Choosing the Best Medical Tape - Silicone Vs. Acrylic


In Brief

Wound care presents many challenges to the medical professional. From the sheer variety of wound types to the differences among patients, a critical factor in all successful wound management is the correct selection and application of dressings. Additionally, the wound management plan encompasses treating the wound itself while also seeking to prevent infection and protect skin health and integrity.

Thanks to current material and chemical technology, clinicians today have a wide range of adhesives and tapes to choose from. This ensures the availability of the appropriate safe, cost-effective, and versatile dressings.

Two of the most common components in medical tapes and adhesives are silicone and acrylic. In this comparison, we review the pros and cons and briefly discuss the regulatory challenges of each.


Silicone Gel Adhesives


  • Bio-compatibility with the skin - does not harm living tissues, making it ideal for patients with sensitive skin, like neonates and the elderly
  • Repositionable - enabling the examination and observation of the wound without needing to replace the dressing; allowing extended wear time
  • Transparency of some products - allowing monitoring of wound without changing the dressing
  • Waterproof - providing a barrier to liquids that could potentially contaminate the wound
  • Resistant to bacterial growth
  • Permeable to air
  • Easy and atraumatic to remove - reducing medical adhesive-related skin injury (MARSI); especially helpful in protecting skin's integrity to prevent complications such as secondary infection
  • Lessens scarring - silicone gel sheeting (SGS) is considered the internationally recommended first-line form of scar management
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Latex-free


  • More expensive option
  • Generally applied via solvent coatings
  • Not strong enough adhesion to secure critical tubing


Acrylic Adhesives


  • Strong initial tack
  • Lower cost than silicone adhesives 
  • Low skin sensitivity 
  • No dressing breakdown in the wound
  • Does not leave residue on skin after removal
  • Not harmful to living tissue
  • Resistant to heat and humidity
  • Can be laminated to many surfaces including films and foams
  • Latex-free


  • Not repositionable
  • More traumatic to skin during removal
  • Poor adhesion stability over time


Regulatory and Other Challenges Affecting the Adhesive Industry

  • Consumers - As consumer awareness of health and the environment grows, regulations are getting stricter and changing more frequently. According to Patricia C. Souza, Market Segment Manager at Lanxess Corp, "Regulatory affairs compliance is one of the main challenges of biocide producers serving the adhesives and sealants industry."
  • Globalization - Mergers and acquisitions occurring more frequently cause a ripple effect of new and more complex regulations across whole markets. Again, Souza explains, "The effects of globalization directly impact the regulations that apply to our products. For example, if a Lanxess customer is manufacturing an adhesive in the U.S., but exporting its products overseas, additional regulations on the country of destination may apply." Therefore, suppliers must ensure that their raw materials are Registration Authority compliant not only in North America but in most cases also in other regions around the world.
  • Supply-side concerns - "Raw material supply is a continual challenge for global manufacturers," states JP Kuijpers, Business Unit Director of Adhesives at Eastman Chemical Co. Most industry professionals acknowledge that volatility in raw materials will likely remain a key challenge for the foreseeable future. An additional challenge is logistics and transportation costs. 
  • Other pricing pressures - Purchasing departments are constantly negotiating with vendors for reliable supplies of pallets, buckets, bags, and boxes. Some effective bargaining techniques include long-term contracts as opposed to spot market buying, consignment agreements, and constantly qualifying backup sources, according to Dan Marvin, Director of Technical Services, MAPEI America.


What does all of this mean going forward? One industry report predicts the global adhesives and sealants industry is expected to see moderate growth and reach an estimated $58.14 billion by 2018. The market is mainly boosted by technological advancement, emerging economies, globalization, and the increased usage of these products in an environmentally friendly manner.


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