Hairy Situation: Using Crepe Wool to Create Realistic Beards and More

  • August 21, 2013
  • Jenna Maxwell

Applying Crepe WoolWhen it comes to creating realistic costume characters for Halloween or any other dress up event, sometimes you just gotta have facial hair.  Can you imagine Jack Sparrow, The Wolverine, King Leonidas, Gandalf or even Santa Claus without their signature beards? (Neither can we.)  When it’s not possible or even practical to grow your own facial hair, there are some pretty nifty solutions out there that will quickly get your 5 o’clock shadow all the way to midnight, and in a hurry.  Using crepe wool to create realistic looking beards, mustaches and sideburns is a groovy alternative that isn’t nearly as difficult as it looks. Mastering the technique of applying crepe wool to create different facial hair styles will ultimately give you a much more realistic look that finishes off your costume look to perfection.

Crepe Wool:  Crepe wool generally comes in long braids of hair-like fibers. Crepe wool comes in a wide range of colors so you can get the perfect shade for your character, or even blend a couple of different colors together for a more realistic, natural hair-like appearance. 

Applying Crepe Wool:  Before you can apply crepe wool to the face, you must cut off a piece of the braid and unravel it.  A small piece of twine is mixed in with the fibers; this should be discarded when you begin to pull apart the braid.  Using a pair of scissors cut off the appropriate length of crepe wool and fluff it apart, unraveling the fibers and pulling apart the braid.  Curly crepe wool can be ironed with a steam iron for a straighter look, or it can be used in its natural wavy state for a frizzier appearance. 

Crepe wool is adhered to the face using spirit gum.  To avoid irritation, do not apply spirit gum to freshly shaven skin!  Using a small brush apply spirit gum to the area where you will begin to apply the crepe wool.  Tapping on the spirit gum with your finger after it begins to dry will make it tacky and ready for the crepe wool to be applied. Always start underneath the jaw line and build up from there, as if you are shingling a roof.  Your crepe wool segments should be quite thin and only about 1 ½” wide.  If little pieces to not stick when pressed into the spirit gum you can pull them off.  Continue to apply layers of the crepe wool onto sticky spirit gum as you build up your beard, sideburns, or mustache.  Add more spirit gum in the tight spots as necessary.

Crepe Wool Application Tips Straight From the Pros:

  • For the most realistic, natural looking result, use a slightly darker shade underneath a lighter shade, which you can use to blend in on the top/final layer.  This will give the look of natural highlights or you can also add grey/white hair for a salt and pepper effect.
  • Always apply crepe wool in small, layered segments. Never apply a giant wad of hair all at once. 
  • Cut your crepe wool pieces much longer than you want your end result to be.  Trimming your beard to the appropriate and desired length is the final application step and you want to always make sure your beard is long enough.
  • Trimming of your beard should be done with very sharp scissors while using extreme caution, particularly if your beard is to be cropped very close to the skin.  If you have created a mustache, use very small scissors to carefully trim it.  Point the scissor blades upward while trimming for the most natural effect.
  • Spirit gum remover should be used to remove the beard.  Soaking the spirit gum with the remover will dissolve it, at which point the beard and spirit gum can be gently wiped away.  Once the beard is removed, wash the face with a gentle soap and water to remove any remaining residue.

Need more help or ideas for crepe wool application?  Check out our collection of How-To Videos where we feature several costume looks that use crepe wool facial hair application techniques.