I’m going to get straight to the point here. Please, do not use hydrocolloid blister dressings (like Compeed) on blisters with an intact or torn roof! If you do, it may rip the skin of the blister roof off upon removal. As a result, you’ll have made your blister worse, instead of better. Hydrocolloid dressings should only be used on deroofed blisters, like the ones pictured below. A deroofed blisters is one where the roof has been completely removed, leaving a red raw sore. 

hydrocolloid dressings are for deroofed blisters

These are deroofed blisters. This is the type of blister that you can use a hydrocolloid dressing on.

 

Faster Healing!

Deroofed heel blisters, like those above, can heal faster with a sterile hydrocolloid dressing. Here’s how.

  • Firstly, as the raw blister base heals, it weeps. This weepiness is called exudate and it combines with the dressing to provide the best environment for healing.
  • Secondly, the gooey gel-like substance that results, prevents the dressing from sticking to the raw wound. Therefore, it won’t disrupt valuable healing tissue as it is removed.

 

Popular Hydrocolloid Dressing Brands

Compeed is the most well-known and established. Bandaid have their own version, as does BlisterPod. And there are also the “ulcer dressing” brands like Duoderm and Comfeel. Here are some picture that you might be familiar with.

Compeed is a hydrocolloid blister dressing

Compeed blister plasters

 

 

Common Hydrocolloid Dressing Mistakes

The main message I’d like you to take away from this article is to only use a hydrocolloid dressing on deroofed blisters. But there are a couple of other things you need to know to get the most out of using hydrocolloids. Watch the video or read about real-world situations where things have gone wrong. That way, you’ll avoid the mistakes others have made.

 

 

Hydrocolloid Dressings Suffer A Bad Rep

Hydrocolloid dressings suffer a poor reputation in blister management in the running and hiking communities, as highlighted below for instance:

My team have dealt with hundreds of cases of Compeed that has almost morphed into “one” with the skin. It’s really difficult to see where the Compeed finishes and where the skin begins. We actually recommend against it for long events for that reason. And if we see it in use, we speak up and discourage it.

Personally, my worst blister treatment experiences of all time have been removing this partially metamorphosed Compeed from badly blistered feet.

The open skin under the dressing stinks and the skin goes all wrinkly.

Some Perspective

I completely understand these concerns. I’ve witnessed them myself, many times. Here’s an example (below).

hydrocolloid dressing rolled-back a little and stuck to the sock

This hydrocolloid was used at the first sign of a blister forming. An edge of the hydrocolloid rolled-back a little and stuck to the sock. So when this runner took his sock off…!

This was from the 2015 ANZAC Ultramarathon in Canberra. This runner had applied Compeed when he saw a blister forming. The skin of the blister roof was intact at the time. Later, as he removed his sock, he realised the Compeed had melded with the sock and he couldn’t get the two apart. He also couldn’t peel the Compeed from his blister. So as he took his sock off, the Compeed ripped the blister roof off. It was nasty!

If you’ve had a bad outcome when you’ve treated your blister with Compeed or any other hydrocolloid, there are three potential reasons why. It’s easy to avoid each of them.

Avoid These 3 Mistakes Using Hydrocolloid Blister Dressings

1) Hydrocolloid Blister Dressings Are Not For Blister Prevention

There is an expectation that the hydrocolloid dressing alone will prevent a blister from developing and/or prevent it from getting worse. In fact, this expectation is wrong. Don’t use hydrocolloids for blister prevention – they are blister treatments. 

 

2) Only Use Hydrocolloids For Healing Deroofed Blisters

Hydrocolloid dressings have an adhesive which makes them stick. For this reason, do not put them on a blister with its roof intact, or with its roof torn. This wound care strategy will only tear the skin of the roof off when you come to remove the dressing. Hydrocolloids need a weepy wound base to work their magic – they absorb the exudate and this does two good things:

  • Firstly, it prevents the dressing from sticking to that part of the skin
  • Secondly, it partially dissolves to provide a gel that promotes healing

In my university days (some 25 years ago now) I was on the grinder doing some heavy orthotic modifications when my hand slipped and the grinder took a nasty gouge from my knuckle. I grabbed some Duoderm from the student clinic and used it as directed until it was healed. We used Duoderm at uni for acute and chronic ulcer management). Within a week or so, the deep gouge had filled in and there was a nice pink area of healed skin in it’s place.

Not only that, the skin remained flexible enough so as not to limit flexion of my finger during and after healing – something that wouldn’t have happened if I’d allowed the wound to dry out and scab over. It was remarkable. I still have a scar but it is quite underwhelming considering the size of the initial injury. If you don’t believe me, the next time you have a weepy wound, get a hydrocolloid dressings and try it.

 

3) Don’t Expect Hydrocolloid Dressings To Stay On By Themselves

Although hydrocolloids have an adhesive to make them stick to the skin, I don’t expect it to work on feet – not well enough. On your arm, fine. On my finger, fine. But on your feet, not fine. Think about the in-shoe environment – it’s sweaty in there. In other words, that’s a constant threat to good adhesion. Because all it takes is for one edge of the dressing to roll-back a little and be exposed to the sock (annoyingly, it will stick like glue to the sock – see photo above).

I recommend Fixomull Stretch or a similar fixation tape around the circumference of a hydrocolloid dressing. Leave the majority of the dressing area visible – we need to visualise the degree of weepiness to determine when to change the dressing. This is good wound care practice. Plus, hydrocolloid dresings allow wound gasses to evaporate through the dressing (whilst being waterproof from the outside).

Secure all hydrocolloid dressing edges with a fixation tape like Fixomull to prevent roll-back

Secure all hydrocolloid dressing edges with a fixation tape like Fixomull to prevent roll-back. Resist the temptation to put Fixomull all over it – you need to see how the wound is interacting with the dressing to know when to change it.

How Long To Leave a Hydrocolloid Blister Dressing On For?

Good question! Hydrocolloids can be left on for a few days, or even a week. It all depends on how weepy the wound is. It can take a bit of practice to get this right.

  • If your deroofed blister is very weepy, don’t use a hydrocolloid straight away. If you do, you’ll be having to change it too often for it to have an effect. Rather than changing your hydrocolloid twice a day, instead, use an island dressing at the start. Change it frequently until the weepiness abates. Then start with your hydrocolloid.
  • Conversely, if your deroofed blister is dry and on its way to healing already, if it’s dry or got a scab over it, a hydrocolloid should not be used. The wound must be somewhat weepy for a hydrocolloid dressing to be an option. If it’s dry already, use an island dressing simply for protection.

Of course, if your blister base does not seem to be healing, you suspect it is infected, you’re just not sure how to care for your blister or you have a health condition, seek medical advice from your doctor.

Get Started With Hydrocolloids

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Hydrocolloid Blister Bandages are exudate-absorbent hydrophilic gel dressings. Promotes blister healing. Latex-free, water-proof (10 Pack). Shop now!

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Rebecca Rushton BSc(Pod)

About The Author

Rebecca Rushton BSc(Pod)

Podiatrist, blister prone ex-hockey player, foot blister thought-leader, author and educator. Can’t cook. Loves test cricket.

USD $21.99blisterpod hydrocolloid blister bandages large 10-pack new and improved

Hydrocolloid Blister Bandages 10 Pack

Hydrocolloid Blister Bandages are exudate-absorbent hydrophilic gel dressings. Promotes blister healing. Latex-free, water-proof (10 Pack). Shop now!

VIEW PRODUCT

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23 Comments

  1. Helen s 19 August 2016 at 11:51 am - Reply

    This is a brilliant article – I wish Compeed et al explained when and how to use these plasters properly as well as you do!
    Thanks!

  2. John Vonhof 16 September 2016 at 5:36 am - Reply

    Great informative article that athletes and medical people need to understand. Compeed has it’s place, but it has limited uses. It’s important to remember that after applying a patch like this and taping it down as Rebecca says, bunch up your socks to roll them on and off – otherwise you can pull the dressing loose. If using this on a heel, I also suggest using a shoehorn to ease the heel into the back of the shoe. Protect the patch! That’s key.

  3. Karen 2 June 2017 at 3:27 am - Reply

    Thanks for this article! You just stopped me from applying a dressing to a new blister.
    One question that I don’t think is addressed in the article: if a blister still has an intact roof, is it best to leave it alone? If the roof is torn and the blister is still weeping, should you remove the loose skin and apply a dressing or continue to leave it alone?

  4. Rebecca Rushton 2 June 2017 at 6:49 am - Reply

    An island dressing is what you’re after Karen (like a Band-Aid or Cutiplast). If torn, leave the roof in place – it provides a little protection to the raw blister base. And if the roof is intact, that’s a good thing because it can’t possibly get infected – the skin is keeping the germs out.

  5. kat 18 January 2018 at 2:31 am - Reply

    Thank you very much for this great information !!

  6. Rebecca Rushton 18 January 2018 at 6:08 am - Reply

    It’s a pleasure Kat :)

  7. andy gillies 11 May 2018 at 11:27 am - Reply

    great advice

  8. katie miller 10 October 2018 at 4:01 am - Reply

    I found this video after I applied hydrocolloid bandages to both of my heels, one of them had an open roof blister and one had a closed roof one. I realize that I made a mistake by applying it to the closed roof blister, so I’m wondering if I should just wait for it to start falling off? Will that help it not to hurt so bad when taking it off?
    I am required to wear these boots to work that gave me these blisters, and I’m wondering if wearing these bandages will make me get more blisters or get worse ones? I was thinking of wearing moleskin over the bandages to prevent blisters.

  9. Rebecca Rushton 11 October 2018 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    Forget about hydrocolloids and moleskin in this instance. Put Engo Patches on your work boots instead Katie and that will stop the blisters by way of reducing friction levels far more than the other two: http://www.blister-prevention.com/engo-blister-prevention-patches/. If I were you, I’d leave the current dressing on for a while to give the blister fluid some time to absorb and the skin to gain a bit extra strength before taking your hydrocolloid bandage off. But if in doubt, see a podiatrist for their advice and assistance.

  10. Bo Gunnarsson 6 January 2019 at 5:08 am - Reply

    Hi,I totally agree with others, brilliant article! Was/been searching the web for more/better info of these compeed patches. I’m trying to find out what is the most adviseable way of removing a patch "prematurely" (i.e before it falls of by itself). I like Katie Miller below put one on when I shouldn’t and I need to take it of. I read in another thread that soaking it in hot water and soap would loosen it, is that a good way for a removalt?

  11. Rebecca Rushton 7 January 2019 at 8:25 am - Reply

    Hi Bo. The official way to remove a hydrocolloid plaster resulting in less skin trauma is to get one corner and pull parallel to the skin surface. Unfortunately, this will block your visibility of the blister roof (assuming there’s a blister under your Compeed) and you’ll be less able to gauge if your blister roof is about to tear.
    I have no idea about soaking it in hot water. It makes sense that this will liquefy the adhesive so it might help.
    Rebecca

  12. Lindsey Esb 28 March 2019 at 3:51 am - Reply

    So what if I happened to read this article after putting it on an open burn? The skin peeled off and I put on to protect myself during sleep. I am worried of the pain of removing the bandage as it has stuck to my skin perfeclty.

  13. Rebecca Rushton BSc(Pod) 28 March 2019 at 8:01 am - Reply

    You should really seek the advice of your doctor Lindsey. I wouldn’t like to give any specific advice on this, especially considering there are different degrees of burn injuries.

  14. Denis Mountain 22 April 2019 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this informative post. I really appreciate your writing skills it’s really good. I really like this blog. I usually purchased all the dressings and other first aid items online from woundcare. that was an amazing experience of mine with me.

  15. Anna King 27 February 2021 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    Like many others I did not know that the blister roof had to be completely off before applying. I wore a new pair of boots yesterday and one heel has a deroofed blister and one is partially deroofed, but I had applied to both.

  16. Krystal 13 October 2021 at 4:01 am - Reply

    I have an unroofed blister on my finger and am debating on this type of bandage. You said the feet are not a good place bc it’s a sweaty environment. Well I need to wear a glove over my affected hand when working (massage therapist), so it will be sweaty. Should I go ahead with a hydrocolloid or stick with regular bandaid to change out?

    • Rebecca Rushton BSc(Pod) 13 October 2021 at 4:05 am - Reply

      You can use a hydrocolloid in spite of sweaty skin. Just make sure you apply a fixation tape around the edges to ensure the edges don’t lift. Use Fixomull Stretch (CoverRoll Stretch in the USA).

      • Deb 6 May 2022 at 5:58 am - Reply

        Hi Rebecca, Im on the Camino and walking 25km each day for 35 days. I developed a blister and placed on a Compead. The Compeac was falling off so I removed the Compead which took of skin. Now, 5 hours later I’ve developed a new blister directly above the torn skin (roof intact). My question is do I place on a new Compead or just gauze and adhesive? Look forward to your earliest reply as there are no doctors here in this section of the Camino

        • Rebecca Rushton BSc(Pod) 6 May 2022 at 8:44 am - Reply

          So you’ve got an intact blister adjacent to an intact blister. If you watch the video, neither of these should have a hydrocolloid on them.

  17. Sandra 11 November 2021 at 10:02 am - Reply

    super helpful. thank you.

    • Rebecca Rushton BSc(Pod) 11 November 2021 at 10:59 am - Reply

      😀❤️

    • Bella 30 March 2022 at 3:52 am - Reply

      Rebecca, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m 29 and have never gotten better use out of an entire article as I have this one.

      I have stage 3 hidradenitis suppurativa, and last night I applied blister bandages to my deroofed wounds on my legs and within 2 hours I could see the healing working. I’ve been depressingly struggling with this for about 10 years, as I’m severely allergic to the antibiotics used to help treat it. Last night your article changed my life. Thank you thank you thank you.

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