Lanolin is a wax produced by sheep — yes, you read that right. It’s secreted by their skin and mingles with their wool, which keeps them from getting waterlogged in the rain. When the wool is processed, of course, the lanolin is squeezed out. You’ve probably heard of it as an ingredient in soap and lotions. It’s sometimes recommended for dry skin, wrinkles, and other skin issues caused by harsh weather.
Is it the product for you? You can decide based on the pros and cons.
Pro: It’s completely natural. Even the dark amber color is just the way it comes. Though it’s sometimes compared to petroleum jelly, unlike that substance it’s all non-artificial.
Con: Paying $12 for half a cup of something great-grandma could’ve grabbed off a passing sheep at no cost.
Pro: A tiny bit goes a long way.
Con: Lanolin tends to sit on the skin as a barrier rather than sinking in to moisturize it. (This is one way it is similar to petroleum jelly). You can offset this by mixing it with water — but it’s not something you can just splash out of the bottle and apply in one step.
Pro: It lasts a long time — up to eight hours before your skin begins to feel dry again.
Con: Lanolin is a thick, sticky liquid that leaves a sticky feeling on your skin. If you use it on your face or neck, you’ll have to wait a while before putting on your makeup. Again, this isn’t something you can use in a hurry.
Pro: Reports of allergic reactions to lanolin have been greatly exaggerated.Though ads often brag that products are “lanolin-free,” implying there’s something harmful about it, the University of Pennsylvania says, “In fact, lanolin is at most a weak contact allergen . . . Lanolin allergy is a myth created mainly by overzealous professional patch testers.”
Con: The smell. There’s no denying that. It’s hard to describe — not rancid or sheep-like or anything, just somehow stale and unpleasant, a little like wet paint. You can get rid of the smell by mixing the lanolin with a better-smelling liquid — for example, cocoa oil and maybe a little vanilla extract. Still, it’s one more complication in using this “simple” product.
If it’s very important to you to use all-natural products, and if you have a little patience, lanolin can be great. Otherwise, you’ll have to decide whether it’s worth it for you.