Ingredient Decoder: Lanolin

Don’t be sheepish: this über-moisturizing emollient (derived from wool) can be used for everything from softening callouses to soothing irritated skin.

What It Is

Also known as wool wax or wool grease, lanolin is a yellow wax produced by wool-bearing animals like sheep.

Where It Comes From

Special mechanical rollers extract the useful wax from harvested wool.

Where You Find It

Everything from shoe polish and leather softeners to lubricants for machinery and musical instruments. However, it’s most commonly found in skin and hair products like lip balms, shaving creams, and leave-in conditioners.

How It Works

Lanolin supplements your skin’s natural oils by creating a protective barrier that shields against environmental damage and prevents the evaporation of water. It also absorbs moisture, forming a secondary moisture reservoir within the skin.

What It’s Good For

Treating dry skin, chafing, cuts, and rashes. The powerful emollient also has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties that help protect against infection. Plus, because lanolin is so similar to the oils produced by the human skin, it acts as a carrier to deliver everything from essential oils to pharmaceuticals subcutaneously. In Lucky Tiger Head to Tail Muscle Rub, for example, lanolin speeds the absorption eucalyptus, peppermint, and menthol oil, all of which work to relieve muscular aches and pains.

Good to Know

Lanolin was once an ingredient no-no due to consumer-reported allergies—but further studies showed that only an infinitesimal percentage of the population (around four to six per million) is allergic to lanolin. As a good rule of thumb, if you’re allergic to wool, you’re probably allergic to lanolin.

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