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Hydrocolloid plasters and their benefits

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Dressings are a crucial part of the wound healing process. By covering scrapes, cuts, or burns, plasters also enhance healing as well as prevent wound infection and scarring. However, there is a large variety of plaster types so you may be wondering which one to use. Choosing the right plaster for the right wound is important, so read on to learn more about how hydrocolloid dressings work. 

What are hydrocolloid dressings?

Hydrocolloid dressings are plasters made from materials like gelatine, pectin, and carboxymethylcellulose.

They provide a moist and insulating healing environment to the skin, creating a barrier against the exogenous bacteria, they also allow the body’s own enzymes to contribute to wound healing as well as reduce the risk of scarring.

Hydrocolloid dressings have two layers:

  • The inner hydrocolloid adhesive layer - has particles that absorb exudate to form a hydrated gel over the wound. In this way, they formulate a moist environment around the wound promoting healing and protecting the new tissues.
  • The outer layer (film) - forms a seal to protect the wound from bacterial contamination and foreign debris. This layer also enables a moist environment and helps prevent shearing.

Some benefits of hydrocolloid dressings, is the fact that they don’t have to be changed as often and they are easy to apply. They are also available in a variety of shapes and thicknesses, come with or without an adhesive border and are designed for difficult-to-dress wound areas like heels and elbows.

When to use hydrocolloid plasters

Hydrocolloid plasters can be used on a variety of wounds.

Hydrocolloid plasters are suitable for hydrating and they can be used on

surgical wounds, abrasions, and minor burns. Due to their occlusive property, they can cover the nerve endings for thicker wounds and reduce pain. You can also use this plaster type for clean or uninfected wounds, and for medium-thickness wounds.

Important note - before you choose a hydrocolloid dressing you should assess the amount of exudate.

Hydrocolloid plasters can offer protection and healing to a variety of wounds in different settings, such as:

  • Home: for minor burns, cuts and blisters that may occur around your home.
  • At the gym: for relief and protection of blisters on the feet caused by new workout routines
  • Offices: great for having as part of a medical first aid kit should any injuries occur
  • Schools: useful to have in first aid kits

When not to use a hydrocolloid dressing

Hydrocolloid dressings are suitable for a variety of wounds, but not for every wound. They are absorbent to a point, so they must not be used for wounds with a big amount of exudate. Instead, they are ideal for partial to full-thickness wounds with low amounts of exudate. Exudate is a fluid that leaks out of blood vessels into nearby tissues. 

Hydrocolloid dressings should also not be used in wounds that need frequent inspection as it will be difficult to check the wound without removing the dressing. Avoid using them on infected wounds and wounds that need drainage too.

How to apply hydrocolloid plasters

Applying a hydrocolloid plaster involves a similar method to a standard plaster application. Follow the steps below for proper application of a hydrocolloid bandage:

  • Firstly, wash your hands and put gloves on to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Remove any previous dressings you had on the wound. It’s advised to change gloves at this stage and use a new pair. Learn how to remove a plaster without pain.
  • Clean the wound with Elastoplast Wound Spray or saline and pat the wound dry with clean gauze.
  • Check the size of the dressing and ensure it overlaps the edges of the wound by 3cm. If the dressing is too small, this can cause leakage. In contrast, if it’s too large it can cause maceration to the skin around the wound.
The Elastoplast Blister Plaster uses hydrocolloid technology.

  • Avoid overstretching the wound and don’t apply much pressure for better application as this might cause breaks on the surrounding skin or skin trauma.
  • Remove the backing from the dressing, fold the dressing in half, and apply it.
  • Consider using adhesive tape if the hydrocolloid bandage does not have its own border. 

Our hydrocolloid dressing for blisters uses innovative, easy-to-use technology which allows it to be applied quickly and without wrinkles, adding extra convenience when you are on the go.

Are hydrocolloid plasters waterproof?

The hydrocolloid plasters also have polyurethane, which is a plastic material that makes the plasters waterproof. 

Polyurethane foam has been used in dressings and has demonstrated high absorptive capability and reliable adhesion to the wound surface. Given the fact that the hydrocolloid dressings are waterproof and you can shower with them, there is no need for a second dressing or frequent changes.

Our hydrocolloid dressing for blisters are extremely waterproof and sweatproof, offering a great option without the need to change a dressing after a shower or swimming.

Hydrocolloid plasters benefits

Hydrocolloid dressings have various benefits compared to other types of plasters. While they can be more expensive than other plasters, they last longer so don’t need to be changed as often, which saves you money. Other benefits of hydrocolloid dressings include:

  • Easy to apply to the wound surface
  • Self-adherent
  • Impervious to gases, water, bacteria, and other external factors that can cause infection to the wound or delay healing
  • Minimal disruption to healing
  • Reduce pain
  • Create a moist wound environment that boosts the formation of new tissue
  • Come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so they’re able to cover a variety of wounds
  • Don’t stick to the wound, enabling faster healing. The Elastoplast Blister Plaster is designed for fast healing, strong adhesion, and quick application.

How often should you change a hydrocolloid plaster?

A hydrocolloid plaster usually lasts between 3 to 7 days. A good indication to know when to change the dressing is by seeing how far it has come up from the edges of the wound. However, this is not standard. So if you wonder how long you should leave a hydrocolloid dressing on, you should check it’s at least 70% full with wound exudate.

You won’t necessarily need to clean the wound often because hydrocolloid dressings keep the wound moist and protected. When you notice the hydrocolloid patches turning white, that’s because the material absorbs the fluid from the wound. Read more about how to change a plaster.

How to remove a hydrocolloid dressing

Follow the below steps to safely remove a hydrocolloid plaster from the wound, without damaging the skin.

  • Press down on the skin around the edges of the dressing and then lift up the adhesive.
  • Keep lifting around the edges so all the adhesive is free from the skin.
  • Carefully peel the dressing away from the wound in the direction of hair growth, ensuring you don’t touch the wound and slow the healing process.
  • If a new dressing is required, reapply one by following the steps described above.

Learn more about removing plasters painlessly.

Always see a doctor if a wound is deep, bleeds heavily or shows signs of infection like reddening, swelling or warmth.

Please note that, although these were compiled with great care, the tips and advice given on this website by no means substitute medical advice and treatment. If you have or suspect a health problem, consult a doctor and follow medical advice regardless of what you have learned on this website.

Always read carefully and follow the instructions for use or the product leaflets. For further information about our products, please contact us via email at

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