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Skin Tears: What Are They and How Do You Treat Them?

It’s a fact that the skin becomes drier and more delicate as we age. Unlike when you were younger when your skin was more stretchable when stressed, older skin can easily come apart even with minimal pressure.

That being said, it’s fair to say that skin tears become common as you grow older and it’s essential to know how to treat them in case you experience one.

A skin tear is a traumatic wound that is often the result of external friction, shearing forces, or blunt trauma injuries which can be classified into three different categories.

Category 1: Skin Tear without Tissue Loss

A category I skin tear is characterized by a skin flap that is complete enough for all the edges to close.

The best way to treat this kind of skin tear is by replacing the skin flap where it originally belongs using a cotton-tipped applicator as you gently roll the skin flap back.

You can then wrap the wound with light dressing or apply steri-strips to its edges. Make sure to first cleanse with saline or wound cleanser.

Depending on the condition of the skin flap, this category can be further broken down into subcategories.

Category 1a is characterized by a pink and healthy skin flap while category 1b is characterized by a pale, blue, or purple skin flap which is often an indication that it may not heal.

Category 2: Skin Tear with Partial Tissue Loss

A skin tear is considered category 2 when the skin flap is damaged and won’t close properly.

What this usually means is that the tear will most likely not heal or not heal correctly at all primarily because the flap won’t reach the wound’s edges.

Treatment for category 2 skin tears is typically the same as that of category 1 except for a few additional steps.

When you’re dealing with partial thickness wounds, you may need to apply any of the following:

  • Hydrogel

  • Xeroform

  • Oil Emulsion

  • Petrolatum

  • Honey Gauze

For full thickness wounds, applying Collagen, Hydrogel, or Calcium Alginate will help. Just make sure to cover the wound with secondary dressing and change them 2 to 3 times a week.

If you use Hydrogel, make sure to change the dressing every day.

Category 3: Skin Tear with Complete Tissue Loss

A skin tear is classified as category 3 when the skin flap is completely removed which also means that the wound will take longer to heal.

Your options for closing this kind of skin tear are very limited since the skin flap is gone. All you can do in this kind of situation is to keep the wound area clean and protect it from further damage.

Treatment for such kind of wound isn’t that much different from the first two categories except this time, you may need to apply an enzymatic debridement agent.


There are several steps you can take to prevent skin tears and below are some of them:

  • Create a safe environment.

  • Keep the skin moist.

  • Wear protective clothing.

  • Eat a balanced diet.

Final Thoughts

Skin tears can be very painful depending on their gravity. They also take longer to heal which is why the best treatment for them, above everything else, is prevention.

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