How to Use Zinc Oxide Tape

Zinc oxide tape is the mostly widely used form of sports strapping tape. Here are some tips on how to get the best from it.

A roll of zinc oxide tape!

What is Zinc Oxide Tape?

It is a thin, woven cloth tape with an adhesive on one side. The cloth is usually cotton or viscose-rayon, and the adhesive is usually latex-based or acrylic. Zinc oxide tape does not stretch – it is often described as ‘rigid’ tape – and is specifically formulated to stick to the skin. Basically, it is sticky tape for people.

What is it Used For?

Zinc oxide tape is widely used in sport and physiotherapy as a strapping tape – typically to strap up injured limbs and joints to limit or prevent movement. For instance, a sprained ankle can be immobilised by strapping it up with zinc oxide tape. It is also sometimes used preventatively to give extra support to vulnerable body parts, particularly wrists and fingers. Finally, some people stick it on areas prone to rubbing to protect or prevent blisters and calluses.

How to Apply Zinc Oxide Tape

1) Preparing the Skin

Correct preparation of the skin is essential for all adhesive strapping tapes. Tape will only stick reliably if the skin is entirely clean, dry and free from any oils, creams or lotions etc… Ideally, the area should be hair-free (or at least closely trimmed) because hair interferes with the bond and makes removal of the tape quite painful. Therefore, shave, thoroughly wash and dry the area before applying zinc oxide tape.

2) Handling the Tape

Zinc oxide tape can be cut with normal scissors, but it is often quicker and easier to tear the tape. To achieve this, just grip the tape at the edge with both hands and rip sharply as if you were tearing a piece of paper (but do it harder and faster.) Generally, it is best to unwind the tape from the roll as you apply it, a little at a time, and tear or cut off as you finish each strip.

3) Safe Application

A wrist taped with tan-coloured zinc oxide tape

In this wrist taping technique, support is carefully built up with several individual strips of tape.

Zinc oxide tape is strong and has no stretch, so it is important not to apply it very tightly or you risk cutting off blood circulation to the area. In many cases, all you need to do is lay it on the skin and press it down to activate the adhesive. For similar reasons, you should never build up a large amount of tape in one go nor repeatedly circle a limb with the same length of tape. Instead, apply it strip-by-strip: go around once, tear off, and then go around again etc…

Unfortunately, zinc oxide tape can cause irritation to sensitive or damaged skin. This can be true even of latex-free or supposedly ‘hypoallergenic’ tapes. Don’t apply tape to any area of damaged skin and even if the skin looks healthy don’t consistently wear tape for long periods of time. If you notice any irritation, stop using it.

4) Getting the Best Stick

Zinc oxide tape sticks best if it is properly anchored. A strip of tape is anchored if:

  • It circles a limb and finishes by sticking down on itself, or
  • It begins and ends on, or lies over, another strip of tape that is anchored, or
  • An anchor strip passes over it, holding it down

A strip of tape that isn’t anchored properly may peel off quite quickly, due to rubbing, sweating or movement.

Examples of correctly anchored zinc oxide tape

There are exceptions to this. Some tape jobs require un-anchored strips of tape, but they tend to be placed over a base layer (such as Hypafix) which helps them stay put. Alternatively, they are wrapped over with a flexible tape such as EAB or cohesive bandage.

One other factor to bear in mind is temperature. When zinc oxide tape gets cold, the adhesive hardens slightly which makes it less sticky. Therefore, try to apply it when your skin is at normal body temperature and the tape is at normal room temperature. If necessary, leave the tape near to a warm radiator for a little while before use. If you must apply cold tape, try vigorously rubbing the tape with a flat palm immediately after application. The friction will generate some heat to activate the adhesive. Just don’t rub it so hard it comes off!

Where to Buy Zinc Oxide Tape

We sell a full range of zinc oxide tape. Click here to buy online, or give us a call and order over the phone.

Physical Sports Limited sells first aid and medical supplies for the treatment of sports injuries. | | 01943 662 155

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Posted in Sports Taping

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