Hair conditioning
Film-forming agent
Skin conditioning
CAS Number(s)
EINECS number(s)

Lanolin is obtained from the wax found on sheep wool after shearing; this substance is then refined and purified to cosmetic specifications. It is an anhydrous wax ester taken from the fleece of sheep. Its odor is characteristic and can be sticky in large quantities in formulations.

Rich in cholesterol, lanolin is well suited for treating brittle hair, fingernails, and dry and raw elbows, knees, and feet. It is a fantastic emollient, skin lubricant, and protectant, particularly helpful in winter when extremes of temperature and wind can harm the skin.

Lanolin is an extraordinary natural emollient, able to imitate and augment many of the functions of human skin lipids. The moisturization properties of lanolin are well documented, as it spontaneously emulsifies water and can hold over 200% of its weight, acting as a natural moisture reservoir to help maintain the water content of the skin.

Lanolin is also helpful in natural cosmetic formulations as it adds thickness and 'body' to creams and salves without chemical thickeners. It is a good choice for dry skin and pomades that protect and add shine to wavy, textured hair. Extra-purified lanolin is used to treat chapped or irritated nipples during breastfeeding.

The ability of lanolin to form semi-permeable films can help repair skin barrier function. Lanolin films of ~ 50 μm in thickness have been shown to reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL) rate by ~32% and have been proven superior to those of ceramides, glycerol, and petrolatum.

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