Hydrocolloids: A Primer

If you’ve ever seen a medical professional regarding a stubborn wound, you’ve probably heard the phrase “moist wound environment.” That’s because a moist, insulated wound will usually heal much faster than one exposed to the open air. In fact, studies have shown that covered wounds are likely to heal 3-5 times more quickly than those allowed to dry out. That’s because isolating the area eliminates the need for the body to create a natural scab, allowing it to concentrate more energy toward healing.

Hydrocolloid dressings are a great solution for patients hoping to provide this ideal healing environment. They provide sealed, water-and-bacteria-proof coverage and use natural enzymes in the body to hydrate the wound bed.

Over the past several decades, Hydrocolloids have become one of the most common dressings used in advanced wound care. They’re available in several different styles, but here we’ll be discussing the thin strips produced by most major medical manufacturers. These little guys are so versatile, convenient and affordable that they’ve become a favorite among patients and medical professionals all over the world.

I can hear you wondering now: “What are these magical Band-Aids? How are they used? Where can I find them??” Read on and learn…


Common hydrocolloid dressings are not really like Band-Aids at all, although they may look that way. Typically, they are thin, opaque sheets made from silicone or polyurethane. They come in several shapes and sizes. Colors vary, but usually they are a neutral beige. One side of the sheet is coated with an adhesive compound made from gelatin or other gel-forming agents.


As mentioned above, these dressings provide a moist, controlled environment for a wound bed to heal. They are waterproof and form a solid barrier against infection, which allows for regular bathing and renders daily cleaning of the wound bed unnecessary. Hydrocolloids are not, however, particularly absorbent. As such, they’re generally appropriate for non-infected, medium-thickness wounds with little to no drainage. This can mean minor cuts and contusions, mild ulcers or even some burns. They are also commonly used as a protective layer for formerly deep wounds that are nearly healed.

In addition, there are more non-wound uses than you might think. For example, in recent years many folks have been seeing success fighting chronic acne breakouts with tiny hydrocolloid patches. In the world of ostomy care, curved hydrocolloid sheets, dubbed Elastic Barrier Strips, are used to help secure the ostomy barrier to the patient’s skin.


Application is virtually effortless: after thoroughly cleaning the wound, simply remove the paper backing to reveal the adherent surface, lay the center of the dressing on the wound site and gently smooth out from the center. For the thinner varieties, be sure to push out any bubbles of air that may be present. Once that’s all done, you should be left with a flexible, elastic patch that’s flush and moves with your skin.

Conveniently, these dressings adhere to the intact skin around the wound but not the wound tissue itself. This makes for easy, painless application and removal. More importantly, it ensures no damage is done to the wound bed during dressing replacement. Generally, replacement should happen every 3-to-7 days.

How to Purchase

Why, from Medical Monks, of course! We have a large selection of hydrocolloid sheets in many different shapes and sizes from major manufacturers such as KCI and Hollister – all at (as always) industry-low prices. For those with stomas we have the aforementioned barrier strips here and here.

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