“Do I continue on this career track and don’t look back? Or do I step back?” Lee recalls.
At this point, her line of “innerwear,” which included camisoles, body suits, bras and panties made with high performance fabrics that wicked away moisture, were being sold in high-end retailers such as Bloomingdale's and Neiman Marcus.
“But my goal was to always to get married and have a family, so I chose the latter,” Lee says.
After getting married and having her first child, Lee realized she wasn’t done innovating. “I had some ideas that I felt like I could implement and possibly do something to help the impact on our environment in relation to diapers. I was a pure Huggies buyer. I completely embraced Huggies in particular. They worked, but it was that guilty feeling that a lot of moms have now about the impact—understanding where they go and how it’s impacting the future for our kids,” she says.
By the end of 2008, after she had her fourth child (today she’s a mom of five), Lee was serious about developing a truly eco-friendly diaper; one made of natural materials and that would biodegrade. In 2015, she launched Poof Diapers.
Poof Diapers are constructed of materials made with non-GMO certified corn mixed with bamboo fibers that are Global Standard certified. The entire diaper, with the exception of the side closures, is biodegradable. In a commercial compost it completely breaks down into a non-agricultural soil in 14 weeks. The soil is then sold for commercial landscaping applications. If the diapers are disposed of in a regular home trash bin, they will break down anywhere from the mid-50% to mid-80% range, depending on environmental conditions. “Which is still a lot better than conventional diapers,” Lee adds.
In addition to these earth-friendly features, the materials used in the diaper are inherently antibacterial, according to Lee. The corn to bamboo ratio gives it a natural and inherent antibacterial performance, acting as a barrier. “When a baby wears a diaper, it’s dark, wet, moist and warm, and it’s the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to grow,” she explains. “What ours does is it prevents new bacterial growth and is essentially killing anything that can grow.”
These natural antibacterial properties help prevent diaper rash. In fact, Poof doesn’t recommend the use of any external lotions or diaper creams being used with the diapers.
Right now, Lee and her team are trying to develop a side closure that is also biodegradable, but they haven’t been able to find the same performance. “Everything we’ve tried isn’t durable enough,” she says.
Poof is also using a novel packaging material. Since heat or UV light can start a level of breakdown in Poof Diapers, the company can’t use traditional plastic packaging. Instead, the packaging is made of a fully compostable material that breaks down and turns into powder. In Asia, Lee says this type of packaging is used in food packaging and can be recycled into structural bricks for buildings. The backside, she explains, looks like Mylar or foil, so it’s reflective of UV rays and doesn’t allow heat to penetrate it.
“Our product is setting a whole new standard in the category,” Lee says. “We introduced this product at a time when there really wasn’t any new innovation in diapers. Pampers or Huggies would come out with something new, with more absorbency—big deal! Their products always worked—their efficacy is amazing—but yet they’ve never properly addressed the environmental impact of their products.”
Since it’s launch three years ago, Poof has added other eco-friendly and biodegradable products to its line-up including Poof Trainers (diaper pants), a pet-line of diapers and wipes called Poof Pet, as well as an array of wipes, including a vegetable-based flushable wipe that is CTP (Centre Technique du Papier) certified for flushability.
Currently Poof Diapers are available on several large online retailers including Amazon, as well as in natural grocery stores, wholesale clubs like Costco, food and drug stores as well as traditional grocery chains nationwide. Poof also recently launched internationally.