Hemostatic agents (also spelled haemostatic) are substances that promote hemostasis (stop bleeding). Styptics (also spelled stiptics) are a specific type of hemostatic agent that work by contracting tissue to seal injured blood vessels. Other hemostatic agents used in medicine work by adsorbing water from blood, causing platelet aggregation and promoting coagulation.
Hemostatic agents have been gaining popularity for use in emergency bleeding control, especially in military medicine. They are available in two forms - as a granular powder poured on wounds, or embedded in a dressing.
Styptics for personal use are typically made from alum or titanium dioxide, and come in the form of styptic pencils, used to treat shaving cuts, and styptic powder, for staunching wounds from cutting animal nails.
A styptic or hemostatic pencil is a short stick of medication, usually anhydrous aluminum sulfate (a type of alum) or titanium dioxide, which is used for staunching blood by causing blood vessels to contract at the site of the wound.
Before safety razors were invented, it was an essential part of a shaving kit and was used to seal cuts caused by improper shaving. Some people continue to use styptic pencils for minor skin wounds from safety or electric razors.
While effective at stopping blood loss, some who use it feel that the sting of the medication as it takes effect can be worse than the pain of the cut itself. More "natural" ingredients such as aloe add a "more soothing alternative".
A frequent source of confusion appears to be the difference between styptic and caustic pencils which are not used to staunch minor cuts.
In the 1970s, a TV ad for a popular brand of razor featured a father teaching his son how to shave, cautioning him that the blade on his old, generic razor was "sharp, very sharp", and made an audible scraping sound as he showed his son the proper method. Cut to the sales pitch for the improved Gillette or Schick product. Cut back to the father and son: "Now, this, this thing here, is a styptic pencil."
Styptic powder is used to stop bleeding from nails that are clipped too closely. This powder is generally used on animals, such as dogs, cats, rabbits, and birds, where the vein is found in the center of the nail.
Styptic powder can also be used to stop bleeding caused by cuts and nicks while shaving.
- Medical hemostatic agents