Did you know that in Ancient Rome sheep farmers had softer and smoother hands than rich matrons?
Hard to believe, but true. And it was all because of the sheep.
These cute animals gave them lanolin, a substance so moisturizing the beauty industry jumped on it as soon as it learned about the legend. Seriously, before the 60s, you could hardly find a cream or lotion without lanolin.
Then, things changed. All of a sudden, a lot of people became allergic to lanolin. Sales went down. Brands dropped it like a hot potato.
Until now. Lanolin has become hot again. Turns out, it had been unfairly maligned all along…
What Is Lanolin?
Wool fat. Or wool wax. (Cute nicknames, huh?).
Lanolin is the thick, greasy, yellow substance sheep naturally produce to protect themselves from harsh weather.
Think of it as a raincoat: lanolin waterproofs their body so that when they’re out in the cold and rain for hours, they won’t get cold (aren’t you just a little bit jealous now?).
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Is Lanolin Cruelty-Free?
Lanolin is an animal product, so in that sense it’s not cruelty-free. If you don’t want to use any animal products at all, this is something to avoid.
But no sheep are harmed in the collection of lanolin (can we all heave a sigh of relief, here?). Once they’re sheared, lanolin is extracted from their wool before it’s washed. Next, it’s purified. Allergens, pesticides used by farmers and all that crap is removed.
One last step: lanolin is tested to make sure it’s safe to be put on the skin. Phew!
How Does Lanolin Benefit Skin?
Remember when I said that lanolin waterproofs sheep? It does the same thing for us humans.
Lanolin is a super moisturizing multitasker you can use from head to toe, nails included. It works like this: lanolin creates a protective barrier on the skin that keeps moisture from evaporating.
Now that moisture is forced to stay in, it hydrates skin, leaving it softer and smoother. Plus, this barrier also protects skin from harsh weather, pollutants, and anything else that tries to harm it.
Another perk? Lanolin blends so well with most ingredients, it’s also used to help form emulsions.
Related: How To Strengthen Your Skin’s Protective Barrier (And Why It Matters)
Why Did Lanolin Get A Bad Rep?
Here’s the “funny” thing. Lanolin has been used for literally centuries, yet it was only in the ’60s that people started having problems with it. Why?
That’s when farmers started using more and more pesticides on their crops – and on their sheep – to protect them from infestation.
Some traces of these pesticides ended up in beauty products. They, NOT lanolin, gave people allergic reactions. Scary stuff, huh?
Is Lanolin Bad For Skin?
Nope. Lanolin was a problem when brands put it into cosmetics as is, pesticides and all. These days all those pesticides are removed during the purification process, so lanolin isn’t very likely to cause allergic reactions anymore (unless your skin is super sensitive!)
A study published in the British Journal Of Dermatology in 2001 says “that lanolin sensitization has remained at a relatively low and constant rate even in a high-risk population (i.e. patients with recent or active eczema)”.
That’s a fancy way of saying that allergies to lanolin are rare. The only real concern about lanolin is that it’s mildly comedogenic. If you’re prone to breakouts, this is not something you want to put on your skin.
Related: What Ingredients Are Comedogenic?
What Are The Best Products With Lanolin?
- Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant (£27.00): Available at Dermstore, Feel Unique and Ulta
- Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm SPF 25 ($8.00): Available at Dermstore, Look Fantastic, Nordstrom, Sephora, and Ulta
- Lano Lips Hands All Over (£18.00): Available at Cult Beauty, Feel Uniqueand Net-A-Porter
The Bottom Line
Unless you have very sensitive skin that reacts to pretty much anything, are prone to breakouts, or simply refuse to use products derived from animals, there is no reason to avoid lanolin. It’s safe and super moisturizing!
What are your thoughts about lanolin in skincare? Share them in the comments below.
Great post! Glad it’s not so bad for us after all. 🙂
.-= Tammy´s last blog ..Lorac & RapidLash Sales @ Hautelook =-.
Tammy, me too. It’s such an effective moisturizer, it would have been a shame if it had been dangerous. 🙂
Thank you for this post! Always good to know more about our ingredients. I use lanolin regularly. And ostrich oil. Both great for the skin 🙂
.-= Pinch´s last blog ..Staples: MAC Moisturecover =-.
Pinch, I’m glad you liked it. I think it’s important to know what we put on our skin and I’m glad lanolin works wonders for you. 🙂
I have some skeins of wool yarn that contains lanolin. I think the yarn was unbleached. It feels very good when I knit and my hands do not feel as dry as when I use other yarns. I guess lanolin is not so bad after all 🙂
.-= Dao´s last blog ..Formula D Minerals Swatches =-.
Dao, that’s lovely, isn’t it? Working with wool that contains lanolin is a nice way to moisturize hands. 🙂
i have quite oily skin and i break out easily… but my favourite foundation brand just came out with a new formula with LANOLIN in it!
my friend is a beauty therapist and she said it clogs your pores and gives you blackheads… but it seems that it is used so often as a moisturiser…
is my friend just being biased? is lanolin moisturisers/make up ok to use on oilier skin?
Anna, Lanolin isn’t a bad ingredient but it is mildly comedogenic. This means that even though most people will be able to use it without side effects, those that are prone to breakouts like you may get pimples and blackheads when they use it. It also depends on the amount of Lanolin in the product. The further down the ingredient list it is, the smaller the concentration in the product and thus the risk of getting breakouts. But since you have oily skin prone to breakouts, I personally wouldn’t risk using a foundation with high concentrations of Lanolin. Hope this helps.
i love it! my lanolin cream has collagen in it. i think ill just stick with it forever……..its not so expensive and it works so well! ps. ive got dry skin , and it makes my skin soft and moisturized! i also use it for my body! its a gift from sheeps. ha
Nana, lol. I’m glad to hear it works so well for you. It really is a wonderful moisturizer.
I have been making my own cremes and have a friend who is convinced that she is super allergic to lanolin. Is there something else that I could use as a substitute?
Greendragon42, mmm you could use shea butter or cocoa butter maybe? Their texture is different from that of lanolin but they’re still both very moisturizing. Hope this helps.
So nice to this article. I am doing a little research for a review of a product that contains lanolin and it’s so fantastic I want to assure people it’s safe! I still use my tube of pure lanolin from breastfeeding as a lip balm.
Angie, I’m glad you enjoyed this article. I’m also glad you found a products that works really well for you and I think it’s great that you’re doing research on this ingredient to assess its safety. Too many people just don’t bother and repeat what they hear even if it is wrong. Well done!
Pitifuly, these days, who can assure you that its well purified. : /
May, why shouldn’t it be? Contrary to popular opinion, cosmetic ingredients are strictly regulated and it’s illegal for companies to put dangerous substances in their products. So, rest assured that, unless you buy some fake cosmetics, your products are safe.
I am one of the unfortunate ones that have allergies to lanolin, and also caine mix (like in sunscreen). I’m looking for something to use; any suggestions? Just thought I would check.
Ann, I’m sorry to hear about your allergies. Can you please more specific about what you’d like to me suggest so I can better help you?
I’m looking for skin care product lines that do not use lanolin, if there is any. Trial and error is very expensive, especially when it takes only a small amount before my face turns into a large rash. And I haven’t found much that I really like, so I typically don’t use anything, but would like to start a skin care regimen.
Thank you for the help!
Ann, I’m sorry lanolin doesn’t work for you. There are lots of products on the market that are lanolin-free, but I would know which ones to recommend as I don’t what your skin type and concerns are. Just look for lanolin-free on the label and if you have any further questions, just let me know.
What does lanolin do for the hair? Aything to do with growth?
Evelyn, no lanolin doesn’t make hair grow. It attracts water from the environment into the hair and enhances moisture retention, thus helping keeping hair well-conditioned and soft.
My daughter has always had dry skin patches on her arms and legs since she was born and her pediatrician told me just to keep a lot of lotion on her…but now the dry skin areas have gotten bigger and now also has them on her cheeks. Is lanolin something I should try putting on her to soften her skin?
Michelle, I’m sorry to hear that. Personally I would try either mineral oil or shea butter simply because these are more moisturizing than lanolin, but you can try the latter if you want to. It will help soften her skin too.
HEY, SAW YOUR COMMENT AND WANTED TO GIVE THE INFO.
FREEDERM IS A PRODUCT I FOUND ONLINE THAT ABSOLUTELY CURED MY EXZEMA/PSORIASIS PROBLEM. I’M 25 AND SUFFERED FROM DRY ITCHY PATCHES(NOT TOO BIG) SINCE I WAS 9 YEARS OLD. SO BAD IN AREAS OF ARMS AND LEGS THAT I BECAME EMBARRASED AT A YOUNG AGE…I WOULDN’T WANT THAT FOR ANYONE.
I FOUND FREEDERM BY SEARCHING SEARCHING SEARCHING. I’VE ALSO TRIED EVERY OTHER PRODUCT OR DOCTORS ADVICE, WITH THINGS WORKING FOR AWHILE BUT NOT TOO LONG. A MAINLY RAW DIET WITH TONS OF GREEN VEGGIES AND FRUIT WILL HELP AS WELL.
I’VE USED LANOLIN TO HELP HEAL SOME SMALL DRY PATCHES BUT THEY COME BACK AFTER STOPPING USAGE.
FREEDERM WORKS, I BELIEVE IT TO BE A ‘CLEAN’ PRODUCT. AND I DON’T HAVE TO USE IT AFTER 6 MONTHS OF USE. NOW I JUST MOISTURIZE WITH SESAME OIL AND EAT RAW MAINLY. PLUS H20!
HOPE IT HELPS!
Jess, I’m glad you found something that works for you and thanks a lot for sharing your experience with us.
Thank you I will definitely give it a try. Is there any particular brand you would recommend?
Michelle, with Lanolin? Or with the other two ingredients I mentioned? In any case, any creams that lists one of these substances high on the ingredient list should do the job fine.
I had dermatitis for 3 months and tryed all kinds of moisturizers, till i saw this uddeerly amooth cream that contains lanolin, it cured me same day. Im happy. I had opened cuts on my hands from the dermatitis, they healed with in hrs.
Perla, I’m sorry to hear you had dermatitis, but glad that you’ve found something that helped your heal, and so fast too!
Usserly smooth is a cream developed for cows originally but now for humans. Found at ride aid store
Perla, thank you for sharing. I’m sure other people will find it useful. 🙂
i have enjoyed reading the messages about lanolin and if I may add some facts to your argument for lanolin the first is that people who say they are allergic to lanolin are probably just making assumptions and they should be tested as three hospitals over a 10 year period tested over 800 thousand patients and found that one person per million has a true reaction to lanolin also the pesticides in EP grade lanolin are lower than vegetable oils we ingest daily.
Chris, thank you for your insightful comment. I agree. Many people believe they are allergic to lanolin simply because of the undeserved bad reputation this ingredient has gained over the years. But the only way to know for sure what you are allergic to is to have tests done. And lanolin allergy isn’t that common.
While the actual number of people allergic may be low, it is part of the test strip normally used by dermatologists to determine skin reactions (along with I think 31 other ingredients). So if in doubt, that test can be requested and easily ruled out/in. That’s how I learned of mine.
Patch tests are a little miss guided because the lanolin they use is a standard grade that is no longer used in general cosmetic/Pharma and baby care because standard lanolin has about 8% free fatty alcohols and these are principle component of lanolin in which allergens are found. The grade used today has reduced free fatty alcohols level to below 3% and the allergen potential in reduced to lower than 1 person per million. So if you have an allergy to lanolin you are 1 in a million.
Chris, thanks for clarifying that.
Ann, I didn’t mean to say that no one is allergic to lanolin, but only that people are too quick to blame that when there are other ingredients, such as fragrance, that are more prone to cause allergies. When you have an allergic reaction to a product, it’s definitely best to have allergy tests done straight away so you know what to avoid.
Oh, I know. But I went through 15 years of trying to avoid those other ingredients (because that’s what everyone blamed) when it wasn’t that. I’m just saying from my experience testing is the best route and to not automatically rule anything out. If I’m really 1 in a million then I’m jealous of all the other women! I’d kill to be able to use Eucerin again!
Ann, that’s true. Many people wrongly avoid lanolin, but sometimes that can be the culprit too. Getting tested at the first sign of allergy is definitely best.
Thank you for this very insightful post. I am happy to learn that lanolin is an excellent emollient, and I would like to use it as an emollient for a lipstick that I intend to make. I understand that lanolin is not vegan approved but the good thing is that it’s a good quality natural ingredient and the animal is not harmed at all when extracted from the wool.
Manaza, that’s true. It’s a wonderful ingredient for a lipstick indeed.
What? Does Eucerin contain lanolin? I don’t know all their products, but there is an Eucerin cream for sensitive skin, lanolin free, with dexpanthenol, called “pH5 intensive” or something like that.
AM, I believe some of their products contain lanolin indeed.
Hi, I have been told by a GP that I could use the creamy milky salve for my very dry skin. Now I have been advised, because of my skin that, one must be careful of Lanolin. This salve contains +- 0.1% lanolin. Will this be harmful to my skin. Should I be on the lookout for any differences/affects on my skin? Various products, especially, if mixed specially are very expensive and Medical Aid does not pay for this.
Please advise, thank you so much.
Peter, if you have sensitive skin, I would advise you to try the cream on a small area, so if an allergic reaction occurs, only that part will be affected. If nothing happens instead, you can safely use the cream. Hope this helps.
I have eczema on my palms and soles of my feet. I was told by a very reputable dermatologist to avoid any product with Lanolin. Although it feels like a nice layer of moisture, it is not absorbed and it serves as a water attractant, it actually absorbs moisture from your skin, leaving it drier than even before. I found he is right!
Ccroft, I guess that depends on your skin type and weather conditions. Lanolin is a humectant, so it could, under particular circumstances, draw moisture from your skin, causing dryness. But that’s a problem with most humectants.
It was really interesting to read about lanolin. I have wanted to buy this for my face but cannot find out where to buy it. Can anyone tell me where to buy lanolin which is free from additives and perfume. I would be so thrilled as I’ve been looking for years to find this. Many thanks
Sue, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I guess to buy it, you’d have to contact a manufacturer. Unfortunately, I don’t know any, but I’m sure that if you google them, something will turn up.
When I was nursing my babies I discovered pure lanolin. You can find it in the baby care aisle (I bought mine at Target) and it’s designed to use on your nipples and doesn’t need to be washed off before baby nurses again. I can’t think of anything more pure than that! I also have a tendency to get dry cracked feet so I use it on my feet at night, wear socks to bed and wake up with super soft feet! Did the same trick on dry hands in the winter. I’ve never used it on my face though.
Marie, I’m glad it works so well for you. It’s a wonderful moisturizer, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing your tips with us.
Bwb may i ask any health related question?can heavily infectous intestinal worms induce malaria-like feverish feelings?
Goodfello, I’m sorry but I can’t answer medical questions. I’m just a blogger who has been studying skincare for years, not a doctor. If you are unwell or have any health-related question you should consult a doctor.
I remember as a little girl (now 69) my Mother using Lanolin on her face. She had a little bottle with yellow substance in it. I used to love watching her use it and even tried a little myself. I loved the smell of it. She used it for years. She lived to be 95 and when she passed she still had beautiful, smooth skin with very few wrinkles.
Linmat, thank you for sharing your memory with us. Lanolin is a wonderful, underrated, moisturizer, isn’t it?
what are its health concern
Simamkele, lanolin can cause allergic reactions in some people. But, apart from that, it is safe for the skin.
Hi, I will call myself Dobb, which is close to my nickname. I will try to make these remarks short and sweat. I use a product by the name of Basic Rich Moisturizer and Vita Moisturizer for over thirty years that I loved. When I was thirty years old my older sister appeared to have the most beautiful skin and when I inquired about what she was using, she told me of these two products. The ingredients in both products contained lanolin, lanolin oil, and lanolin alcohol along with other moisturizer formulas that are commonly used in most skin care products. My sister and I called these two moisturizer our miracle creams because strangers would come up to us and ask what we used on our skin. We often received compliment on our skin because we had no wrinkles. A few years back these products were discontinued by the manufacture, and it seemed for no reason even though ladies were begging them to bring them back. For the past three years I have been searching for a moisturizer to no avail, (I found good ones but not like these two). I bought thirty jars of this moisturizer when I learned that they were going to discontinue this product. When I started looking at the ingredients on the old jars of my beloved miracle cream and compared them to the new moisturizer ingredients that took their place, I found that Lanolin was missing in most all of moisturizers that I found in my research. Today I was on line looking for moisturizer face cream that contained Lanolin and came across your website. Thank you so much for this information about Lanolin, since I am not allergic to Lanolin I will just buy pure lanolin cream and experiment with it until I find the correct amount that I need to give me the results that I am looking for. My plea would be for laboratories and manufactures to place a notice on the moisturizers jar stating that they have lanolin in them. They do it all the time with cancer and cigarettes. Thanks again for the information provided. Dobb
Dobb, thank you for sharing your story. Lanolin is a wonderful moisturizer, isn’t it? Unfortunately when an ingredient starts getting a bad rep, even if it is totally undeserved, brands start taking it out of their products. Good luck with your experiment. I’m sure you’ll be able to make a good cream soon.
I realize that this is an old post, but I’ve been told to use lanolin on my skin for scars. I was in a car accident in September and it required a lot of surgery to repair my face, and I’ll need additional reconstructive surgery in the upcoming months. I found pure USP/EP anhydrous lanolin on the shopping website that is named after a long river in South America. Simply type “lanolin” into the search bar and there are many choices. Some are just anhydrous lanolin, while there are others that are creams with a high concentration of lanolin in them. I really find that it’s working to reduce the appearance of scar tissue on my face, and I’ve also made a cream where I whipped shea butter and lanolin together, and I can use that all over my body, sparingly. The shea butter provides moisture, and the lanolin forms an occlusive barrier, which locks it in. My skin has never looked better, and my surgeons have told me that my skin will be much easier for them to work with for my upcoming surgeries, because it’s so much healthier.
I hope you can find something to your liking on there. I know I sure did. There’s so much on there, it’s almost overwhelming!
Kari, thank you for sharing your experience with us. I’m sorry to hear about your accident and operations, but glad you’ve found something that helps. I wish you a full an speedy recovery.
I read your comments. I am looking for a natural way to fade my facial scars. Do you think that it will work? Will, it clog up my pores in the meanwhile or all the contrary?
Lo, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there are no natural remedies for scars. You need to see a dermatologist for that.
Years ago, I wore hairspray with lanolin; surprisingly, a friend liked the fragrance of it; I told him that it was hairspray with lanolin! Also, I noticed the lanolin helped keep mosquitos away; and, the lanoline was in Jergen facial soap. I guess Jergen company do not make facial soap with lanolin. It would be ideal for children who love to be active inside and outside of their home. I was hoping Jergen copany still had the facial soap with lanolin; I checked in a lot of stores but none of the stores had Jergen facial soap with lanolin!
I would highly recommend Ultra Balm. I has lanolin, Vitamins A, D, E, and Aloe Vera too! I’ve found it to be amazing! I get it from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Moisturizer-Psoriasis-Moisturize-Ultra-Balm/dp/B00UESUQH0
Jo Ann, sounds great! thanks for sharing.
You’re welcome! 🙂
Has vitamin D some effect on the skin?
AM, vitamin D is soothing and helps treat acne: http://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/guide-vitamins-skincare/
Lansinoh is made of wool fat. I am allergic to wool. I rarely wear sweaters and do not wear wool socks. No rugs in our house today contain wool. [I have a son that has sensitive skin too. He would never admit to it.]
I wish I could tell more women. However, I am putting this in writing for the first time now. I have 3 kids, and for the first two used Lansinoh, the purple tube ointment, on my breasts religiously. I was told to do so by the lactation consultant at the hospital. I read the instructions on the large piece of paper inside the box. Read the box. Read the tube. No where does it say wool.
From the manufacturer:
Lansinoh HPA Lanolin Cream
Recommended by Lactation Consultants
Soothes and protects sore, dry and cracked nipples
World’s purest lanolin – safe for mom and baby
100% natural, single ingredient product – Preservative free
Used by and recommended by breastfeeding moms
Information about the product reads:
#1 recommended nipple cream by Lactation Consultants and doctors in the US
Soothes and protects sore and cracked nipples
World’s purest lanolin – safe for mom and baby
Hypoallergenic, no need to remove before breastfeeding
Lansinoh For Breastfeeding Mothers
The safety and purity of Lansinoh is not available in any other lanolin product
Safe for Baby Relief for Mother
You can read the container itself, the box, and the inside papers like I did.
Luckily one day, my mother (a gerontological nurse and mother of 9) was sitting with me and read the box. On the ingredients, it stated that it contained lanolin. Lanolin is wool fat. I had mastitis 3 times, and it is very painful. I was on antibiotics constantly. My second child had skin issues, that were not resolved by Dreft and many other attempts. When I stopped using Lansinoh, I enjoyed my third child’s breastfeeding with no pain. My second son has no skin issues now. Sad to find out so late.
Did you know, lanolin was wool fat, wax, or grease? It should be printed somewhere on the product. You want to inform us, then let us know what lanolin is.
MM, thank you for sharing your story with us. Sorry you had to go through all that. I agree that brands should be clearer about the ingredients they use. Thanks for helping out other women avoid your same issues.
Sheep NOT sheeps. 😉 helping you with English free of charge 😉
Rie, thanks for spotting the typo. I fixed it now. 🙂
Does it protect against the sun? I burn easily in the summer.
Tine, no it doesn’t. You need a sunscreen for that.