Sheep are exposed to all sorts of weather every day. Their sebaceous glands excrete a secretion that protects them against rain and wetness. That substance is lanolin, also called wool wax or, not quite correct, wool fat. It covers the wool fiber with a waxy film that isolates the wool from weather factors. Dependent on the sheep race, the crude, not yet washed wool contains 8.0 to 16.0 percent lanolin.
The pale yellow, greasy substance has a typical, slight smell. It melts at 40 degree Celsius and is almost insoluble in water. On the other hand, it is able to absorb much water. It does not only protect sheep but also human skin. For that purpose, is must be separated by centrifugation in the course of washing the wool after shearing. That takes place before combing and spinning the wool.
Already in ancient times, people knew about the value of lanolin. The substance replenishes skin lipids and supports wound healing. The reason is that wool wax is similar to the lipidic film of human skin. Lanolin consists of over 95 percent of waxes which are mixes of long-chain esters, hydroxy esters and di-esters.
Positive effects from wool wax
Lanolin is an important player also in today’s skincare. It softens and smooths skin, strengthens its resistance and is ideal for dry skin areas like elbows, shin-bones and knees. It soothes rough or irritated skin and promotes the healing of cracked skin. Lanolin is a proven component in many creams, ointments, lip care sticks and soaps. Its concentration varies widely. High percentages are used in ointments and healing creams. In body lotions and day creams, lanolin often is used as a co-emulsifier together with other emulsifiers.
In many cases of psoriasis lanolin has an alleviating effect.
It seems to be a real multitalented miracle performer. On top of all the benefits, it is a natural product and therefore absolutely safe … isn’t it? There actually are some dark sides. If you know them and are critical in the selection of the products you are on the safe side.
The disadvantages of lanolin and facts important to consumers
It is a matter of fact that lanolin always has a slight allergy risk. That primarily affects persons with pre-damaged skin or neurodermatitis. The symptoms of allergy are itching, eczema, pimples, red spots, pustules and blisters. If the dermatologist makes the corresponding diagnosis, the affected person should stop using wool wax. In general, persons with healthy skin can use products with lanolin without risk.
Persons with blemished skin should be careful. Wool wax has been suspected of a comedogenic effect causing pimples and blackheads. Lanolin-containing products in fact build a film that is beneficial for dry skin but rather counterproductive to oily or even blemished skin. This protective film may clog the pores and cause even more blemishes. Persons with oily and/or blemished skin should prefer lighter skincare products. However, there are no objections to the use of lanolin for dry or normal skin.
Another disadvantage is more serious: the residues of pesticides in wool wax. The sheep’s wool is treated with chemicals to protect the animals against harmful parasites. It is not improbable that the pesticides are absorbed by the lanolin which is derived from the wool. Wool wax contaminated by pesticides can cause annoying pustules and itching skin. The effects of the use would be irritating instead of healing or calming.
A further aspect is the ethical treatment of the sheep. In some countries the so-called mulesing is still wide-spread. Large skin areas in the anus region of the lambs are cut out without anesthetizing. The measure is to prevent the infestation of this particularly warm, moist and dirty body region with flies. In many cases, the open wounds are not treated or dressed after the removal of the skin areas and very painful inflammations result. The inflammations cause agonizing pains to the animals and even cases of lengthy dying. In Germany, mulesing is forbidden
Several documentations by animal protection organizations denounce the cruel manner in which sheep are treated. The shearing for many animals is a real torture often leaving bloody injuries.
The solution: Vegetarian certified lanolin
Of course, nobody wants to apply a pesticide-contaminated cream on one’s skin or accept unnecessary animal suffering. There is an alternative that allows to use high-quality products with wool wax. Recently, the first vegetarian certified lanolin has been introduced in the market. Its focus is on total purity. It is made of NPEO-free raw material (in accordance with cGMP and ISO 9001) in Europe. NEPO is the abbreviation of nonylphenol ethoxylates, due to their hormonal effect registered in the REACH candidate list of substances of very high concern already for some years. In the EU, it is forbidden to use concentrations of NPEO over 0.1 percent in preparations and formulations. Studies show that even extremely small quantities of hormone-active harmful substances could damage health. The innovative lanolin is highly refined and practically free of pesticide residues.
The lanolin of the most recent generation is not tested on animals and produced in accordance with strict ethical principles. The whole chain of supply complies with the ethical treatment of animals and the welfare of the sheep.
The properties of the substance are extraordinary. The new lanolin is hypoallergenic and dermatologically gentle to skin. Being a lipid-rich emollient, it is an excellent moisturizer.
An in-vivo effectiveness study proved that the depth of wrinkles decreased by 45 to 55 percent within six hours after application. The study also revealed a reduction of transepidermal water loss by 28 percent … after only one application. That allows the conclusion that the application of the first vegetarian certified lanolin, thanks to is film-forming property, supports the effective moisture retention in skin.
Vegetarian certified lanolin is ideal for natural cosmetics and also is recommendable for lanolin-rich formulations for pharmaceutic and cosmetic purposes. It can be used in baby creams, bust creams as well as lotions, lip care products, ointments, plasters, shampoos and hair treatment products.
It has been allergy-certified and vegetarian certified since 2018.
Portrait Wool wax
CAS number: 8006-54-0
EINECS number: 232-348-6
Description: yellow substance of greasy texture
Extraction: from the secretion of the sebaceous glands of sheep / obtained by shearing the living animals and subsequent wool washing
Water retention: 200 percent of its weight
Melting temperature: 45 degree Celsius
Fields of use: consistency regulator in formulations. Care of dry skin, basis of wound and healing ointments, baby care for the diaper area, care for the breast area during the period of breast-feeding, skincare for states of incontinency
Portrait Wool wax alcohol
INCI: Lanolin Alcohol
CAS number: 8027-33-6
Extraction: from wool wax by alkaline saponification and extraction of the unsaponifiable
Properties: slightly lighter than lanolin, less sticky
Fields of use: lipid-replenishing emollient in ointments and creams
Thanks to its special properties, lanolin is excellently suitable for the care of dry and flaky skin states. It is perfectly accepted by skin, moisturizes, replenishes lipids. Wool wax is ideal for W/O emulsions. It is essential that it is of best quality. The wool wax should be free of pesticides to the largest possible degree, and hypoallergenic. Animal welfare should be an essential factor in production. Cosmacon supports you to develop a formulation that meets the high demands.