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Hi Monica, The skin needs to breathe so any membrane applied to the skin will hamper the ability of the body to thermoregulate particularly under a layered clothing system. The main function of the next to skin layer should be to thermoregulate not to act as an additional barrier to the disease (that is if the outer layer is doing its job).
Health workers need to layer to achieve a better level of comfort as a single layer has too many compromises. A two layer system works best, with an outer protective layer to resist against the disease and an inner layer worn against the skin to buffer the body. You need air to circulate between the layers to move moisture and heat away from the body so you don't want the outer layer to be too tight. Wicking fabrics (with reference to Merrill above) only work if they are open to the atmosphere to allow evaporation to take place so they won't work in this situation in fact the synthetics will make workers sweat more ( boil in a plastic bag). In this situation synthetics do not actively manage moisture and will increase the wearers temperature while in comparison superfine wool can actively absorb up to 35% of its weight as moisture(sweat) without feeling wet against the skin. This works through a chemical reaction that absorbs both vapour and liquid perspiration. I suspect that an on-skin membrane would prevent effective thermoregulation.
 In west Africa the biggest wearer discomfort being reported is thermal overload. The temperatures are hot and the suits are only a little breathable. If we can provide the aid workers with an effective outer barrier resisting the disease then the main function of the inner layer must be to manage their heat and sweat to keep the workers comfortable without being bulky and heavy.
Take a read of these three science based fact sheets on the thermoregulation, moisture management and odour properties of wool to see how effective a fine-wool based next-to-skin garment system would be. Science provides us with the facts.

Moisture management -
Thermoregulation -
Odour resistance -


Bettina, Thats great. I'm very pleased to be part of this team. We are very keen to support the ideas within this challenge. I've set up a file called openIDEO containing a number of relevant articles relevant to PPE and next-to-skin layering that you can access through this link.
Please feel free to share this link and the documents contained.

Hi Bettina, We supply next-to-skin clothing to professionals operating in high risk environments to address exactly the same problems that the aid workers are suffering from. Our skin is our most sensory organ and if we can buffer it from heat and cold we can increase the wearers comfort. Wicking garments ( synthetics) do not work under layered systems because they require evaporation to move moisture away from the body. Our garment system delays the onset of sweat and ,the fabric can hold up to 35% of its weight with sweat aiding towards keeping a more stable body temperature.
Take a look at for the science.
Regards Andy