Barrier products – why not?

Why don’t we want to use barrier products?

Quite often when we see a wound on a horse’s leg there’s an old horseperson’s voice in our heads that says “put sudocrem on it”, or when dealing in particular with feathered leg issues “pig oil will fix it!”


We need to understand why these products are not appropriate for woundcare and CPL skincare. So this article applies to (but is not limited to) oily products, actual oils such as pig/mineral oil and barrier creams.

1. Barrier products typically form a waterproof layer that does not allow the skin to breathe. Essentially clogging up the skin. It’s especially important when dealing with areas affected by lymphoedema that we do not do anything that could trap bacteria or exudate in or trap air out. This is because lymphoedematous skin is likely to be immuno-compromised – it will have reduced healing and a higher risk of secondary infection.

2. They can cause moisture associated skin damage (MASD). This can lead to intertrigo and infection. Absolutely do not apply and leave these barrier products over wounds or infections.

3. Because the contents of the pot is oily and sticky there can be bacteria in the pot and your hands. Leave the horse with one of these products on their legs and you then have bacteria stuck to the product on the leg too.

4. Scab removal. It’s common but poor practice for some folks to advise applying udder cream or similar to ease removal of scabs. DO NOT remove scabs! They are the body’s natural protection and healing process! The only time scabs should be removed is if there is something nasty underneath that needs direct treatment.

5. By all means put oils on the feather. But if the legs are clipped, DO NOT use it, for all the above reasons.

What to use instead?

Flamazine (silver sulfadiazine) or similar
Zinc oxide creams that absorb quickly
Emollient and emollient washes
Honey products, if appropriate
Summer Fly Cream to soothe and help prevent fly strike

Remember we very rarely want to dry wounds out, that is old fashioned and bad advice. Equally, we don’t want them to be too wet as they won’t heal properly and will be left at a higher risk of secondary infection.

If in doubt, seek advice from a woundcare expert.

Finally, please don’t spray coloured things on the wounds such as purple or blue spray. It just obscures the view and is rarely helpful for healing.

KBIS discuss the use of Sudocrem here.

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