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What is a Moleskin Bandage?

By J. Nelson
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A moleskin bandage is a type of first aid product designed to stick to the skin and either prevent blisters from forming or protect blisters that have already erupted. It’s basically a thick, cushioned adhesive that can be cut into specific shapes or sizes to create an elevated level of padding on the skin. They’re often most commonly used on the feet, but they can be applied anywhere on the skin that blisters both form and then continue to come into contact with clothing or other friction-bearing surfaces. This sort of bandage is a very common part of most commercial first aid kits, and can also be purchased in various sizes and styles at pharmacies and chemists around the world.

Basic Characteristics

These sorts of bandages are typically made of thick cotton, and come in two main varieties: adhesive and non-adhesive. Adhesive types usually have one side that peels off to expose a sticky surface that can be applied to, and worn on, the skin. If a non-adhesive variety is used, the bandage can be attached with first aid tape, which is also typically included in all basic first aid kits. There are usually a couple of different size considerations, too. In some cases the bandages come in large sheets or rolls that people can cut down to whatever size they need. Other times, they are more standardized, often coming as small rounds or oval shapes.

The main idea is to help create a buffer between the skin and any clothing or other irritants that could cause friction when rubbed against the skin. Shoes are common culprits because of how snug they usually are. People who are wearing stiff, structured shoes for a long stretch of time — hikers and backpackers, for instance — often get blisters in areas where the sensitive skin of their feet comes into contact with the shoe material over and over again. Moleskin can both prevent blisters by minimizing friction and can protect blisters that have already formed by giving them the space they need to heal.

Preventing Blister Formation

Blisters are a skin irritation caused by friction. They occur when “hot spots” are created on the skin due to rubbing, and the top layer of skin essentially separates from the layers below it. The space between layers fills with fluid. In most cases blisters are the body’s way of protecting itself; the fluid provides a cushion that will allow the skin to heal itself while preventing continued irritation. They can be quite painful for people to manage, though, and they can also stand in the way of daily activities. A moleskin bandage is one way to help pad the area around the blister to prevent further rubbing or aggravation, and is often thought to speed healing while allowing people to resume most if not all of their daily activities.

People who are using the bandage in this way usually need to cut a small hole in the center of the bandage roughly the size of the blister. This is usually very easy to do; people simply fold the bandage in half, then use scissors or a sharp knife to cut a small round or slit. The bandage should then be set gently on top of the blister so that the irritation itself remains open to air, but the skin immediately around it is raised slightly. Actually covering the blister, even with a bandage, can actually make the problem worse.

Cushioning Existing Blisters

Moleskin bandages can also be applied before blisters form as a way to try to prevent them. If one is susceptible to blisters in certain spots, moleskin can be put over those areas before walking, hiking, or exercise. The bandages can also be used in this way by people wearing new shoes that may be rigid and prone to causing blisters.

In these cases the bandage doesn’t usually need to be cut, since it’s hard to tell where a blister will form, or even if it will form at all. People can simply put small bandages at various points to promote air circulation and to reduce rubbing.

Purchase Considerations

There are many different blister treatments that people can choose from, though moleskin coverings tend to be one of the least invasive and also usually one of the least expensive. They are widely sold in pharmacies and general goods stores, and they’re also usually included in basic first aid kits, particularly those designed for trekking or travel. Buyers usually have a choice between pre-cut and sheet styles, as well as adhesive and non-adhesive. and the difference is usually personal. Buying full sheets is often more economical, but it also requires more effort; similarly, adhesive is usually easiest to work with, but non-adhesive sometimes provides more protection.

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Discussion Comments
By SteamLouis — On Jun 05, 2012

@feruze-- I completely agree with you. Most people use moleskin bandages as a last result after the damage is done. But it's actually a great way to prevent blisters in the first place.

I go hiking regularly, and waterproof moleskin bandages are a must-have in my bag, along with an extra pair of shoes and clean socks.

The reason why we get blister and bruises on our feet is because our feet sweats and the heat and friction from walking causes the top layer of skin to separate.

I always stick some moleskin bandage around my heals, sides of my feet and toes before a hike. And I change my socks regularly, as well as my shoes if it gets wet. Despite hiking several times a month, I haven't had a single issue with my feet for the past year.

By bear78 — On Jun 04, 2012

@fify-- The blister doesn't usually pop unless you pop it yourself or wear shoes that cause friction there which makes it pop. That's exactly why you need to use a moleskin bandage on it, to prevent it from popping.

A blister is covered with skin and filled with liquid which prevents it from getting infected. Either apply a moleskin bandage as soon as you develop a blister, or use it to prevent blisters from forming in the first place.

That's why I use strips of moleskin adhesive bandage. I know which shoes tend to give me blisters and I apply the bandage before I wear those shoes to prevent them.

If you have an open blister now, continue to use a moleskin bandage on it. To prevent infection, you can place some clean cotton loosely on top of the bandage to prevent it from touching the shoe. If it's an open shoe, you can apply some anti-bacterial ointment on the blister.

By fify — On Jun 04, 2012

I tried cutting my own little moleskin bandages from the value-sized rolls. Boy was it hard! And getting that hole in the center was not easy because I needed such a small sized bandage.

Now they have pre-cut circular moleskin bandages available at pharmacies. It does cost more, but I prefer those much more than the strips and rolls that you have to cut yourself.

I think a moleskin adhesive works perfect if the blister is intact. But when it has popped, I worry that I'm going to get it infected, especially when I'm wearing summer shoes without socks.

I know the blister needs to remain open to heal but how can we prevent it from getting infected while using a moleskin bandage?

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