According to an international skin tear prevention survey, only 10% of healthcare professionals reported that their facility encouraged cautious use of tape or dressings to prevent damage.
While scholars debate the exact frequency of skin tears in medical care, there have been many documented instances in which skin tears originated from the removal of medical or surgical tapes from infant or elderly patients in hospitals.
Sourcing the right adhesive to avoid patient harm is a step Strouse prioritizes when planning stick-to-skin applications. Having manufactured products for both infants and the elderly, we know how to choose materials that will mitigate the risk of tearing while serving their purpose.
To help you understand how to choose suitable medical tape, we will discuss the different types and provide specific examples of effective adhesives for sensitive skin.
What Makes an Adhesive Tape Suitable for Sensitive Skin?
The strength of adhesive tape ranges from the soft clinginess of sticky notes to the harsh pull of waxing tape on a hairy leg to structural adhesives that can hold up windows. Choosing adhesive tape for medical purposes requires maintaining a delicate balance between skin adhesion and removal.
Skin adherence relies on a couple of critical factors:
- The adhesive tape can cling to the skin despite typical body movements
- Removal of the adhesive does not cause harm to the skin
Attaching medical monitoring devices and other heavy applications require stronger adhesives to form adequate bonds between the device and the patient’s skin. Yet, using powerful tapes could risk damage like tearing depending on the patient’s age and condition.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT INFANT AND ELDERLY SKIN?
Infant skin is 20-30% thinner than that of adults, with smaller cells that have poor moisture retention and a higher turnover rate. Meanwhile, elderly skin cells struggle to replicate, creating a thinning effect that causes the dermis to lose volume.
Both infant and elderly skin has fewer elastic fibers than adults and is more susceptible to dehydration, causing a reduced resiliency that makes the epidermis more vulnerable to mechanical damage such as tearing. Elderly patients might also have co-morbidities or other conditions, such as diabetes or long term use of corticosteroids, weakening blood vessels and making the skin more fragile.
In addition, infants and elderly patients tend to exhibit a lower level of mobility, meaning the increased durability of a stronger skin adhesive could be inapplicable once you consider the increased risk of skin damage.
Using specialized adhesives for infant and elderly care protects vulnerable patients' delicate skin and long term health. Reviewing the different types of skin adhesives will help you understand why certain medical tapes are more effective for these patients.
SILICONE TAPE VS. ACRYLIC TAPE
Many skin adhesive tapes use silicone or acrylic adhesive. Yet, most acrylic tapes aren’t suitable for sensitive skin.
Acrylic tapes often function in higher-strength stick-to-skin applications like applying medical devices or fixing heavy wound dressings. Because acrylic tapes cling harder to the skin to support more weight, there’s an increased likelihood of tearing upon removal.
Because of their strength, using acrylic tapes could place infant or elderly patients at risk of injury. Even specialized “low-trauma” acrylic tapes suffer drawbacks such as adhesive-cohesive strength, which leaves adhesive residue behind.
Silicone tapes have a lower adhesive strength to fasten devices, sensors, or multi-layered dressings securely, with a reduced chance of skin damage.
Pressure sensitive silicone adhesives are repositionable, which is desirable for many medical applications. Soft silicone gel has a notably lower peel adhesion than rubber or acrylic material, making it ideal for gentle applications and removals like those involving infants and the elderly.
Silicone gel adhesives are one of the stick-to-skin tapes we’ll discuss, but as you’ll see, there are more than just acrylic or silicone types of medical adhesive.
Which Medical Tape is Best for Sensitive Skin?
Choosing a skin adhesive medical tape depends entirely on the intended application. The following list of medical tapes will demonstrate multiple sensitive skin-friendly adhesives, both silicone gel and other recommendations.
1. 3M SILICONE ADHESIVE TAPES
These silicone tapes are repositionable and use gentle skin adhesion that minimizes skin and hair trauma during removal.
Here are a few of the silicone adhesive tapes offered:
- 3M 2476P: Spunlace Polyester Silicone Adhesive Tape
- 3M 2480: Single-Coated Medical Nonwoven Tape (Hi-Tack Silicone)
- 3M 2484: Single-Coated Medical Film Tape (Hi-Tack Silicone)
Silicone adhesive tapes come with multiple adhesion levels depending on skin sensitivity and the required amount for each application.
3M’s tape is built with a strong adhesive-backing bond to minimize residue on the skin, and their Hi-Tack adhesives have up to 7 days of wear time on the skin, depending on the tape construction.
2. AXELGAARD HYDROGEL ADHESIVES
Hydrogel adhesives are formulated to conform to the skin with their soft, unique structure that can maintain skin moisture.
Common uses for hydrogel include medical tapes and adhesives in hospitals, wound care pads with healing and antimicrobial properties, and sensing gel for wireless health monitoring.
These are examples of Axelgaard hydrogels:
- AG535 Dermal Fastener Hydrogel
- AG625 Sensing Hydrogel (for monitoring)
- AG2550 Multi-use, Hi-Tack Hydrogel
The hydrogel you select depends on thickness, adhesion level, and general properties from application to application.
3. AMPARO MEDICAL HYDROCOLLOID ADHESIVES
Hydrocolloid adhesives are absorbent and conformable materials built to avoid skin irritation and trauma upon removal.
Whether it’s burn therapy, blister treatment, or pressure ulcers, choosing a hydrocolloid can be highly dependent on the situation and the length of wear.
Like hydrogels, any selection of hydrocolloids will rely upon careful consideration involving thickness, adhesion level, construction, and general properties that depend on each application.
Amparo medical hydrocolloids can be worn for up to 2 weeks as an occlusive barrier that absorbs oils, puss, and other exudates while facilitating autolytic debridement.
How Can I Choose a Medical Tape for Sensitive Skin?
When selecting medical tape for sensitive skin, you’ll want to review its intended application.
The intended application refers to your tape’s function: is it meant to hold bandages, or will it fulfill another purpose, like fixing heavy tubes to the skin? Will medical practitioners be using it to attach dry components like gauze? Are they applying hydrogel to reduce the risk of the patient’s skin drying out?
Another priority is the patients for whom the tape is intended. Different factors can affect skin conditions, so consider a variety of materials based on age demographics and the prevalence of co-morbidities.
As long as you’re conscientious about the purpose of your application, you should be able to reduce the risk of skin tears based on the material.
Suppose you’re still searching for the right material. There are plenty of other stick-to-skin recommendations to consider, or you can see how flexible material converters facilitate the selection and production of wound dressing adhesives.