The evidence suggests that lanolin has been used by humankind from Egyptian times. Having emollient effects and protecting the skin, lanolin is widely used today in cosmetic and skin care products. Why should you keep it at hand? Discover 7 lanolin benefits for the skin.
Table of contents
- What is lanolin
- Benefits for skin
- How to use it for your hair
- Side effects
- Other uses
- Why should you consider lanolin
What is lanolin?
Also known as wool grease or wool wax, lanolin is a pale-yellow wax produced by the sebaceous glands of sheep or other wool-bearing animals. The oily substance is actually sebum extracted from the wool, cleaned and refined to obtain the final product named as anhydrous lanolin. Because it easily combines with water, it is widely used for cosmetic purposes.
The refined lanolin is an organic, non-toxic, and biodegradable substance with less than three parts per million of all impurities. As for the lanolin structure, it is a mixture of wool fat and 25 to 30% water. The wool grease includes various chemical ingredients in its composition, including cholesterol and esters derived from fatty acids. Technically speaking, lanolin is a wax – not oil or fat – and melts at 38-42ºC.
When found on the sheep, lanolin oil migrates to the wool and protects the animal against weather and climatic factors. Dermatologists and scientists have observed that wool wax closely resembles the sebum produced by the human oil glands. Plus, our skin easily absorbs lanolin, which will reduce the moisture loss, protect the epidermis, and restore the elasticity and softness of the skin.
Fun fact: Despite their efforts, chemists have failed to create in the lab a substance that would duplicate the composition or performance of lanolin.
Benefits of lanolin for skin
The moisturizing agent is included in a wide range of skincare and beauty products for consumers of all ages. The studies proved that lanolin could moisturize the skin by up to 400%, so it is a significant ingredient in numerous lotions, creams, and ointments. Here are 7 uses of lanolin for the skin:
1. Repairs cracked and sore nipples due to breastfeeding. As mentioned on Australia’s Department of Health, lanolin soothes the tender skin that was damaged after nursing the baby. Once applied on the nipples, the organic ingredient profoundly moisturizes the skin and prevents it from drying out. Plus, the evidence suggests that the lanolin oil reduces nipple trauma, diminishes pain, and even prevents the cracking of the mamilla.
2. Smoothens and fixes chapped lips. Many women promise that lanolin is the perfect lip balm! The natural waxy product saturates the skin of the lips with moisture and leaves it silky smooth for hours. Are you out of your usual lip balm? Use a tiny amount of a nipple cream with lanolin, and your lips will improve their texture and appearance instantly.
3. Heals diaper rash. Did you know that the baby’s urine is so acidic, that it irritates their sensitive skin? It’s the main reason why you are advised to keep a diaper rash cream at reach and use it whenever the skin gets red and with raised bumps. When mixed with zinc oxide and other natural ingredients, lanolin will create a protective barrier between the baby’s skin and wet diaper. Thus, the skin will heal, and the discomfort will disappear. Lanolin doesn’t apply to diaper rash only: find out here why lanolin could be considered as one of the best heat rash remedies here.
4. Moisturizes the skin in patients with diabetes, according to MedlinePlus. When the blood sugar levels are too high, the skin will begin to resemble pimples. Sometimes, it can look like porcelain, and it can feel itchy and painful. When the epidermis is dry, hard, and swollen due to diabetes, you can accelerate the healing with a lanolin-rich cream. Lanolin will help to prevent possible infection, preserve the moisture in the skin, and avoid the complications of the diabetic foot.
5. Helps to repair the skin burns and protects against the damaging sun rays. Because lanolin works by creating a barrier on the surface of the skin, it will impede the evaporation of water and maintain proper levels of natural oils. Thus, you can use lanolin for sunburns and prevent the peeling of the skin, but not immediately after the sun exposure. Why? The wool wax contains alcohol, and it could make the burn feel worse.
6. Softens cuticles and restores healthy fingernails, toenails, hands, and feet. You might visit the salon every 2-3 weeks for a semi-permanent manicure, but their cuticle products aren’t as effective or hydrating as you would want. Why don’t you use some lanolin for the health and beauty of your cuticles and nails? Massage the wool wax into the skin surrounding the nails, but not before the applying the nail polish. Before leaving the cosmetic salon, ask your professional to rub some lanolin to keep your cuticles neat and intact.
7. Protects the skin from the drying effects of regular razor uses. No wonder why several manufacturers have glued lanolin patches on disposable razors! The waxy substance provides a comfortable and smooth shave for both men and women. When the skin is sensitive and gets bumpy after removing the unwanted hair, use a cream with lanolin as an aftershave balm. It has a strong odor, but you could combine it with natural essential oils (lavender, eucalyptus, mint) to change that.
How to use lanolin for hair
Since lanolin works as a powerful moisturizer, it can be used for hair, as well. Shortly after adding the natural wool wax to your hair care routine, your brittle locks will transform into strong and shiny hair. Lanolin traps water in the hair, prevents the loss of moisture, and softens the scalp strands.
Follow the experts’ recommendations and use lanolin on wet or freshly misted hair only. The waxy product will not produce the effects desired if you apply it to dry hair. That’s because the esters of fatty acids contained hold water without dissolving it. More likely, the moisture is trapped within the wool wax.
Here’s how to apply pure lanolin on your hair: take a small amount and rub it between your fingers until it melts – it might take a whole minute. When it isn’t sticky anymore, spread it onto the hair, avoiding the skin of the scalp. The product might clog the pores and make the scalp look greasy, and you want to avoid that. Leave lanolin on the hair for at least one hour, then use apple cider vinegar to clean and soften the locks even more.
Is lanolin dangerous?
Many consumers want to know whether lanolin is safe before applying it to their skin or hair. Several studies prove that pesticide residues can be found in lanolin. Although the wool wax contains 83 to 118% for less than 20% of the pesticides listed, the results comply with the requirements of U.S. and European pharmacopeias.
Furthermore, the experts can extract and clean-up pesticides from lanolin so that they would obtain a product safe for mothers and babies alike. If you are concerned and believe that you shouldn’t apply lanolin on your sore nipples – because the pesticides contained could reach to your baby – check the label of the lanolin ointment purchased. Numerous manufacturers provide lanolin harvested from sheep that graze in pesticide-free fields.
As for the lanolin allergy, it is a side effect that occurs rarely. The prevalence of allergy to wool wax is from 1.8 to 2.5%, as mentioned on the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Those who are allergic to wool might have allergic reactions when they get in contact with lanolin or skin care products with sheep wax. What are the side effects? The most common signs are skin rash (hives), nasal congestion, swelling of the tissues or lips, and redness and itching in various parts of the body.
Other uses of lanolin
You would be surprised to discover that lanolin can be used for other purposes than moisturizing the skin and softening the hair. Its water-repellent properties and its capability to create a protective barrier recommend it for non-therapeutic uses, as well.
Did you know that lanolin is added as a base in the composition of chewing gums? The versatile ingredient is used in shoe polish, rust-preventive coatings, lubricants, and numerous other commercial products. It protects leather from natural degradation process, decreases the drying time in inks, paints, and spraying varnishes, and provides waterproof properties to concrete items.
Why should you use lanolin?
Although it is popular as nipple cream, lanolin makes a great addition to your skin care toolbox and is an eco-friendly solution that will safely hydrate your hands, lips, face, and hair. When the weather is cold, and your nose is raw from constantly blowing it, lanolin will work its magic and accelerate the healing.