Collodions are liquid preparations composed of pyroxylin dissolved in a solvent mixture usually composed of alcohol and ether with or without added medicinal substances. Pyroxylin (i.e., nitrocellulose, soluble gun cotton, collodion cotton, etc.), obtained by the action of a mixture of nitric and sulfuric acids on cotton, consists chiefl y of cellulose tetranitrate. It has the appearance of raw cotton when dry but is harsh to the touch. It is frequently available commercially moistened with about 30% alcohol or other similar solvent. One part of pyroxylin is slowly but completely soluble in 25 parts of a mixture of 3 volumes of ether and 1 volume of alcohol. It is also soluble in acetone and glacial acetic acid. Pyroxylin is precipitated from solution in these solvents upon the addition of water. Pyroxylin, like collodions, is exceedingly flammable and must be stored away from flame in well-closed containers, protected from light.

Collodions are intended for external use. When applied to the skin with a fi ne camel’s hair brush or glass applicator, the solvent rapidly evaporates, leaving a filmy residue of pyroxylin. This provides an occlusive protective coating to the skin, and when the collodion is medicated, it leaves a thin layer of that medication firmly placed against the skin. Naturally, collodions must be applied to dry tissues to adhere to the skin’s surface. The products must be clearly labeled “for external use only” or with words of similar effect.

Collodion is a clear or slightly opalescent viscous liquid prepared by dissolving pyroxylin (4% w/v) in a 3:1 mixture of ether and alcohol. The resulting solution is highly volatile and flammable and should be preserved in a tight container remote from fi re at a temperature not exceeding 30°C.

The product is capable of forming a protective fi lm on application to the skin and the volatilization of the solvent. The fi lm is useful in holding the edges of an incised wound together. However, its presence on the skin is uncomfortable because of its inflexible nature. The following product, which is fl exible, has a greater appeal when a pliable fi lm is acceptable.

Flexible Collodion

Flexible collodion is prepared by adding 2% camphor and 3% castor oil to collodion. The castor oil renders the product fl exible, permitting its comfortable use over skin areas that are normally moved, such as joints, fi ngers, and toes. The camphor makes the product waterproof. Physicians frequently apply the coating over bandages or stitched incisions to make them waterproof and to protect them from external stress.

Salicylic Acid Collodion

Salicylic acid collodion is a 10% solution of salicylic acid in flexible collodion. It is used for its keratolytic effects, especially in the removal of corns from the toes. Patients who use such products should be advised about their proper use. The product should be applied one drop at a time on the corn or wart, allowing time to dry before the next drop is added. Because salicylic acid can irritate normal, healthy skin, every attempt must be made to ensure application directly on the corn or wart. A useful preventive measure is to line the adjacent healthy skin with some white petrolatum prior to application of the product. Proper tightening and storage of the product after use are absolutely necessary because of the volatility of the vehicle.