Skin glue is a special type of medical adhesive. It joins the edges of a wound together, while the wound starts to heal underneath.

Doctors and nurses may use skin glue to close wounds, instead of other methods such as:

  • stitches (sutures)
  • skin staples
  • adhesive tape

Skin glue can be used for children and adults.

When can skin glue be used?

Skin glue is usually used for simple cuts or wounds that:

  • are small or minor
  • are up to 5cm long
  • have straight edges, which can be pulled together

Skin glue can also be used to close the edges of other wounds that may be larger. For example, over the top of stitches beneath your skin (subcutaneous stitches) or to close an incision made during an operation.

Surgeons may use skin glue after operations or procedures such as:

  • vasectomy (male sterilisation)
  • laparoscopy ( a procedure that doctors use to look inside the abdomen)
  • removal of benign skin lesions
  • groin incisions for hernia operations

When is skin glue not used?

Skin glue isn't normally used to close some types of wound. For example:

  • wounds with uneven or jagged edges
  • deep wounds
  • wounds that are bleeding
  • infected wounds
  • animal bites 
  • puncture wounds
  • ulcers

Where can skin glue be used?

Skin glue can be used to treat wounds on most parts of your body, including:

  • your face or head
  • some parts of your arms and legs
  • the trunk of your body (torso)

It may be possible to use it for some wounds on your hands, feet or joints, but this will depend on where the wound is and how much pressure you put on the wound when you move.

Skin glue isn't usually used on parts of your body that may be moist or damp, such as:

  • your lips
  • inside your mouth
  • your armpit
  • your groin

How is skin glue applied?

Your doctor or nurse will apply the skin glue as a liquid or paste, and paint it on to your skin at the wound's edges. They will not put the glue inside your wound.

More than one layer of glue will probably be needed.

Sometimes, your doctor or nurse may give you a local anaesthetic before closing your wound.

How long does skin glue take to set?

The first layer of skin glue takes only a few minutes to set. It forms a protective covering over your wound. Other layers may take a little longer to set.

While the glue is setting, your doctor or nurse will try to stop it running on to anything else, such as other parts of your body or your clothes.

For example, if your wound is on your face, while they apply the glue, they may put a piece of gauze over other parts of your face, such as your eye.

Will the glue affect how my wound heals?

Most wounds closed with skin glue heal normally.

Research has shown that there's a slightly higher risk that some wounds may break open again (dehisce), than wounds closed with other methods such as stitches. However, this risk is small.

The scar from your wound will probably take about six months to fade. Some research studies have found that wounds closed with skin glue may leave neater scars than other methods, such as stitches (sutures) and adhesive tape.

Will I need a dressing on my wound as well?

If your wound is likely to get dirty, your doctor or nurse may put another dressing on top of the skin glue, to keep it clean. Otherwise you may not need any other dressing for your wound.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 20/03/2013

Next review due: 19/03/2015