Lanolin – is it worth it being in your skincare products?

Today on OiB I will be discussing about Lanolin; what it actually is, its uses and drawbacks. On the surface, Lanolin looks pretty effective and safe to use as it softens and protects your skin by quickly absorbing into your skin without clogging any pores. Oh, and no animals are hurt in the harvestating of Lanolin

What is Lanolin?

In simple English, Lanolin is the wax derived from a sheep’s wool, after the sheep has been shorn. The sheep is not hurt in this process but hey, no one ever enjoys their fur being cut off. But, the people responsible for this (cutting the fur off) specialize in this field. They do this very promptly and within minutes the sheep is back in its herd.

The clipped wool is covered with wool fat. Which is a natural pale-yellow, and water resistant wax. The purpose of this is to ensure the sheep stays dry and healthy. This wool fat is extracted by boiling the wool. This is called crude lanolin.

Refining: Essential for Safe Use

After the wax has been properly extracted. The next step is to refine this wax and remove any impurities it may contain. A recent documentary made by PBS on Lanolin showed them (PBS) purifying the wax by mixing it water and olive oil. This enabled the impurity to dissolve into the water, leaving only the off-white wax which can then be easily gathered.

Commercially, the process of purifying lanolin is pretty different. The process has many stages and is usually done in a sterile environment. This refining process is necessary to ensure the safety of using Lanolin. Lanolin can either be refined crudely or refined to a medical level, all this depends on the manufacturer and the demand. However, crude lanolin will still have some impurities whereas the medical grade lanolin is the purest and can be used by nursing mothers for use on cracked nipples.

So Why the Bad Image?

Even with all the benefits of Lanolin, you must be wondering that why it is not mainstream and not getting the recognition it deserves? Well, the answer is quite simple.

You see that Lanolin has two major problems:

  1. Even if it is refined to cosmetic grade. It will still contain impurities and there’s a high chance that they could be allergens. So if you’re prone to allergic reactions you will suffer from allergy. In this case, it is worth mentioning that Lanolin itself isn’t allergic but the impurities in Lanolin that weren’t totally finished during the refinement process cause allergic reaction. Furthermore, to whiten the color some manufacturers use chemical bleach. Also, the finished product is mixed with vegetable oils or soft paraffin’s which is derived from other sources. These impurities could have some additives.
  2. Not all, but some Lanolin can be polluted by DDT, dieldrin, lindane and other harmful pesticides. It is highly likely that these chemicals could get into our skincare products because the sheep could be eating food that has been specially treated with these or other pesticides.

How to ensure the safety of Your Lanolin:

The two problems I mentioned above can easily be solved if you buy your Lanolin from a well-established company; which can be trusted; and has known presence – with proper contact details and labelling on the product. To be 100% sure be certain that pure grade, fine grade, highly refined, or medical grade is mentioned on the label.  If you have any confusion regarding this, get in touch with the company and ask them about the grade. Remember, the best Lanolin is one that is free from any impure particles or harmful chemicals.

As a responsible citizen and human, it is your responsibility to check that any skin care product you buy has not been tested on animals.

Lastly, please note that Lanolin itself isn’t going to cause any allergic reactions. But, just to be on the safe side you should always consult your doctor before applying anything that will be absorbed by your body and as always feel free to comment your thoughts about Lanolin and share any experience(s) which will be helpful to our readers.


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