Aide you rub off will forever be sticky. There are few things more annoying than getting these into your clothing or that one expensive towel your mother-in-law gifted you with and expects to be hanging on display whenever she visits (thankfully that scenario is completely fictional).
Also removing Pros-Aide from beards and lacefront wigs isn’t easier than removing spirit gum. And if you wear a beard quite often, it doesn’t really get prettier from gluing it on and cleaning it up. But that’s the case with almost all skin adhesives (except for wig tape).
Another thing we came to dislike is that stains on your clothes might last forever. I lost a good pair of socks to that and that’s just a shame, ain’t it?
There’s also the fact that as good as Pros-Aide does stick, the flexibility doesn’t hold things in place with the brute force Mastix Extra is capable of. So if you have a lacefront wig that is a bit on the heavy side and constantly pulling on your forehead, we would still suggest you use Mastix Extra to make sure it stays in place.
What we use Pros-Aide for
We mostly use Pros-Aide for facial hair. No matter whether full beard, moustache or sideburns: Pros-Aide makes sure it all stays in its lane and your face can still move! But its also possible to apply stubble from wool crepe with it (see Pasta’s Arthur Morgan for reference).
Pros-Aide also makes lacefront wigs way more tolerable to wear. It sticks to latex as well as to silicone, so if you have elf-ears that need to be applied, Pros-Aide is your friend. What’s even cooler is that you can smooth out the edges of prosthetics with Pros-Aide. While normal Pros-Aide takes some time to build up the thickness you need for that, Pros-Aide cream is just perfect for blending some hard edges.
Other cool things Pros-Aide can be used for
Pros-Aide is not just used to blend in the edge of prosthetics or glue things down. If you mix it with water-based paint (various sources mention acrylics but please only use acrylic paints approved to be used on skin), you get the so-called “PAX”. PAX is a very opaque paint that does not easily rub off or come off but stays in place for a long time. You can read more about it in the FX Wiki. Another thing you can do with Pros-Aide is glitter tattoos – because Pros-Aide remains sticky once it’s dried, you can draw a shape with Pros-Aide, let it dry and put glitter over it. It will remain sticking to the area covered in Pros-Aide.
How Pros-Aide is applied
- Clean skin with rubbing alcohol
- Carefully apply a thin and even coat of Pros-Aide to your skin
- Apply thin coat of Pros-Aide to whatever you wish to apply
- Let both dry
- Firmly press the application to your skin (You can use the stick of a brush to press it to your skin)
In case you wish to apply multiple layers of Pros-Aide, you can simply powder the dried and tacky glue, then apply the next layer!
How Pros-Aide can be removed
Pull whatever you glued on off (carefully!). Clean your face with make-up wipes or an old washcloth.
To get Pros-Aide leftovers out of wig lace or beards we suggest you use Isopropyl Myristate (4) – a chemical that is also used in cosmetics, in a mouth wash and to combat head lice. Isopropyl Myristate has been declared “not dangerous” according to GHS yet we suggest you wear gloves when using it as constant direct application to the skin can cause irritation. (5)
Isopropyl Myristate dissolves Pros-Aide and makes it less sticky which means that after some soaking in, the Pros-Aide leftovers can be rubbed off. Make sure to wash Isopropyl Myristate off before storing the beard/wig. We suggest a mild shampoo for that.
Where to get Pros-Aide
Here are our affiliate links for “Pros-Aide”, “more Pros-Aide” and “a literal f-ton of Pros-Aide” – in case you want to use it for PAX-Paint or want to glue someone to a wall or something (hey, we don’t judge!). We also added stuff you can use to remove Pros-Aide as well as the rubbing alcohol you can clean your skin with to apply any skin adhesive).
In Germany (EU)
15 ml Pros-Aide (DE)
50 ml Pros-Aide (DE)
100 ml Pros-Aide (DE)
Pros-Aide Cream Adhesive 1/2 oz. (DE)
500 ml Isopropyl Myristate (DE) (for removing Pros-Aide)
500 ml Isopropylalkohol 70% (DE) (for cleaning your skin prior to applying any skin adhesive)
In the United States
1 oz. Pros-Aide (US)
2 oz. Pros-Aide (US)
16 oz. Pros-Aide (US)
Pros-Aide Cream Adhesive 6 Oz. (US)
Pros-Aide Remover Spray (US)
4 oz. Isopropyl Myristate(for removing Pros-Aide)
Isoprophyl Alcohol, 70% (US) (for cleaning your skin prior to applying any skin adhesive)
Alternative #2 Wig Tape
You just wanted to do a quick make-up and wigtest but ugh it’s a lacefront and just thinking about what could happen if you got sticky, smelly spirit gum into this beauty could make you cry. You don’t need it to hold all day, you really just want to try it out! And you need it to look brand new for the con.
And that is exactly the kind of situation where you can use wig-tape.
What we like to call wig tape is a double-sided transparent adhesive tape fabricated specifically to hold wigs in place. It comes as stripes in various shapes or even as tape on a roll. It is made for people who wear their wig, toupet or tape extensions in everyday life and not just for one day but often for multiple days in a row. Therefore wig tape can be very sticky and the bond it creates can be very strong, plus there is few regard for your real hair which might stick to the tape (ouch) and you will have to cut the stripes in shape a little if you want to avoid getting a receding hairline when taking off your lacefront wig. Furthermore this tape was not designed for ill-fitting wigs (and not every lace-front wig will fit you perfectly).
Our experience with wig tape
In our experience, wig tape mostly didn’t pass the “convention test”. Since we don’t apply the wig directly to our bald head, there was always hair in the way, even if you gave your best to comb all those baby hairs around your hairline out of the way and cut those stripes in half. Due to this, the wig tape can not do its job and it will easily come off during the day. Which is sad because apart from that it is such a clean and skin-friendly solution!
What we like about wig tape
Wig tape is the cleanest solution for glueing down lacefront wigs and facial hair (I do not think it is suited for prosthetics). It leaves no residue, it’s fast to apply and fast to get rid off. It doesn’t smell, it is easy to apply and it does not irritate your skin beyond the process of pulling it off.
What we dislike about wig tape
Unless you are bald or have a wig with a very long lace, the tape will get stuck in baby hairs and easily come off. Also in that case those baby hairs will become colleteral damage when you take off the tape too fast. Most tapes we tried were visible behind the lace because their surface is somewhat shiny. However, wig tape surely is amazing for one thing…
What we use wig tape for
Wig tape is absolutely fantastic if you want to cut/style or test a wig or beard! You dont have to worry about cleaning up whatever you glued down and you have it off of your face in no time. We always keep some stripes around so we can stick that beard on before cutting it. Like this, you already have your facial hair in the perfect shape for the convention without paying for it in spirit gum stains.
How wig tape is applied
- Clean skin with rubbing alcohol (if you want the tape to stay for a longer time)
- Cut wig tape into desired shape
- Cut round corners! Like that, there’s no edge where it can start to peel.
- Peel off the white side of the tape, stick to your skin
- Peel off the colored side of the tape, stick wig/beard to it
Where to get wig-tape
These are the Affiliate links featuring the brand of wig-tape we like to use.
Germany (and EU)
In the United States
Alternative #3 Mastix Extra
After we have talked skin-friendly alternatives to spirit gum, let’s talk skin-unfriendly ones. Yes, there is something worse than spirit gum and that is Mastix Extra. “Why-“, you might ask, “- do you want to introduce us to this fiend who will only worsen my suffering?” and we can only say “Because this stuff sticks soooo good”.
What is Mastix Extra?
Mastix extra is spirit gum’s big brother. No actually it’s its mother. The mother of all spirit gums. Mastix Extra was made to stick anything to your skin no matter what. It’s not water-soluable. You can sweat like a hooker in church and mastix extra will just laugh it off. It is not flexible. Everything stays in place. If you glue on a moustache with Mastix Extra, this stuff will surely see to you not having a single reason to smile that day. Quite literally.
What we like about Mastix Extra
It’s just so good at its job. And therefore your safest option if you want to keep that wig/beard on.
What we dislike about Mastix Extra
Everything else. It smells, it makes your eyes water, it irritates your skin and taking off a lace-front wig you glued down with it feels like someone is scalping you.
What we use Mastix Extra for
As much as we dislike it, Mastix Extra is the best option for keeping a heavy lace-front wig in place. Especially on very hot convention days where you sweat a lot (maybe because you plan on hitting the stage for a contest). Fake beards will also cling to your face as if your life was depending on it. If we have to go a whole day without the possibility to fix our make-up/wig, we tend to use Mastix Extra, even if we regret it later on.
How Mastix Extra is applied
- Wipe your skin with rubbing alcohol (Isopropyl Alcohol)
- Take a small amount of Mastix Extra onto a cotton swab and apply a thin layer of it onto your skin
- Wait till it starts to get tacky
- Put cotton (like from a cotton ball) onto it and wait till it sticks
- Pull off the larger bits of cotton so there’s just some fuzz left
- Put a thin layer of Mastix Extra on top of that fuzz and another thin layer of Mastix Extra onto the lace/prosthetic you wish to apply
- Wait till the adhesive gets tacky
- Apply it to your skin
How to get rid of it
As we said – Mastix Extra takes its job very seriously. Therefore it sure isn’t a walk in the park to get whatever you glued down back off. If you want to do it the careful way, you need a brush with firm bristles. Put it into the Mastix Extra Remover and then carefully slip it under whatever you applied with that ghoulish glue. Theory is that the solvent will slowly and carefully solve the bond between your skin and the thing you applied. In practice, I have never been patient enough to go through with it and just tore the whole thing off. Not like a band-aid but veeery carefully. Bit by painful bit. You can’t imagine the relief of finally not having that stuff stick to your face anymore… but wait! There is still those bits and pieces on your face that could very well stay there through multiple showers. To get rid of those in the most skin-friendly way, I recommend you use Almond oil and water.
For getting those sticky Mastix leftovers out of your wig/beard, you will still need the Mastix Extra remover.
Where to get Mastix Extra
In the United States
Believe it or not, we did not find Mastix Extra in the US. Only regular Spirit Gum. We wonder whether it is just too dangerous to be allowed there, just like our fine Kinder Eggs.
There are some alternatives to spirit gum – and out of them we listed our three favourites. From this list alone you can see that there is no thing like “the perfect skin adhesive”. It’s more about finding the most fitting skin adhesive for the job at hand. I hope this post is helpful in making the decision easier for you and that it will help you in overcoming those spirit gum blues.
What do you use to glue things to your face? Is there an alternative we forgot about?
Write us what you think in the comments below <3