The Ultimate Guide to Skin Glue

By Ilea Wakelin

What kind of skin glue to use for sticking gems and bling to your models skin for face painting is a bit of a sticky topic. Many people swear by many different brands, and there are way too many brands out there to go over each one in detail, so for this article I will ‘stick’ to different types of glues, and some of the more well known ones and brands I have personally used. It should also be noted that you should only use a glue which is rated for cosmetic use whenever applying something to the skin

Medical Dermal Adhesive:

dermabond_advanced_959x654Most often called ‘Liquid Bandaid’, this term can refer to several different brands of this type of glue such as  derma+flex, Dermabond, GluStitch, HistoAcryl, Indermil, and LiquiBan. While they all differ in varying degrees, such as strength, dry time, and water resistance, they were all made with the same purpose in mind which is to be an alternative to stitches or bandages for open wounds. What could be more safe then that right? Well…. lets get into some detail. Some brands will slowly dissolve on the wound over time, while others have to be removed, and depending on the brand removing them can be a bit tricky. What’s more is they can actually be pretty expensive if you want to get a good one.  If you do decide to go this route, just be sure to test the brand out on how easy it is to remove with soap and water, and maybe olive oil. You want to aim for something that is strong enough to stay on the skin, but still easy enough to come off at bed time.

Eyelash Glue:

Image: Pamela Bernier

There are again MANY different brands out there too chose from depending on where you live and what you have access to, but they all come down to two different types. Latex and non-latex based. I will talk about two that I personally have used

Duo: This is a latex based glue that you can get and almost any beauty counter. It’s one of the more popular ones used with makeup artists (that I’ve seen) and it works like magic for applying false lashes. But for all intents and purposes… it’s basically just liquid latex. While it is skin safe you have to remember that about 8% of the population has a latex allergy. So chances are 8 out of every 100 people you use this on will have a reaction; and we are talking an itchy red spot at best, and full on anaphylactic shock at worst.  In the MU industry we have to ask the talent if they have a latex allergy before using any product with latex in it on them. When it comes to children, they more then likely wouldn’t know, and some times their parents wouldn’t even know if it’s not properly diagnosed. Given the risks I would recommend not using this product in your face painting kit. For fake eyelashes, this stuff can’t be beat, but I do keep alternative latex free eyelash glue in my makeup kit for models with allergies.
Note* – Due does now have a latex free option that comes in a green package, but finding it in a store is kind of like spotting the ‘Hawaii’ licence plate for the licence plate game.
Quo: This is one of the only latex free eyelash glues that I know of. Sure there are a few more, but I would have to pay double and special order them. This one I can pick up at Shoppers Drugmart (Canadian Stores eh?) This glue is great! Holds firm but comes off with soap and water. It’s downside? It SUCKS for fake lashes lol. This stuff is stringy as a 3 cheese pizza, so for lashes it’s really hard to work with. But putting on the back of gems for face painting works great, just keep the tip down so you don’t get glue strings.
*** This is the glue I use in my Face Painting kit ***

If eyelash glue is the way you want to go, then always check the label and opt for one that is latex and formaldehyde free.

Spirit Gum:

spirit gumI remember back in the day when this stuff was actually not that easy to find. Now it’s everywhere, and every Halloween you see it with the FX makeup stuff for elf ears, witch nose’s and other small prosthetic appliances.  Spirit gum is a medium weight skin adhesive that is designed to be flexible as it’s being worn. For this reason it’s most often used with crepe hair laying for fake beards hairlines, or other hairy situations. It’s also pretty good for rubber latex appliances like those Halloween elf ears.
Here’s the fun thing about spirit gum though – it also comes with it’s own remover – for a reason. This stuff is seriously sticky, and getting it off is no picnic. Even with the proper remover it’s a chore, and I always end up picking bits of it off my ears or face for a few days after. Me and my partner have also tried removing it with other things like olive oil, Bond Off, Super Solve, 99% iso and more, but nothing worked as well as that magical remover that came with the bottle.  If you are using this on a client, it’s unlikely they will have the remover at home, and while olive oil can help a little, it’s really no substitute for the brand remover.
P.S. Ben Nye Spirit Gum sucks – just sayin’.



pros-aideFor anyone who is thinking of using Pros-Aide for their gem adhesive please be aware that there are TWO main versions of it.
Pros-aide 1 (the Original)
Pros-aide 2 (the Sequel)
Pros-aide 2: Most of the time this version of the product is what is used for glitter tattoo glue. While not completely removable with soap and water, it can be removed by adding some coconut or olive oil, or even rubbing alcohol. Just make sure the client knows this and has those products before you get all glue happy.
Pros-aide 1: The difference is that the original is WAY more heavy duty then the sequel. So much so you actually need a pretty decent solvent to remove it properly like Super-solv, or Bond Off, and then you have to also remove the solvent from your skin. 
This is a medical adhesive that is meant to stay in place no mater what. It’s water resistant, flexible, durable, and super skin safe. What this is mainly used for is to keep tubes in place when the patient has a ‘stoma’ of some kind (only google that if you want to be grossed out).
So, will this hold your gems in place? You betcha! Is is easy to get off?
Short answer is no…. not it’s not. You NEED a solvent to remove it, olive oil and 99% iso might help break it down a bit, but will not fully remove it. Further more this isn’t just about removing a dirty sticky spot on the forehead, if any appliance using this is not removed correctly it can actually take the first few layers of skin with it. Having had this stuff all over my face before, and having to sit through the hour long removal process, I can tell you it’s not fun and you need to take your time.

***Random Makeup Artist Story: A friend of mine in the industry once told me that on the set of Legend, the actor Tim Curry did NOT want to sit through another hour or two of makeup to get his foam latex mask removed after a long frustrating day on set. So he ripped it off in a fit of frustration. It’s ok, they aren’t really reusable, but what’s not ok is what it did to his skin! Doing this removed the top layer of skin from his face, and the next day his face was red and raw. Makeup then had to be extra careful not to damage his skin further when they had to reapply the makeup…. also makeup department got some heat for Tims freak out because they should have told him what would happen if it wasn’t removed properly. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s pretty funny, and OMG the glitter everywhere! ***
Image: Legend
Image: Legend
So picture putting a gem on a kid and what happens when it comes time to remove it for bedtime? Does the parent know that they have to soak the area in a remover prior to removal? Probably not. The average person is going to just try and force it off, and that is not good at all. The face is pretty sensitive, and the skin there is pretty delicate, so it needs to be handled with care.

Unless you are planning to remove the product yourself AND are formally trained in it’s removal I do not recommend using this on the general public. The sticky spot can stay for over week and be near impossible to remove without the right stuff to take it off. The general public is unlikely to have such specialized products. Stick to what can be easily removed.Personally I stick to only using things that can be removed with soap and water for my face painting gigs, because it’s something i know everyone will have. I like to keep it simple.Thanks for reading!

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