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Lanoline, lanolin, lanolin alcohol,

Sheep are exposed to a wide variety of weather conditions on a daily basis. To ensure that they are optimally protected from rain, dirt and moisture, their sebaceous glands secrete a substance known as lanoline, wool wax or, incorrectly, wool grease. It forms a waxy coating on the wool fibre that protects the wool from the weather. Depending on the breed of sheep, unwashed wool contains around 8.0 to 16.0 per cent lanoline in its raw state.

The light yellow, ointment-like mass with its characteristic faint odour only melts at around 40 degrees Celsius and is almost insoluble in water. Conversely, it can absorb a lot of water. And it not only protects sheep, but also human skin: to do this, it has to be centrifuged off after shearing as part of the wool washing process. This is done before the wool is combed and spun.

Even in ancient times, people valued lanoline because they already knew that the substance moisturises the skin and helps to heal wounds. And not without reason, as lanoline is similar to the fatty layer of human skin. Lanoline consists of over 95 per cent waxes, i.e., a mixture of predominantly long-chain esters, hydroxy-esters and di-esters.

Lanoline still plays an important role in skin care today. It makes the skin soft, supple and resilient and is particularly popular for dry skin areas such as the elbows, shins and knees. Rough and irritated skin can be noticeably soothed by lanoline and cracks heal faster and better. Lanoline is therefore an integral part of many creams and ointments, as well as lip balms and soaps.

However, the concentration varies greatly: In ointments and healing creams, the substance is often added in a fairly high concentration, whereas in body lotion and day cream it is usually found as a partial emulsifier alongside other emulsifiers. Lanoline also often has a soothing effect on psoriasis. So it’s a real all-rounder, especially as it is a natural product and therefore completely harmless, right? No, not quite, because the “miracle ingredient” also has its downsides. However, if you are aware of these and take a critical approach when selecting products, you are more or less on the safe side.


The disadvantages of lanoline and what consumers should look out for

First of all, lanoline always carries a small risk of allergies. However, this primarily applies to people with already damaged skin and neurodermatitis sufferers. For them, an allergy manifests itself in the form of itchy skin, eczema, pimples, reddened skin, pustules and blisters. If the dermatologist makes the appropriate diagnosis, those affected should no longer use lanoline. However, those with healthy skin can usually use products containing lanoline for skin care without any concerns.

All consumers who suffer from blemished skin should also be careful. Lanoline has long been suspected of having a comedogenic effect that promotes the development of spots and blackheads. In fact, skin creams containing lanoline form a film that is a real boon for dry skin, but is considered counterproductive for skin that is already oily or blemished. The protective film can clog the pores, leading to further impurities. People with a blemished skin type should therefore opt for lighter skin care products. In principle, however, there is nothing to be said against using lanoline on dry or normal skin.

Another disadvantage is much more serious, as it concerns the pesticide residues in wool wax. Sheep’s wool is often treated with chemicals to protect the animals from harmful parasites. It is therefore not unlikely that the pesticides are transferred directly from the wool to the lanoline, as it is obtained from this very wool. Wool wax containing pesticides can lead to unpleasant pustules and itchy skin: The application would therefore not heal or soothe the skin, but on the contrary would actually irritate it.

Another aspect concerns the species-appropriate rearing of sheep. For example, mulesing is still widespread in some countries. This involves cutting out large pieces of skin in the anus area of lambs without anaesthetic. This is to prevent the animals from being infested by flies in this particularly warm, moist and dirty area of the body. As the open wounds are often neither treated nor dressed, very painful inflammations often occur after the pieces of skin are removed. These can become so severe that the sheep suffer agonisingly and sometimes even die a slow death. However, mulesing is prohibited in Germany.

Animal welfare organisations have also repeatedly documented that the sheep are by no means treated squeamishly. Shearing becomes a real ordeal for many animals, often resulting in bloody injuries.


The solution: certified vegetarian lanoline

Of course nobody wants to rub themselves with a cream containing pesticides and of course nobody wants to accept that animals have to suffer unnecessarily. Nevertheless, nobody has to do without high-quality products containing wool wax, because the first vegetarian-certified lanoline has been on the market for some time now. It is designed to be completely pure and is produced in Europe from NPEO-free raw materials (in accordance with cGMP and ISO 9001). NPEO stands for nonylphenol ethoxylates, which have been on the REACH candidate list of substances of very high concern for several years due to their hormonal effects. NPEOs are banned as a component of preparations and formulations in concentrations above 0.1 per cent in the EU, but studies have shown that endocrine disruptors can cause damage to health even in extremely small quantities. The innovative lanoline has also been refined to such an extent that practically no traces of pesticide residues are left.

In addition, the latest generation of lanoline is not tested on animals and is produced according to strict ethical principles. Throughout the supply chain, the ethical treatment of the animals and the welfare of the sheep are always at the forefront.

The properties of the material are equally impressive. The new lanoline is both hypoallergenic and dermatologically skin-friendly and, as a lipid-rich emollient, is an excellent moisturiser. An in vivo efficacy study also showed that the depth of wrinkles was reduced by 45 to 55 per cent six hours after application. The study also showed that transepidermal water loss was reduced by 28 per cent … after a single application. This leads to the conclusion that a treatment with the first vegetarian-certified lanoline contributes to an effective preservation of skin moisture due to its film-forming ability.

Vegetarian-certified lanoline is particularly suitable for natural cosmetics, but is also recommended for lanoline-rich formulations for pharmaceutical and cosmetic purposes. These can be baby creams, breast creams, but also lotions, lip care, ointments, plasters, shampoos and hair care products. It has been both allergy-certified and vegetarian-certified since 2018.


Lanoline profile

INCI: Lanolin

CAS number: 8006-54-0

EINECS number: 232-348-6

Description: yellow substance with an ointment-like consistency

Extraction: from the secretion of the sebaceous glands of the sheep / extraction by shearing the live animals and subsequent wool washing

Water binding: 200 per cent of its own weight

Melting temperature: 45 degrees Celsius

Areas of application: Consistency enhancer in formulations, for the care of dry skin, basis for wound and healing ointments, care for the nappy area of babies, for breast care during breastfeeding, for skin care for incontinence


Lanolin alcohol profile

INCI: Lanolin Alcohol

CAS number: 8027-33-6

Obtained: from wool wax by alkaline saponification and extraction of the unsaponifiable matter

Properties: slightly lighter than lanoline, less sticky

Areas of application: as a moisturising emollient in ointments and creams



Thanks to its special properties, lanoline is ideal for the care of dry and scaly skin conditions. It is well absorbed by the skin, moisturises, has a lipid-replenishing effect and is particularly suitable for W/O emulsions. However, it is essential to ensure that it is of good quality. The wool wax should be pesticide-free and hypoallergenic as far as possible, and animal welfare should also be taken into account during production. Cosmacon will of course be happy to help you develop a suitable formulation.



Diagnosing lanoline contact allergy with lanoline alcohol and Amerchol L101. Knijp J, Bruynzeel DP, Rustemeyer T.Contact Dermatitis. 2019 May;80(5):298-303

Lanoline for the treatment of nipple pain in breastfeeding women: a randomized controlled trial. Jackson KT, Dennis CL.Matern Child Nutr. 2017 Jul;13(3):e12357.

Clinical relevance of positive patch test reactions to lanoline: A ROAT study. Uldahl A, Engfeldt M, Svedman C.Contact Dermatitis. 2021 Jan;84(1):41-49

Structure, Rheological and Sensory Properties of Some Animal Wax Based Oleogels. Yılmaz E, Uslu EK, Toksöz B.J Oleo Sci. 2020 Oct 7;69(10):1317-1329