is lanolin good or bad for skin

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?

lanolips 101 ointment

What Are The Best Products With Lanolin?

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.