Lanolin: Is It Safe For Your Skin?

Medically reviewed by Dr. Kendall R. Roehl, MD, FACS
by Ramona Sinha
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Lanolin has a long history of use in the skin care industry. The ancient Greeks valued lanolin for its skin softening properties. Even until recently, there was hardly any skin care product out there that didn’t have lanolin in it. Then came a phase when lanolin earned a bad reputation in the beauty industry for causing allergic reactions (1). But, the tide turned one more time and lanolin has again become one of the hottest ingredients for the skin! Confusing, right? Lanolin can be both good and bad for your skin, depending on your skin type and issues. How? Scroll down to find the answers.

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What Is Lanolin?


Lanolin is sheep sebum. This yellow, greasy substance is secreted by the skin glands of sheep. Its main function is to condition their wool. Sounds gross? Don’t freak out. The lanolin found in ointments, topical medicines, and skin care products is refined. However, in ancient times, people used unrefined lanolin to treat many skin issues. This is because its molecular structure closely resembles that of human sebum. However, both have different compositions.

Lanolin is available in two different forms: lanolin and lanolin alcohol. The latter is used in ointments and skin care products. Lanolin is semi-occlusive. This means when you apply it on your skin, it forms a barrier that both protects your skin and gets absorbed at the same time. Once it sinks deep into your skin, it can hold 400 times its original weight in water. So, it not only keeps your skin moisturized on the surface but also helps it stay hydrated from within.

Now, the question is, if lanolin is so beneficial for skin, why did it get such a bad rap?

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Why Was Lanolin Considered Bad For Skin?


Everything was going well until the 1960s when people using lanolin products started reporting allergic reactions. This was mainly due to the pesticides that the livestock farmers used to disinfect the sheep. If lanolin is not purified and processed in the right way, traces of pesticides and chemicals remain in it, which then cause allergic reactions. That was when lanolin turned out to be the wolf in sheep’s skin! Later, with technological advancements in farming practices, extracting pure lanolin was no longer impossible. Lanolin was then back again, ruling the beauty and skin care industry.

Lanolin is extracted from the sheared wool of sheep. It is then purified to remove all traces of pesticides and allergens. Finally, the extracted lanolin is tested to ensure that it’s safe for the skin.

Lanolin offers a host of benefits for your skin. Scroll down to find out more.

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Lanolin For Skin: What Are The Benefits?


1. A Very Good Skin Moisturizer

Lanolin is widely used in skin medications to treat rough, dry, and scaly skin. It can also heal skin burns, rashes, and minor itches. This is because lanolin is an excellent emollient that softens your skin and keeps it moisturized. When you apply lanolin, it forms an additional layer on the top layer of your skin to trap water and enhance the efficacy of your moisturizer.

2. Can Treat Your Chapped Lips

Unhappy with your lips because they look like scaly fish during the winters? Lanolin can help you out. Lanolin is a common ingredient in lip balms. It has a waxy texture that covers up your scaly lips and prevents further chapping. It also absorbs moisture from the air and helps rejuvenate the tissues in your lips.

3. Helps Prevent Cracked Nipples During Breastfeeding

Constant breastfeeding can cause chapped and cracked nipples. Applying lanolin cream on the nipples and areola prevents skin cracking and relieves pain (2).

4. Can Heal Sunburns

Applying lanolin on sunburnt skin prevents water loss and maintains the proper hydration levels in your skin. This helps in preventing your sunburnt skin from peeling. However, avoid applying lanolin on sunburnt skin immediately after sun exposure. This is because lanolin contains alcohol that can worsen the burning sensation on your skin.

5. Keeps Your Cuticles And Nails Healthy

Applying lanolin on your cuticles and nails keep them soft and healthy. After a manicure and before applying nail polish, massage your nails and the surrounding areas with lanolin.

Does this mean that everyone can use lanolin without worrying about any negative reactions? Well, no. Several factors make lanolin unsuitable for certain people. These factors have been listed in the next section.

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Is Lanolin Safe To Use? Who Should Avoid It?


Here are a few things you should note before you start using lanolin:

  • Are you prone to breakouts? If yes, lanolin is definitely not meant for your skin. It is mildly comedogenic, so it can clog your pores and cause you to break out.
  • Lanolin may not be suitable for all skin types. Find out if you are allergic to lanolin by doing a patch test. Also, if you are prone to skin allergies, it’s better to avoid lanolin.
  • Although lanolin is safe to use, it might cause redness, burning, or a stinging sensation. That’s why a patch test is a must! If you experience any of these symptoms, discontinue using lanolin immediately and consult a doctor.

When buying products containing lanolin, make sure that the lanolin used in the product is non-GMO and pesticide-free. Always go for products that use organic lanolin. Here are a few products that you can try out.

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The Best Skin Care Products Containing Lanolin

1. Australian Golden Lanolin

This is 100% pure pharmaceutical-grade lanolin that contains no additives. It is extracted from the wool of Merino sheep and is suitable for dry and damaged skin. It is even safe for nursing mothers and babies.

2. Wild Fern’s New Zealand Lanolin Day Creme

This is 98% natural lanolin-rich day cream. It contains collagen and placenta and claims to make your skin feel replenished. It promotes cell renewal and is good for all skin types. It is also rich in antioxidants that help fight the signs of aging.

3. Australian Lanolin Oil Day Moisturizing Cream

This lanolin day cream is extremely lightweight and keeps your skin hydrated throughout the day. It does not contain parabens and mineral oils. It is also suitable for psoriasis- and eczema-prone skin.

As long as you do not have extremely sensitive skin and are not allergic to lanolin, you can make the most of this natural skin moisturizer. Since it closely resembles your skin lipids, it can easily become your skin’s new BFF. Go ahead and give it a try. And don’t forget to let us know about your experience in the comments section below.

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  1. Studies of Skin-Hypersensitivity to Lanolin”, The Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
  2. Caring for nipples when breastfeeding”, Department of Health, Government of Western Australia

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Ramona Sinha

Ramona is a journalist-turned-content writer. She holds a Master’s degree in English Literature and has been writing for the digital world for over five years. She specializes in writing for Skin Care. She has done a certificate course titled ‘Dermatology: Trip To The Skin’, offered by Novosibirsk State University. She believes that beauty begins with a good skin care regimen and is on a mission to eliminate all toxins from her routine. She helps and guides readers in selecting products and ingredients specific to their skin type/issue. When Ramona is not working, her books and passion for music, good food, and traveling keep her busy.