How to Effectively Use Non-Adhesive Dressings

Non-adhesive dressings are an important part of first aid and wound care.

This article provides a concise and clear overview, so read on to find out about effective use, benefits and demerits!

Things to consider when using a non-adhesive dressing

Short answer: a non-adhesive dressing is a non-stick form of wound coverage, designed to not adhere to wound liquids or the skin surface. It does not contain glue or adhesive.

  • Non-adhesive dressings are more suitable for minor wounds; such as minor burns, cuts, grazes and some open wounds.
  • Their main advantage is that they do not stick to skin, preventing trauma and pain upon removal.
  • They support hastened healing and keep the wound protected throughout, preventing infection.
  • However, they have certain disadvantages too, and maybe unsuitable for certain injuries or uses.

Advantages of Using Non-Adhesive Dressings

Non-adhesive dressings offer some crucial benefits to certain applications that may not otherwise be available with other forms of dressings.

Particularly with open wounds, the use of such a dressing can greatly help to minimise impact to fragile areas.

The result is a safer, more effective and pain-free alternative to other options.

What are non-adhesive dressings suitable for?

Non-adhesive coverings are multi-purpose and may be used in numerous first aid applications.

Some of the most common include:

  • Open wounds
  • Minor wounds 
  • Minor burns (first and sometimes second degree) 
  • Cuts or grazes

Main advantages:

  • Absorbent
  • Non-adhesive dressings are excellent for absorbing moisture and keeping a wound free from excess exudate while it heals.

    They help to protect wounds from disturbance or infection, and will keep them drier throughout.

  • Minimised pain upon removal to sensitive areas
  • Removing an adherent dressing can be painful, and it is often undesirable when on an open wound.

    For this reason, non-adhesive dressings have the benefit of being pain-free (as they do not stick to/pull skin).

  • Minor burns (first and sometimes second degree) 
  • Wound healing is a delicate process, and it is crucial throughout this time to minimise impact and further damage to the area.

    Removal can cause both of the above, disturbing and irritating fragile or broken tissue.

    This risks introducing more bacteria, bleeding and damage to an open wound.

  • Minimal adherence, does not stick to wound (difficult to remove)
  • Before and during your wound healing process, there will often be accumulation and secretion of fluids.

    This includes blood and wound exudate/discharge, alongside topical substances you may apply as well.

    Some bandages have a tendency to become stuck or attached to the area, but this is not the case.

  • Sterile
  • Sterile non-adhesive dressings can be safely used on open wounds without the risk of introducing infection.

  • Prevents fragments/tiny pieces of the bandage entering wounds
  • As they are non-stick and smooth, they will not deliver pieces of debris into the wound as some bandages may (causing further irritation)

  • Are able to be cut to size
  • You can cut them to size depending on the wound area. This is not the case with some other forms of adhesive bandages.

Do Non-Adhesive Dressings Help Hasten Healing

Non-adhesive dressings are designed with properties that support optimised healing, hasten the recovery process and prevent irritation/further damage to the area.

So in short, the answer is absolutely yes - provided they are used in the correct context.

When using non-adhesive dressings, this occurs in numerous ways:

  • Promoting faster healing through absorption of fluid levels, reducing inflammation
  • As the dressing wicks away excess moisture and fluid, this can help to support reduction of irritation, redness and inflammation.

  • Does not irritate/exacerbate the problem further
  • A wound needs time and proper conditions to heal, and the first thing that will prevent this occurring is further irritation.

    Non-adhesive dressings are highly important to ensure this does not happen, which hastens open wound healing dramatically compared to other forms.

  • Provides coverage and prevention of infection
  • The dressing covers the wound and prevents introduction of bacteria, while also being sterile.

    This helps to lower the risk of infection (which greatly prohibits healing if it occurs).

  • Additionally offers a little additional padding/protection
  • The mild padding provided can be handy to maximise comfort and prevent trauma or discomfort to the area.

    Adhesive dressings may be less successful at this.

    If you have ulcers, for instance, this can be helpful.

How to use non-adhesive dressings:

  • Firstly, make sure your hands are clean and washed.
  • Select the dressing size that most appropriately corresponds with the wound, or cut to size if it does not.
  • Open the package, making sure to avoid touching the dressing the most possible.
  • Find the shiny side and place it upon the wound after disinfection (may be one or both sides - either way, only use shiny).

What Makes a Dressing Non-Adhesive

A non-adhesive dressing is a specific form of wound coverage that is non-stick or non-adhesive, as the name clearly specifies.

This means that the dressing will not stick to fluids or discharge from the wound, and does not contain adhesives.

It helps to minimise trauma and pain the most possible.

But what exactly excludes a dressing from being considered non-adhesive?

Non-adhesive dressings; the difference summed up

  • Adhesive bandages will stick and adhere to skin, remaining secure once applied
  • This is as opposed to non-stick/non-adhesive, which do not secure to the skin without tape.

    Forms of coverage that are made of a material that is not resistant to sticking to fluids or the wound cannot be considered non-adhesive.

    Any bandage that uses a form of adhesive (or glue) to be secured to the skin can not be considered a non-adhesive bandage.

    Adhesive bandages will sometimes have a border that is adhesive, surrounding a small non-adhesive/“island” section (like a Band-Aid).

    These are partially adhesive dressings, and even though they have a non-adhesive section they are not classified as non-adhesive.

    Band-Aids are one of the most common forms of adhesive dressing.

    There are different types of non-adhesive dressings too; including foam dressings and regular acrylic/cotton fibre pads (such as Melolin).

  • They are smooth surfaced, and do not stick to wounds as tightly as adhesive dressings do
  • Adhesive bandages grip very tightly to wounds, and once they are secured they are designed to remain in place for longer.

    When they stick to the skin, they may last well until they need to be removed - and they also provide good blood control for deep wounds.

    This is because they apply more tightly with pressure to the skin. Non-adhesive do not stick in this way.

Demerits to Using Non-Adhesive Dressings

In certain cases, non adhesive dressings may not perform as well as other bandages or be unsuitable for specific applications.

Now that we’ve established advantages, let’s observe limitations and drawbacks.

When may a non-adhesive dressing be unsuitable?

  • Does not offer support, stabilisation or any form of immobilisation

Certain injuries require support (such as to the joints/muscles) and/or immobilisation.

Other forms of bandages may be better suited.

Example: take a snake bite, for instance.

Compression is crucial in this case to restrict poison flow.

Immobilisation is too.

Non-adhesive bandages only assist with surface application, and will not provide this.

  • Requires help to be secured to an area

You must have micropore (adhesive tape), gauze roll or a self-adhesive bandage on hand for example, in order to secure the dressing to your wound.

Adhesive bandages simply stick by themselves, and do not require any other assistance.

  • May be more difficult to secure to suit certain injuries than a conforming adhesive bandage

An example of this is a Band-Aid (which is considered an adhesive dressing).

For certain areas, particularly those that are smaller, you may find a non-adhesive bandage excessive or difficult to apply.

In such situations, adhesive bandages may suit better.

  • Will not apply pressure/control bleeding as well as some adhesive forms

Adhesive forms can usually last longer before they need to be removed, and they are more firmly secured to the skin.

This can help with bleeding control, especially for deep wounds that may be difficult to control.

They also won’t require as frequent a removal and provide more pressure application.

Some types of adhesive bandages may be able to be worn until the worn time is up, as the injury heals.

Non-adhesive bandages are suited to more minor injuries.

  • Non-reusable (disposable)

You can not reuse a non-adhesive dressing.

Related Questions

Do non-adhesive dressings come in different sizes?

Yes, they do. While you can also cut them to size, there are a variety of different sizes available - ranging from small to large.

What are some common brands of non-adhesive dressings?

Melolin, Bodicheck and Allevyn are some common brands. Elastoplast and 3M are additional easily accessible options.

Many of these can be purchased at the chemist or medical supply stores.


Non-adhesive dressings are a first aid and medical staple, and rank amongst the most common forms of wound coverage available.

Having covered their merits and demerits, you are now able to establish the best instances to use them with proper care.


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