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Wound Dressings
Scott ChambersMay 14, 20248 min read

Overview of Different Wound Dressings

The injury healing process can be long and painful whether wounds are open or closed, shallow or deep. 

Wound types vary widely depending on location and injury. There isn’t one specific treatment for a wound, and the care method varies greatly depending on its depth and placement.

Many types of adhesive wound dressings help heal burns, chronic ulcers, pressure sores, and leg ulcers, so choosing a bandage isn’t simple. This wound dressing guide will demonstrate the differences between wound dressings so you know your options.

What is a Wound Dressing?

A wound dressing is a type of bandage that covers a wound by sticking to the surrounding skin using wound dressing tape or glue. 

Wound dressings can be gel (hydrogel), foam, gauze, bandage, or any other type of patch. They help prevent infection, encourage healing, and reduce pain


Different wound dressing types are helpful for different kinds of wounds

Most wound dressings are made of compounds like polymers, elastomers, and natural products, but alternative dressings include wet-to-dry bandages, alginates, hydrogels, and film dressings. These dressings are often used post-surgery or to treat severe injuries like burns. 

Using a Wound Dressing Selection Chart

wound dressing

There are many different options in the market today, which is why the wound dressing selection chart determines which is best.

In this section, you’ll compare the wound dressings featured in the wound dressing selection guide and how they can help heal certain injury types.


Gauze is often used between burn layers as short-term fixes by ambulance medics on the field. 

As a material, gauze can attach to other wounds for support and fill wound cavities. It can also sit on lacerations to prevent disease or itching. However, wearing gauze bandages long-term isn’t recommended because they don’t form a tight seal.   


  • Easy to find
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Absorb wound exudate

Gauze can be cut down to size, and despite being one-use, they’re still an excellent alternative to hypoallergenic plasters that can cause skin sensitivity. 


  • Lack of skin adhesion (they fall off)
  • Potential skin irritation

Gauze doesn’t stick to the skin or adhere well to wounds. As a result, they cannot hold fluids or bacteria in the damage and can also fall off at any time.


Hydrocolloid bandages are transparent, sticky bandages placed over wounds with a layered effect. 

Hydrocolloid bandages absorb fluid matter while maintaining moisture levels when applied to wounds. This lets tissue below the surface heal quicker by reducing redness and inflammation. 

Hydrocolloid dressings, made of gelatinous material, are very useful in helping all kinds of wounds heal. When applied on top of other dressings, they form a seal to protect the injury from external factors. 


  • Create a moist environment for wound healing
  • Protect from external factors

Hydrocolloid bandages prevent fluids from leaking and draw them out of the wound area. This process reduces pain, minimizes swelling, and encourages healing without interference.


  • Don’t absorb blood 
  • Challenging to fix in place. 

Hydrocolloid bandages aren’t helpful for deep or infected wounds because they don’t absorb blood or bacterial infection. They are also challenging to keep in place and can come loose.


Gel bandages are transparent wound dressings made from wax, air bubbles, or hydrogels. 

Once they come into contact with bare skin, these materials form a gel-like substance. Gel bandages have a high water content and improve blood flow to the deepest layers of the skin. 

Medics most often use hydrogel bandages in organ transplants and skin grafts. Hydrogel burn bandages are also common, acting as a dressing that seals shut wounds without causing pain or discomfort.


  • Reduce skin irritation 
  • Provide a cooling sensation for burns or tender skin

Gel bandages cover wounds without discomfort. They can also withstand frequent changes without losing effectiveness or irritating sensitive skin. They also seal over wounds to slow the bleeding and prevent infection from getting into deep tissues.


  • Can be difficult to apply 

Hydrogel wound dressings use thick, one-use, and unsterilized bandages. Because their thickness can be uncomfortable for the patient, they require a conscientious application.


Moisture-retentive bandages are transparent dressings made from materials like cotton wool. 

They are well-known for their ability to absorb blood and exudate (drainage) from wounds and slow the rate at which wounds discharge fluid. The absorption promotes new living tissue growth and reduces the risk of infection.


  • Absorb drainage 
  • Reduce the risk of infection and pain

Moisture-retentive bandages absorb drainage, preventing deeper infection and reducing pain via the protective layer over the healing wound.


  • May not adhere (which can cause irritation)
  • Prevent wound from breathing

It’s common for moisture-retentive bandages to fall off, causing the patient both external and internal discomfort. They also prevent wounds from breathing when the injury needs to cleanse itself of bacteria or fluid.


Oxygen-absorbing bandages use materials like blue cellulose to manage the amount of oxygen a wound absorbs. 

Typically, oxygen-absorbing applications treat injuries that have ALREADY developed necrotic tissue to prevent bacteria from spreading into deeper layers of tissue.

Oxygen-absorbing bandages increase oxygen levels in a wound, which promotes faster growth and regeneration of cells in the area. They also help seal the wound shut, trapping bacteria out of deeper tissue layers.


  • Prevent bacteria from spreading
  • Promote cell growth and regeneration 

These dressings (including hydrocolloids) all encourage healthy cell growth and regeneration


  • Cannot remove wound fluids

Oxygen-absorbing bandages cannot remove liquid from wounds. They can be harmful if applied with several exudates and unsuitable for deep or infected wounds.


Sterile gauze bandages are made of cotton or synthetic material like rayon. They are the most popular type of application in hospital settings. When faster healing is needed, sterile gauze bandages hold wounds together.

Sterile gauze bandages come in various shapes and sizes, making them very easy to apply over complex wounds or smaller areas. When die cut, they can fit the required shape for application over common complex injuries.


  • Good adhesion and application
  • Breathable 

Sterile gauze bandages allow wounds to breathe, so oxygen can still reach the damaged spot even when it’s covered up. 


  • Doesn’t absorb blood or fluids
  • Doesn’t create a strong seal

Sterile gauze bandages are ineffective at controlling bleeding or infection because they do not absorb blood or fluids well and don’t create a strong seal over wounds. They might even come loose while healing and need to be reapplied.


Transparent film dressing tape, or transparent film bandages, are made from PVC materials. 

This type of bandage sits over a wound to seal it shut without causing much discomfort. The tight seal allows the natural healing process to occur underneath the dressing.

Transparent film bandages come with internal adhesive tapes for more straightforward application. The inner adhesive tapes make them great for injuries on larger body sections.


  • Facilitates rapid healing
  • Easy to apply
  • Inexpensive 

Transparent film bandages are more cost-effective, allowing wounds to breathe and heal rapidly.


  • Don’t absorb fluids

Transparent film bandages do not absorb blood or exudate well. Thus, if used on deep or infected wounds, healing may take longer, or infection may spread. 


Tissue adhesive bandages are transparent and made from cyanoacrylate materials. These materials form chemical bonds with the tissues they encounter. 

Tissue adhesive bandages seal up minor cuts, allowing the skin to heal faster by preventing infection from entering the wound. 

They can bond skin together almost immediately and are used to treat patients with minor injuries in the emergency room.


  • Bond together skin quickly
  • Prevent infection

Tissue adhesive bandages enable a tight seal, significantly reduce pain levels, and promote faster new tissue growth in cut-open areas.


  • Can form blisters 

Tissue adhesive bandages don’t allow wounds to heal naturally because they don’t create an environment for natural healing. Also, they form blisters when applied over a wound. These blisters come loose with ease, so the dressing needs regular application.


Wound dressing foam is a safe alternative to gauze. It is easy to use, has excellent sealing properties, and adheres well to the surrounding skin. 

It’s also most useful during the INITIAL wound healing phases.

Wound dressing foam promotes granulation (new tissue/blood vessels) and the wound bed’s re-epithelialization (new skin). The foam can then be removed painlessly by applying gentle pressure to the skin.


  • Promotes faster healing of the wound bed
  • Faster natural healing in soft tissue wounds
  • Cuts blood loss from the tissue edges

The foam helps stem bacterial growth in the damaged area and covers the edge of the injury, reducing the chance of inflammation and infection, and the consistency seeps well into the complex shapes of each laceration, reducing both the growth of bacteria and the chances of biofilm forming.


  • Poor adhesion

Wound dressing foam does not adhere well to dry wound surfaces. It also contains latex, which could trigger an allergic reaction.

Wound Dressings

Dressing wounds is a process that may seem intimidating at first. Still, it can become a comfortable and straightforward process with enough practice.

There are countless brands, styles, and shapes of bandages on the market today, making it hard to determine what’s best for different patients.

If you’re developing a custom wound dressing for specific cases, adhesive tape converters can help you bring your product from the initial idea to the production process. 

Producing a custom product in a clean environment can be challenging. Consider scheduling a project consultation to discuss your goals, design, and quality needs. 



Originally published: October 21, 2022


Scott Chambers

As the VP of Sales and Marketing for Strouse, Scott oversees Strouse's Go-To-Market Strategy. Scott has a BS in Business Management from Coastal Carolina, a JD from the University of Baltimore School of Law, and an MBA from Indiana University.