On a recent episode of our Better Product Solution Podcast, 3M’s Senior Product Development Engineer Bret Ludwig joined us to talk about advancements and opportunities in wearable skin tape and adhesives. One of the many fascinating topics that he discussed was how challenging it can be for a product to stick to skin. Here’s a quick clip.
Why Skin is a Challenging Substrate to Stick To
There are so many challenges with skin adhesion that we could have spent an entire podcast on just this subject!
Skin is a living, breathing, and continuously changing substrate. For our protection, it’s biology is designed to repel foreign objects. That is great news for our health but raises a bevy of difficulties when it comes to attaching a product to skin, including:
Variety and unpredictability – The properties of skin vary from person to person, and even from one part of the body to another. This makes it very difficult to test and evaluate adhesive performance.
Rough texture – The surface of skin includes pores, wrinkles, hair, and other features that create barriers for adhesion.
Contaminants – Rarely a clean surface, skin can be covered by body oils, dead cells, sweat, skin products, and many other substances to contend with.
Elastic substrate– Adapting to the body’s movement, skin can stretch up to 50%.
Moisture – Skin constantly absorbs and expels moisture.
Cell renewal cycle – The epidermis (outermost layer of skin) continuously flakes off and is replaced by new cells on a cycle of about 28 days.
Low surface energy substrate – Skin has a surface energy of 25 dynes/cm, compared to >500 dynes/cm for stainless steel.
How to Overcome These Challenges
Despite all the challenges, there is good news – innovation in the adhesive market has made attaching to skin more reliable than ever before. Skin-friendly adhesives, tapes, and patches are available for a wide range of applications and can be custom converted to fit your exact product needs.
When selecting the appropriate skin-friendly adhesive for your product, it’s important to consider factors such as:
The end-user – age, health, activity, comfort, etc.
Concern over medical adhesive-related skin injuries (MARSI)
Environmental factors such as temperature and moisture
Duration of use – from single-use to long-term
Manufacturing for Stick-to-Skin Products
At Tapecon, we are always up to the challenge of creating wearable devices. Not only do we have close relationships with the leading adhesive manufactures in the world, but we also have ample experience design consulting, prototyping, and manufacturing products that effectively stick to skin.