Did you know that ancient Greek and Roman sheep farmers had silky smooth and hydrated hands? Their secret was lanolin, a substance that comes from sheep.
When the beauty industry discovered this secret, every brand started adding lanolin to all its moisturizing potions and lotions. Until the ’60s. That’s when a lot of people started reporting an allergy to lanolin.
Its newly acquired bad reputation caused a lot of brands to drop it like a hot potato. But recently, it has gained a new popularity. How is that possible? Well, it seems that lanolin was unfairly maligned…
What Is Lanolin?
Lanolin, also called “wool fat” or “wool wax” (not the most appealing of nicknames, are they?), is a thick, greasy and yellow substance secreted by the sebaceous glands of sheep.
Its job is to protect sheep from harsh weather conditions. It works by acting as a waterproof barrier: when these animals are out in the cold and rain for hours, they won’t get cold (aren’t you just a little bit jealous?).
How Is Lanolin Collected?
You’ll be happy to know that collecting lanolin doesn’t harm sheep. Once they are sheared, lanolin is extracted from their wool before it is washed.
Before it is used in cosmetics, lanolin undergoes a purifying process. All its impurities, like allergens and pesticides used by farmers, are removed. Then, lanolin is tested to make sure it is safe to be put on the skin. Phew!
Why Is Lanolin Used In My Beauty Products?
Lanolin is so popular because it is a fantastic moisturizer for skin, nails and hair. It prevents water loss and acts like a lubricant, making skin soft and smooth.
That’s not all. Because it blends so well with most of the other cosmetics ingredients, it is also used to help form emulsions.
Sounds Great! So, Why Did Lanolin Get A Bad Reputation?
Although Lanolin had been used for centuries by ancient people for its effective moisturizing properties, in the ’60s concerns about its safety emerged.
Why in the ’60s? 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, giving people allergic reactions. Scary stuff, huh?
So, Is Lanolin Really Bad Then?
Well no. Because Lanolin was so popular and widely used, scientists set out to work about making it safe straight away.
As mentioned above, these days, lanolin is purified before it is added to cosmetics, and not very likely to cause allergic reactions (unless your skin is super sensitive!)
A study published in the British Journal Of Dermatology in 2001 illustrates “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)”.
This is a fancy way to say that allergies to lanolin are rare. So, unless you used a product with lanolin and had a bad reaction (which is something any ingredient can cause), there is no need to avoid it.
The only real concern about lanolin is that it is mildly comedogenic. If you’re prone to breakouts, this is not something you want to put on your skin.
What Are The Best Products With Lanolin?
Some of my favourite moisturizers with lanolin are DHC Olive Leaf Milk, Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant, and Lancome Nutrix Soothing Treatment Cream for Dry To Very Dry/Sensitive Skin.
They are all very moisturizing and keep even dry skin soft and hydrated for hours. Keep in mind, though, that they are all very basic formulas. They can moisturize skin, but not fight premature aging. For that, you need a serum chock full with antioxidants.
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 is safe, and very moisturizing!
Do you use products with lanolin? If so, what are your favourites?