What Is Lanolin? Here’s What to Know About the Emollient

November 16, 2020
Alanna Martine Kilkeary
By: Alanna Martine Kilkeary | skincare.com by L'Oréal
What Is Lanolin? Here’s What to Know About the Emollient

If you’ve tested a fraction of the types of moisturizers we have, you’ve likely come across the ingredient lanolin. This waxy additive works as an emollient and can be found in various skin-care creams, moisturizing ointments and lip balms. Although it can be useful for those with dry skin, it can also be irritating to some. Below, board-certified dermatologists Rachel Nazarian, M.D., of Schweiger Dermatology and Carl Thornfield, M.D., of Epionce Skincare explain why this is the case. 

What Is Lanolin?

According to Dr. Nazarian, lanolin is a type of wool wax that is derived from sheep and is used as an emollient moisturizer. “If your skin is overly dry, irritated and cracked, you can benefit from lanolin because it’s hydrating and can help with the loss of moisture from the skin,” she says. 

Dr. Thornfield adds that lanolin provides a skin-smoothing effect and has a semi-occlusive that can help replenish the skin barrier more effectively than glycerin or petrolatum. This is why it’s a great option for those who are prone to severely dry or eczemic skin. 

Why Do Some People React Negatively to Lanolin?

Dr. Thornfield and Dr. Nazarian both note that if you are allergic to wool products, or feel itchy after using a skin-care product with lanolin in it, you may be allergic to the ingredient. If you suspect you are, you’ll notice that you develop contact dermatitis, or a skin rash, after applying a lanolin product. “I also recommend that those with acne-prone skin should avoid using it to prevent risk of increasing their breakouts, as lanolin is essentially the skin oil from sheep,” says Dr. Nazarian. You can always do a small patch test on your skin to see how it reacts if you’re concerned. 

How to Incorporate Lanolin Into Your Routine

If no irritation occurs, incorporating lanolin into your routine is easy. We recommend the Lano Lanolin Everywhere Multi-Cream to get started. You can use this anywhere from your head to your toes, and it will leave your skin feeling conditioned and silky smooth. “I love lanolin for exceptionally dry areas of the body that are challenging to hydrate: the cuticles of our nails, heels of our feet, lips and even nipples for breastfeeding mothers,” says Dr. Nazarian. To add it into your routine seamlessly, use it as the final step in your skin-care regimen!  

Photo: Chaunte Vaughn

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