What is a Skin Tear?

A skin tear is a wound that happens when the layers of skin separate or peel back. They can happen as a result of bumping something, dressing changes, or washing or drying the skin harshly. They most often happen on the arms or legs.

Skin tears are most common in newborns, the elderly and people who are chronically ill. Long-term use of steroids can also increase the risk.


  • Wash your hands.
  • Control the bleeding.
  • Gently clean the wound with warm clean water.
  • Gently pat dry with a clean towel.
  • If a skin flap is still attached, try to replace it by gently rolling the skin back over the wound. Do not cut the skin flap off.
  • Cover the wound with a clean, non-stick pad.
  • Use a stockinette instead of adhesive dressings or tapes.


The best way to treat skin tears is to ensure they never happen in the first place. Preventative measures to practice include:

  • Use lotion on your arms and legs. Dry skin tears much more easily.
  • Drink plenty of water. This will help your skin be more elastic.
  • Make sure your home is well lit. Skin tears are often caused by bumping into your surroundings.
  • Remove any furniture or objects that block a clear path, especially around the bed and on the way to the bathroom.
  • Pad sharp corners of furniture with foam or folded cloth to soften the corners.
  • Wear long sleeve shirts and pants to your protect skin.
  • Bathe less often. Bathing too often dries the skin and makes it tear more easily.

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

  • You have redness, swelling, pus, or a bad odor coming from the wound.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your pain is getting worse.
  • Your wound tears open again.
  • You have a fever.
  • You are not sure what to do about your skin tear.

© 2018 Intermountain Healthcare. All rights reserved. The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.