Suppose you had gotten surgery, but just as you left the hospital, you walked straight into a monsoon.
While there might be more pressing matters, you’d still register the fear of, “Oh no! My bandages are soaked through.”
Waterproof skin tapes fix wound dressings and medical devices to the skin while rejecting debris and fluids. Additionally, these tapes can be die cut for athletic or cosmetic purposes.
From medical technology to eyeliner stencils, Strouse has used waterproof skin adhesives to build products intended for everyday usage. It can be challenging to know what you’re looking for when you’re starting out, so we’ve listed our top recommendations to give you an idea of factors to look at when it comes to waterproof skin tape.
First, we’ll go over the waterproof skin tapes we often recommend for our clients’ projects, so you have examples. Then, we’ll talk about the types of waterproof skin tapes so you’ll be better prepared to pair a material with your design.
What are the Best Waterproof Skin Tapes?
The best waterproof skin tapes are generally breathable AND flexible, making them comfortable for the user while delivering a secure performance.
Given our experience with converting waterproof skin tapes, we’ve chosen these eight adhesives, in no particular order, as the most effective options. These tapes come from different suppliers with varying adhesive types, strengths, and thicknesses for a wide range of choices.
After comparing these adhesives, you’ll have examples of materials you could use and understand the different factors to consider when using waterproof tape for a product.
As silicone adhesives, these skin tapes will tend towards more gentle wear and easier removal. However, they’re high-conformability, which means they can stick to more challenging or movement-prone body parts like elbows or knees.
- 3M 2484
- 3M 2475P
- Avery MED 5503SI
These two tapes are high-conformability, TPE backing with a gentle medical silicone adhesive.
Acrylic adhesives are stronger, which can be helpful for long-term applications or adhering heavier components and devices to the skin.
- 3M 9834
- 3M 9836
- Avery MED 5020
- MacTac TM5110NG
These four tapes are high-conformability, polyurethane backing with a medical acrylic adhesive.
Many applications benefit from the strength of acrylic adhesive, yet only require medium-conformability to match the area of the application. If it’s not located on a joint, it’s possible these waterproof tapes could be your ideal choice.
- 3M 1521
- MacTac TM7100
- Avery MD 5051
- Berry Polyken 2203R
These four tapes are medium-conformability, polyethylene backing with medical acrylic adhesive.
Types of Waterproof Skin Tapes
You might notice a running similarity between these tapes, but we aren’t trying to pull the rug out from underneath you: we genuinely believe these are the best waterproof tapes. However, many of the tapes are polyurethane, which may or may not suit your needs.
Here’s a brief overview of the different types to prepare you for the selection process.
POLYURETHANE FILM TAPE
Polyurethane films, known as PU films, are designed for breathability despite their liquid barrier, making them the ideal choice for many waterproof stick-to-skin applications.
In adhesive applications, the breathability of an adhesive is measured by MVTR (moisture vapor transmission rate), a measurement of how many grams per square meter of water vapor pass through the barrier of a given area daily.
For instance, you might have heard the phrase “letting a wound breathe.” Wrapping a wound too tight can result in infections, whereas a high MVTR helps prevent the buildup of sweat/exudate.
The downside? Polyurethane tapes can, unfortunately, be challenging for converters to process. That’s why another material might better suit your design and application.
Foam tape, especially polyethylene foam, is relatively popular for waterproof skin tape.
For a material to adhere to the skin, it must be high in flexibility. Foam is highly conformable, making it an excellent choice for certain products. However, it’s worth noting that foam lacks breathability.
Without breathability, injuries macerate over time, becoming soft, moist, and prone to bacterial infections. Whether you choose foam will depend on your product’s use and application.
Hydrocolloids are a unique material used for purposes other than skin attachment.
The primary purpose of a hydrocolloid adhesive is to keep the skin slightly moist to promote healing without scarring. Manufacturers typically build hydrocolloids with a polyurethane backing, which gives them waterproofing. However, since their primary purpose isn’t fixing objects together, not all hydrocolloids have adhesive coatings.
While hydrocolloids can function as waterproof barriers on the skin, they are meant for highly specific applications.
ADDITIONAL FILM-BACKED TAPES
Polyurethane isn’t the only film-backed tape that can succeed in waterproofing. Many film-backed tapes can successfully waterproof even when attached to the skin, including polyethylene (PE), ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), and polyester (PET).
At this point, you’re probably wondering, why single out polyurethane?
Unlike polyurethane, these additional film-backed tapes are traditionally less breathable or conformable. Depending on where you use them, this can lead to a slightly more uncomfortable or risky application.
How Do I Know Which Waterproof Tape for Skin to Use?
You’re staring down the list of recommendations in front of you like a detective at a crime scene: Where do I begin?
There isn’t one factor to go off of when choosing a waterproof skin tape. Instead, the choice relies on a combination of preferred traits based on your application.
When it comes down to it, the best way to choose a waterproof tape for skin is by evaluating the purpose of your product, then seeking out the advice of a manufacturer.
Your instinct might be choosing a material based solely on what benefits product use, but functionality is only half of the battle. Although it’s impressive to build a functional prototype, in order to create a successful product, your chosen material should be adaptable to large-scale production.
However, this isn’t to say you should disregard the usage altogether. Suppose you’re looking to use tape in a hospital setting. In that case, you will want to select a material that can undergo the proper sterilization and a manufacturer with the capability to ensure a clean environment for the sake of your part.
To avoid making a risky purchase, consider your product usage and discuss your manufacturer’s capabilities before ordering adhesive material. If you think any of these products will work for your application, feel free to request a sample: