The Change Maker that's kinder to your skin and the environment

  • 25/11/2022
  • Sponsored by - Dell

A Kiwi company is revolutionising the humble plaster, making band-aids out of wool rather than plastic. 

Wool Aid has created an adhesive bandage made out of merino that not only helps your blisters, cuts and scratches to heal faster than ever, the plaster is also completely biodegradable. 

Wool Aid is this month's Dell Change Maker. Dell and The Project have been recognising New Zealanders who have made a positive social impact in the community through the Change Maker campaign.

Lucas Smith, the company's founder, says the idea to use a natural fibre such as wool to make plasters first came to him around 2016, while he was working as a mountain guide in Fiordland. 

Having to constantly deal with clients suffering from blisters, Smith says he grew frustrated by the fact that the only thing to put on the wounds were plastic and petro-chemical based plasters. Not only did these band-aids not help the blisters or wounds to heal, but discarded plasters could also be found littered around the beautiful trails where he worked.

Determined to find a better solution, Smith eventually realised the answer was all around him.

"Merino sheep live in such an extreme environment and wool is literally designed by nature to protect the skin from the elements - why isn't it being used as a bandage?" Smith recalls thinking. 

After having his eureka moment and confirming no similar ideas had already been patented, the Tekapo entrepreneur got to work bringing his vision to life, a process that took around six years of "hands-on" development - including a stint working as an unpaid textile mill worker in Italy to better understand how weaving works.

The result is a product that is not only kinder to your wounds, but kinder to the environment too.

One major advantage over traditional band-aids is the fact that Wool Aid plasters decompose in around four months. And there are also numerous benefits for your sensitive skin.

The Change Maker that's kinder to your skin and the environment
Photo credit: Facebook: WoolAid

"The neat thing about wool is that it's naturally breathable, which is the critical thing for healing wounds," says Louise Cunningham, the company's CEO. 

"Wool creates a microclimate and manages the moisture and temperature levels around the wounds, depending on your body, whereas [in traditional plasters] the moisture can't escape and it gets pushed down into the cells, which floods the cells, turns them white and it's not until you take the plaster off that your skin actually recovers from it. You don't get that with wool."

Cunningham, who joined Wool Aid last year from My Food Bag, says given the fact that there have been no major changes to how plasters have been made in more than half a century, she's relishing the challenge to shake up the adhesive bandage industry, which "needs to be disrupted for good reasons".

"Plastic has had its time".

The company also prides itself on putting its product through testing in extreme conditions. 

One example of this is when Smith flew to Alaska to hand out the bandages to athletes competing in the Iditarod Trail Invitational winter ultramarathon race, to see how the plasters held up in the most challenging of conditions. 

"The theory has always been to push things to the absolute extreme and if a bandage can stay on someone's foot in minus 30 [degree celsius] for a month then it's going to work on Queen Street in a set of heels," says Smith.

The company has already been granted patents in New Zealand and the United States, and is currently in the examination process for a further 17 countries. 

And with the global adhesive market worth around US$2.4 billion, the team at Wool Aid have big goals for the business, with plans to begin selling in the US market early next year.

"We're on a mission to heal the world, one wound at a time."

This article was created for Dell.