Skin tears are common as we age and our skin becomes more dry and delicate. Unlike healthier skin that stretches when stressed, delicate skin can come apart with relatively little pressure. Even adhesive bandages can stick hard enough to rip delicate skin.
More important than treatment is to prevent skin tears. Very little can be done to close skin tears, especially when the skin flap is missing. If skin is torn, treatment centers around keeping the skin tear clean and protect it from further damage.
- Rinse the skin tear with tap water or saline solution. Be careful not to tear the skin worse and do not use hydrogen peroxide or other products -- water or saline is just fine.
- Either let the skin tear air dry or pat it dry very carefully. If there is a flap of skin, gently lay it back in place as close as possible.
- Cover the skin tear with a dressing appropriate for skin tears. Several types of dressings work well, including film dressings and petroleum jelly gauze. If using a film dressing, make sure when removing it to pull it off in the same direction as the skin flap. If you pull it off in the reverse direction, you could re-open the tear.
- If you used a film dressing, watch for healing. If the dressing becomes soiled, remove it, clean the skin tear and dress the wound again. If the skin tear develops signs of infection, contact your doctor.
- If you used a dressing that hides the wound, change the dressing every three days and look for healing or signs of infection. When removing the dressing, be sure to peel it away gently in the direction of the skin flap.