Lanolin is a wax that comes from wool of animals. Mostly, wools from sheep is used to extract it. Lanolin is a naturally-forming, yellowish-waxy substance. It is also called 'wool wax'. However, many people tend to call it as 'wool fat' which is an incorrect term. The role of lanolin in nature is to protect the wool and skin of animal against harsh climate and environment. Apart from this it also helps to maintain good skin hygiene of the animals. It has waterproofing property, which helps to remove water from their coats. Some breeds of sheep produce a large amount of lanolin. Wool from one Merino sheep can produce 250 - 300 ml of wool grease. To extract it the wool is washed in hot water with a special detergent which aids in removal of dirt, sweat salts, crude lanolin, and other impurities. The refined waterless substance is called lanolin anhydrous.
After using lanolin some people might experience allergy. This is mostly because during the extraction some impurities were not removed. Many people advise against using it as it can contain some impurities from pesticides or it can contain other chemicals. Many times sheep are sprayed with medicine to prevent any parasitic infections, also sheep can come in contact with pesticides from the grass. However, this can be prevented by buying lanolin cream, oil, or any other product which contains lanolin of the highest grade.
For cosmetic purposes it is mostly used as a moisturizer. It is an excellent emollient. It is a better emollient than petrolatum and glycerin. There is a chemical similarity between human skin and lanolin. Due to the physical and chemical properties of lanolin it makes a great skin care product. One can buy pure refined lanolin at a pharmacy. Pure form will be yellowish in color. There are also many cosmetics which contain it as an emollient. Lanolin creams are available as body creams, night creams, cold creams, and vanishing creams. It is also used as an ingredient in many sunscreen lotions. It is also used to make soap as it helps to minimize dehydration of the skin. It is added in hair products for conditioner. It is also used in lip gloss to enhance the property.
It is also used in many foundation creams as an emollient, emulsifier, stabilizer, and skin moisturizer. It is a commonly used ingredient in aftershaves. It is also used in hair sprays, hair bleaching agents, and shampoos. It is also used in oil-based skin cosmetics as it helps to moisturize and control viscosity.
Being an excellent skin protector, it is approved as a food additive in chewing gum bases and is also used in ophthalmic emollients. It can penetrate into deeper layers of the skin, hence it is used to a certain extent to heal skin. It is used to treat wounds, burns, and acne. It also functions as antimicrobial and disinfectant on the human skin. It is widely used in pigmented medications. Also, it is used in deodorizing toiletries and as an antimicrobial agent. It is used in ophthalmic ointments as an emollient which has low-irritation potential. It is also used in surgical adhesive tapes. Many women after giving birth are recommended a lanolin-based product to relieve sore chapped nipples. It is important that for such purpose high-quality lanolin products are used, which are free from any impurities.
It is also valuable for many industrial applications. It is a strong rust prevention product and has great protective properties for ferrous metals. It is environment friendly and has a good adhesive tendency to metal surfaces. It is applied to metal surfaces like grease. Seawater tanks and ships can be rust protected with low-viscosity lanolin products. Though it is called wax it also acts as a grease, and hence can be used as a lubricant. It is used for lubricating and conserving many machine parts. It is also used in products like shoe polish and in products which are used to protect and treat leather. It is also used as a raw material to produce vitamin D3. Lanolin shaving cream is often used by baseball players to soften and break in their baseball gloves.
There are many over-the-counter lanolin products that one can use. These products are safe to use, however, consult a dermatologist if you are using a medical ointment which contains lanolin. If you are thinking of using a lanolin-based product then first do a patch skin test to see if you are allergic to it.