(This story was updated on 4/13/2023.)
The company is just entering the U.S. market, and retailers such as REI, Public Lands, Erewhon, and the Maswik Lodge in the Grand Canyon will soon be stocking its products, according to WoolAid.
The story of how Founder Lucas Smith created an alternative to plastic bandages is an interesting one, and includes Smith working as a guide in New Zealand, an internship at an Italian textile mill, and product testing in the toughest outdoor environments.
It all started when Smith, then 19, was a mountaineering guide in New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park in 2016.
While working, he’d see trekkers who would inevitably get blisters and the only solution in such a beautiful outdoor environment was plastic bandages. He also learned what worked on the blisters and cuts and what didn’t do as well.
“The thing that worked the most was tufts of wool. Normal plasters (adhesive bandages) just didn’t hold up,” Smith said. “It got me questioning why, as a customer, I can buy woolen clothing, but I can’t buy anything better for bandages? So that was the inception of the idea.”
Developing WoolAid took some time. While Smith knew where the wool came from, he didn’t know how it became cloth. So, he took an internship at an Italian textile company to find out how wool went from the sheep in New Zealand to becoming a fiber that could be made into fabric or bandages.
As he gained knowledge of the process, he developed the world’s first adhesive bandage made from Hyperfine merino wool. Wool is naturally breathable, regulating the moisture and temperature around the wound, providing an optimal healing environment. In fact, the bandage he developed biodegrades in soil within four months.
Now, WoolAid is on a mission to remove the estimated 50 billion plastic bandages sold every year with not only a natural product that is better for wounds, but one that’s also better for the world.
Louise Cunningham, WoolAid’s Chief Executive Officer, believes that WoolAid is a revolution in the adhesive bandage space. “If you’re currently using the big brands to cover your scrapes and scratches, then you’re almost certainly using petrochemicals and plastic to heal them. But as we all know, single-use plastic is damaging our planet, and that extends to plastic bandages.”
Today, WoolAid sources wool from New Zealand and manufacturers the products in Shanghai. The adhesive bandages have been tested in the toughest outdoor environments, including the Iditarod Invitational in Alaska and the multisport GODZone race in New Zealand.
Smith is excited about the future potential for WoolAid, which started from that glimmer of an idea on the hiking trails of New Zealand.
“WoolAid is pioneering a medical channel and medical textiles that could open up a whole new industry,” Smith said.