What is a Styptic?

Updated April 17, 2017

As a rule of thumb, every day life is filled with unexpected but small physical accidents. This can result in a variety of minor cuts and abrasions that need to be looked after to prevent infection. Having available and familiarising ourselves with our first aid kits will allow us to be prepared for these little "boo boo" occasions.


A styptic is a type of drug or method of contracting blood vessels to prevent bleeding or blood flow. The word comes from the Greek "styptikos" and Latin "stypticus" meaning literally "to constrict, draw together". There are a few different ways in which styptics are applied and used today.

Styptic Powder

This is commonly used in first aid for animals. It usually includes benzocaine, an external anesthetic that numbs the affected area. It's commonly applied when accidentally clipping a dog's nail, a bird's docking tails, and cuts that may result from grooming shears.

There are also substitutes that can be used in place of off the shelf styptic powder if none is available. Cornflour is one. You can also use wet bar of soap then press the nail into it.

The most popular manufacturer is Kwik Stop.

Styptic Gel

This is a dark brown gel used for the same purpose as styptic powder but is a little easier to work with and not as messy. It has the same ingredients as a styptic pencil with the inclusion of ferric sulphate.

Styptic Pads

These come in a small container like acne pads, which necessitates the use of isopropyl alcohol to preserve them and is for use like styptic gel and powder.

Styptic Stick

The styptic stick (or pencil) is made out of aluminium sulphate with trace elements of titanium dioxide and other chemicals. It is about three to five inches long and when the tip is moistened, dabbing it onto small cuts and nicks stops bleeding. It's normally used in shaving applications. Manufacturers include Clubman and Colonel Conk.

Styptic Swabs

The company Kutkik also has styptic swabs which comes in a pack of twelve and is said to be better and more sanitary than styptic pencils for shaving cuts.

Side Effects

There are a few possible but highly unlikely side effects that styptics can cause. The most probable is some kind of skin irritation like redness, itching, hives, or rash. In rare cases, the affected area will turn blue, there will be drowsiness, low blood pressure, and even seizures. Again, these are extremely rare cases and if any of these begin to exhibit, a doctor should be consulted immediately.

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About the Author

Jacob Workman began writing in 1993. He's written for national music magazines such as "7 Ball" and "Release" as well as trade journals, graphic novels and newspapers including "Toledo Journal," "Toledo Free Press" and "Spectrum." He has over 10 years experience as a music producer and over seven years as a radio deejay. Workman attended Owens Community College.