There are two types of super glue. One is meant for gluing objects and should be kept in your tool box. One is formulated for medical use and should be kept in your first aid kit.

For your tool box:

For your first aid kit:

2-Octyl-cyanoacrylate

  • Dermabond
  • SurgiSeal

N-2-butyl-cyanoacrylate

  • Histoacryl
  • Indermil
  • GluStitch
  • GluSeal
  • LiquiBand

2-Ethyl-cyanoacrylate

  • Epiglu

Super glue uses cyanoacrylate adhesives. Cyanoacrylate adhesives are often referred to as instant adhesives because they don’t have to be mixed with another agent and they cure quickly without heat or curing equipment.

Although cyanoacrylate formulations were tested in World War II for creating plastic gun sights, military medics started using the sticky substance for closing battlefield wounds. It was relatively effective as a quick and waterproof emergency measure, however, there were side effects such as damaging the tissue around the wound and irritating the nose, throat, lungs, and eyes.

Different formulations were tested during the Vietnam War, and in 1998 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a less toxic medical formulation (2-octyl cyanoacrylate) called Dermabond.

Medical cyanoacrylate adhesives — also called skin glue or surgical glue — are less toxic than the version you keep in your tool box. They also have plasticizers to make them more flexible.

When to use it

The most recommended use for medically approved cyanoacrylate adhesive is to close the two sides of clean minor cuts, such as knife cuts or paper cuts.

In these cases, there are a host of benefits:

  • It dries fast to stop the bleeding.
  • It stays in place.
  • It keeps dirt and air out of the cut.
  • By the time it wears off the cut is typically healed.
  • It can reduce scarring.

When not to use it

Cyanoacrylate adhesive is not recommended for:

Emergency rooms

When appropriate, many hospital emergency departments use surgical glue instead of stitches because:

  • It’s faster.
  • It’s less painful.
  • No needle pokes are necessary.

Follow-up

  • It doesn’t need a follow-up visit for suture removal.
  • Patients don’t need to be sedated.
  • Avoid antibiotic ointments. They will dissolve the dried glue.
  • Avoid picking at the edges of the dried glue.

For certain kinds of cuts, super glue can be an effective way of closing the wound for healing. Using the version formulated for medical use — as opposed hardware glue — will avoid irritation and be more flexible. If you have a deep cut that is bleeding profusely, seek professional medical attention.