Making the Cut: Skin Glue Produces Thinner Scars

One of the latest alternatives to sutures and staples after surgery is the use of skin glue. It’s also common for doctors to use it for closure of smooth cuts. Sometimes referred to as dermal adhesive, its purpose is to help an incision heal more neatly by joining the edges of the skin together. In some cases, noticeable scars can develop when skin glue is used, but research shows that they are typically thinner and more even than scars created from wounds closed with sutures, staples and adhesive strips.

What Is Skin Glue?

Skin glue is a polymer-based liquid or pasty substance called cyanoacrylate that’s applied to the edges of the skin, but not in the wound itself. It’s brushed on by a nurse or doctor in thin layers to create a protective seal that connects either side of the wound. Each layer takes a few minutes to dry as the formula sets. Skin glue naturally sloughs off in about a week to 10 days as the wound heals. By this time, the wound has closed and new skin has started to form.

Common Uses

In general, skin glue is most effective when the wound edges are flat, straight and two inches or shorter in length. Dermal adhesive is effective when used on the face, upper or lower body, arms and legs in areas away from joints. It’s important to use it only on body parts that don’t experience much tension on the skin. It can be used alone, but sometimes surgeons will close an incision beneath the outer layer of skin with sutures that eventually dissolve. Skin glue is then used on the outer layer of skin’s edges so there’s no need to remove sutures or staples at a later time. This special medical glue is typically not used for moist areas on the body or any wounds that are infected, have jagged edges or are located near joints.

Skin Glue Scars

Scarring from wounds closed by skin glue is part of the healing process. Wounds that break open after the healing process has started have a higher chance of creating thicker, more prominent scars. This is one reason why not all surgical scars can be closed with skin glue. It takes about six months before skin glue scars  begin to fade, unless a topical scar reduction cream is used. Silicone scar gel can be applied after the glue sloughs off and the wound heals further to improve the scar fading process.