Stop Wasting Hydrocolloid Dressings

Hydrocolloid dressings are bioactive dressings that form a gel when they are exposed to wound exudate. The typical hydrocolloid dressing is a flexible, polyurethane wafer that contains an absorbent filler, usually gelatin or carboxymethylcellulose. This advanced wound dressing is resistant to water and bacteria. Consequently, hydrocolloid dressings create an insulated, moist environment that promotes the body’s own reparative processes (i.e., autolytic debridement). Since they only need to be changed every three to seven days, hydrocolloid dressings cause only minimal wound disruption, which helps to speed up wound healing and minimize wound pain. 

Hydrocolloid dressings are highly versatile and can be used for many exudative wounds; however, they are also expensive. Since even resource-rich centers need to cost-conscious, it is important to cut down on hydrocolloid dressing waste. Simply adding Hy-Tape to the wound dressing regimen may reduce waste, decrease the risk of skin maceration, and improve patient outcomes.

When to use hydrocolloid dressings: Choosing the right wound

Hydrocolloid dressings are versatile, but they are not intended for use in every wound. They are absorbent—to a point—so they should be used in partial to full thickness wounds with low to moderate amounts of exudate. They are excellent for wounds with slough and/or necrosis and are recommended to treat pressure ulcers.1 Non-adherent hydrocolloid dressings may also be useful for certain superficial burns.

Hydrocolloid dressings are not a good choice for wounds with copious amounts of exudate, however. Moreover, hydrocolloid is not the best choice for wounds that need frequent inspection or wounds that are actively infected. While hydrocolloid dressings can be used for select diabetic foot ulcers, they should be used with caution, and only in the absence of foot ischemia and wound infection.

How to use hydrocolloid dressings most effectively

After determining if the wound is appropriate for hydrocolloid, choose the correct size and shape of dressing. The wound should be cleaned with sterile saline solution and dried with sterile gauze. With cleanly gloved hands, warm the hydrocolloid dressing to allow it to better conform to the wound. Remove the backing and bend the dressing slightly down the middle. Apply the dressing to the wound and smooth out from the center to the edges applying firm, but gentle pressure. Since hydrocolloid dressings tend to roll and curl at the edges, “frame” the dressing with Hy-Tape—half the strip over the dressing and half over healthy skin.

Read: Tips to Extend Wear Time with Hydrocolloid Dressings

Why use Hy-Tape with hydrocolloid dressings?

Hy-Tape is the ideal choice for use with hydrocolloid dressings because it shares many of the same properties as the advanced dressing itself. Like hydrocolloid dressing, Hy-Tape is waterproof, so patients can be bathed as they would with the dressing alone. (Hy-Tape is also washable, so it wipes clean with soap and water but still holds strong.) As with hydrocolloids, the original “pink tape” conforms to the body when it reaches body temperature, so it adapts to the unique configuration of even the most irregularly shaped wounds. The adhesive in Hy-Tape is strong enough to stand up to the rigors of modern wound care, but it is also skin-friendly and latex-free. The zinc oxide in pink tape soothes the skin, and the adhesive comes off cleanly when it is time to check or re-dress the wound.

Unlike the hydrocolloid dressing, however, Hy-Tape is relatively inexpensive. It can be used to extend and conserve the life of more expensive hydrocolloid dressings, minimizing waste. When used properly, Hy-Tape is the perfect addition to hydrocolloid dressings.

Skip the hydrocolloid dressings with adhesive borders

The hydrocolloid dressing itself ranges from mildly adhesive to non-adhesive. This is by design, since the dressings should pull away easily and cleanly from wounded and healing/granulation tissue. Unfortunately, this means that without support, hydrocolloid dressings do not adhere securely to wounds. To overcome this issue, some hydrocolloid dressings come with an adhesive border. The hydrocolloid center covers the wound and the adhesive is supposed to make contact with skin. In clinical practice, however, hydrocolloid dressings with adhesive borders dressings are difficult to use, increase cost, and cause more waste.

Hydrocolloid dressings with adhesive borders severely limit the ability to shape the dressing to fit the wound’s unique size and shape. Since the adhesive must contact healthy skin on every border, the user is limited to treating regularly shaped wounds that closely meet the pre-determined size of the dressing. Importantly, hydrocolloid dressing that overlaps healthy skin may cause skin maceration. Large hydrocolloid borders are not only wasteful, but can cause skin breakdown. Thus, it is far better (and more cost-effective) to use just enough hydrocolloid material to cover the wound, and secure the dressing to healthy skin with tape. 

One can cut the hydrocolloid dressing to the precise shape and size of the wound, leaving as little as a half an inch border on every side. Hy-Tape can then be applied to the free borders in a “frame” to safely adhere the dressing to the skin. In fact, wound care experts can occasionally eliminate the border entirely—and virtually eliminate the risk of skin maceration—by trimming the hydrocolloid skin dressing to precisely fit the wound. Hy-Tape can then be applied in rows or a lattice fashion to hold the dressing in place. With Hy-Tape, one can select the smallest dressing that fully covers the wound without wasting dressing or compromising adhesion.

Read: Money and Wound Care – The Value of More Secure Dressings


Hydrocolloid dressings are a good choice for non-infected wounds that produce a modest amount of exudate, and are particularly useful for sloughy and/or necrotic wounds. These bioactive dressings maintain a moist, insulated environment that encourages autolytic debridement. Hydrocolloid dressings are, by design, not meant to adhere directly to wounds. Since the edges of hydrocolloid dressings tend roll, it is important to secure this relatively expensive dressing with high quality tape. Hy-Tape is the ideal choice for use with hydrocolloid dressings because it is waterproof, skin-friendly, holds true, and comes off cleanly. With Hy-Tape, the dressing can be cut to fit the unique shape of each wound, which reduces hydrocolloid dressing waste.

Hy-Tape pre-cut strips are 1 1/4″ x 6″ and perfect for bordering a hydrocolloid dressing.

Cut tape to size with our standard Hy-Tape tape rolls.


1. Qaseem A, Humphrey LL, Forciea MA, Starkey M, Denberg TD. Treatment of Pressure Ulcers: A Clinical Practice Guideline from the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2015;162(5):370-379. doi:10.7326/m14-1568