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What is Zinc Oxide Tape?

What is Zinc Oxide Tape?

Zinc oxide tape is a common item in well-stocked first aid kits or a sports physiotherapist’s treatment bag. Whether in medical, sports, or domestic settings, the range of tapes available is vast, and it can be hard to know which one to choose. It’s important to know what the best tape to use is, depending on your needs, to choose correctly between zinc oxide tape, kinesiology tape, microporous tapes, or other sports tapes. This article will answer the questions—what is zinc oxide tape, what does zinc oxide tape do, what is zinc oxide tape used for, and what other tapes are available.

What is zinc oxide tape?

Zinc oxide tape is a robust tape widely used for strapping in the medical industry, as well as by athletes and sports physiotherapists. It gets its name from the zinc oxide-based adhesive that coats the back of a non-stretch cotton woven cloth tape. Zinc oxide tape has natural antiseptic properties and is strong enough to provide effective support to joints that need to be immobilised either to protect an injury or to prevent possible damage in the first place. Zinc oxide adhesive is skin-friendly and stays in place firmly for extended periods.

Zinc oxide tape: Where to buy?

Zinc oxide tape is a popular and widely available product due to its effectiveness and versatility. You can find it in most well-stocked pharmacies or online. Steroplast has supplied sports teams and medical organisations with Sterotape-Z.O zinc oxide tape for over twenty years. You can choose from a wide range of widths and lengths of zinc oxide tape and other popular tapes on our website.

How does zinc oxide tape work?

Zinc oxide tape’s strong adhesive backing is very sticky, so it attaches easily to skin, dressings, padding, and back onto itself, making the application secure and sturdy. The tape’s tight-weave cotton fabric is breathable and lightweight but is specially formulated to be rigid and non-stretchy. This combination ensures that zinc oxide tape is easy to apply, even to hard-to-reach areas, but provides immediate and consistent support to joints, even when a patient is moving around. 

To maximise its benefits, it’s important to know how to apply zinc oxide tape. It can be applied directly to the skin with ease to secure dressings, protect verrucas and blisters, or protect joints and digits through immobilisation.

When using zinc oxide tape to strap and support a joint by reducing movement, you should begin by applying the tape in several strips around the base of the joint. Then, begin layering additional strips along the extended limb or digits on the opposite side of where you want to reduce mobility. This will hold the limb or digit securely in place and protect it from bending in the undesired direction.

We offer online sports taping courses so you can ensure you learn how to use zinc oxide tape safely. 

Due to its strong adhesive qualities, you should make sure you know how to remove zinc oxide tape safely. We cover everything you need to know in our blog.

What is zinc oxide tape used for?

Due to its durability and versatility, there are many zinc oxide tape uses. Zinc oxide tape is commonly used by sports treatment professionals, physiotherapists, and medical professionals, whether tending to emergencies or providing hospital care.


Professional physiotherapists commonly use zinc oxide tape to treat patients in recovery. Many injuries and physical conditions can benefit from zinc oxide tape’s support to aid strapping during rehabilitation. Taping can help reduce pain symptoms and protect the injury itself due to its rigidity and supportive qualities. 

Athletic Rehabilitation and Injury Prevention:

Zinc oxide tape’s rigid structure and strong adhesive backing make it one of the best products for effective sports taping as a preventative or protective measure. Sports taping can be used in advance of possible injury to support joints and muscles from damage when overextending. Zinc oxide tape is also commonly applied to an athlete’s joints to stabilise and support an injured area, enabling the athlete to continue an activity. 

Wound Care:

Zinc oxide plaster tape uses also include wound treatment in medical settings. The tape is adhesive and sturdy enough to secure wound dressings to protect a wound while offering breathability to aid in air circulation and promote healing. Zinc oxide as a chemical compound is often used in wound care as it has been proven to encourage quicker regrowth of skin and soft tissue, promoting faster healing. 

Blister and Verruca Treatment:

Domestic zinc oxide tape uses include protecting and treating blisters or verrucas. Zinc oxide’s natural antibacterial properties, breathability and long-lasting adhesion can speed up the healing of blisters or verrucas while protecting them from contact such as rubbing or scratching. You don’t need to be a medical professional to know how to use zinc oxide tape for verrucas or blisters, simply cut and stick a small square of tape over the raised area. The moisture will be trapped inside, protected from external contact, and healing sped up with minimal effort.

Zinc Oxide Tape Compared with Other Popular Tapes

While there are many zinc oxide tape uses, the wide range of other tapes should be considered so you can best decide how to meet your needs. We discuss the features and benefits of other popular tapes compared to zinc oxide tape below.

Zinc Oxide Tape vs Micropore Tape

Micropore tape is a soft surgical tape specially designed for sensitive skin. Its adhesive layer is hypoallergenic while still adhering securely to a patient’s skin. Micropore tape is commonly used in medical and surgical settings to hold dressings in place. It can be torn by hand and removed or adjusted on the skin painlessly. 

When deciding whether to use zinc oxide tape vs micropore tape, the following differences should be considered: 

  • Micropore tape is more suitable for use on children and patients with sensitive skin.
  • Micropore tape can be torn by hand and is much easier to remove than zinc oxide tape, leaving no residue on the skin.
  • Micropore tape is a medical-grade tape strong enough to hold dressings in place, but zinc oxide tape is stronger and less stretchy, so it can support joints or limit movement more effectively.
  • Micropore tape is unwoven and softer than zinc oxide tape. This means it is easier to conform micropore tape to the body’s contours.
  • Both tapes are breathable, but micropore tape is specially formulated to be permeable to air, and water vapour, which reduces maceration (whitening) of the skin, so it is better suited to remain adhered to skin for a longer period of time.
Kinesio taping for shoulder pain

Zinc Oxide Tape vs Kinesio Tape

Kinesio tape, or kinesiology tape, is commonly used in the sports and physiotherapy industries. Kinesiology tape comprises a tightly woven elasticated cotton and nylon blend that supports a full range of motion by mimicking the skin’s natural elasticity. Kinesio tape’s medical-grade adhesive is hypoallergenic and water-resistant, designed to remain securely in place for up to seven days.

To decide between using zinc oxide tape and Kinesio tape, their different features and benefits should be considered:

  • Kinesio tape is easier and less painful to remove than zinc oxide tape.
  • Both tapes are breathable, latex-free, and suitable for use on sensitive skin.
  • Kinesio tape can be worn for longer than zinc oxide tape as it is waterproof and more hygienic. While both tapes have a long-lasting adhesive and remain secure, experts recommend that Kinesio tape is better to wear longer-term. It can support an active recovery without affecting the wearer’s range of movement or reducing mobility.
  • Zinc oxide tape is non-elastic and more rigid than Kinesio tape, so it is better suited to support and secure a joint by reducing mobility. Experts choose Kinesio tape over zinc oxide tape when they want to support a muscle group or joint while allowing for the area to flex and stretch naturally. 
  • Kinesio tape is designed to gently lift the top layer of skin when applied. This means a microscopic space is created between the skin and tissues beneath, aiding circulation. Zinc oxide tape does not offer this benefit and is better suited for compressing and immobilising an area.

Zinc Oxide Tape vs Athletic Tape

Zinc oxide tape is one of the most popular tapes available in sports and is commonly used by athletes due to its reliability and versatility. Designed specifically for athletes, alternative premium sports tape is made from breathable rayon and is a popular choice amongst football and rugby players. 

The main difference between most premium sports tapes and zinc oxide tape is that sports tape has a serrated edge and is designed to be easily torn by hand. This is useful in treating or preventing sports injuries pitch-side quickly and easily. Premium sports tapes are rigid, non-stretchy and have a non-irritant adhesive that attaches easily to skin or underwrap, similarly to zinc oxide tape.

Zinc Oxide Tape vs Leukotape

Leukotape is a wide, hand-tearable type of zinc oxide tape. It offers the same benefits as standard zinc oxide tape and offers an even stronger adhesion to skin or underwrap while remaining breathable for the wearer.

patient wearing a cohesive bandage on their ankle

Cohesive Bandage As An Alternative

An alternative to traditional taping and strapping could be to use a cohesive bandage to support and compress a swollen area that doesn’t require the rigid and non-stretch qualities of zinc oxide tape.

Cohesive bandages are suitable for supporting light sprains and are non-adhesive and breathable while offering the benefits of soft tissue compression. No tape, pins, or clips are required to keep the bandage in place while it conforms easily to the body’s contours.

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