Lanolin is a soft, yellow, waxy substance, and though it is made up of mostly esters, alcohols and fatty acids, lanolin is much more of a wax than an oil or butter. Lanolin from Saffire Blue can be purchased in a solid (anhydrous lanolin) or liquid (hydrous lanolin) form. Its waxy nature and high availability makes it the ideal ingredient for wax-based products such as shoe polish, leather softener and lubricant for machinery, but unbeknownst to most consumers, lanolin is also an extremely common ingredient in the much more intimate world of skincare and hair care products!
Lanolin comes from the sebaceous glands of sheep – the glands that produce oil – and serves to protect the woolly coats of these animals from the elements, as well as to make their coats very oily and water-proof.
Lanolin’s popularity in the world of cosmetics can be attributed to its versatility. In both skincare and hair care, lanolin can be used very much in the same way that it is used on the coats of sheep. When applied to skin and hair, lanolin has the ability to mimic our body’s natural sebum. This means that for persons with dry skin or hair, lanolin can act as a perfect replacement for their under-produced sebum. Lanolin also traps water on the hair or skin, which can also be a lifesaver to persons with severe cases of dry skin or those with textured (wavy, curly, coily, kinky) hair.
When using lanolin, skin and hair are made soft, pliable and supple without having to use expensive products or chemicals that can irritate the skin and scalp. Here are a few of lanolin’s most prized benefits:
- Perfect for chronically dry skin
For pesky areas that seem to be ever dry, lanolin’s fatty acids deeply moisturize, able to restore the skin without leaving a greasy feel or having to spend money on a commercial skincare product. For those with oily skin, lanolin may not be the best choice, but for those with dry and even normal skin, a small dab of lanolin is fantastic for dry elbows, dry knees and chapped lips.
- Keeps skin looking plump
Because lanolin moisturizes so effectively, it greatly improves the look of skin. When used regularly, lanolin can have the same effect as the most expensive, brand-name face creams but for less than half the price. It also keeps skin looking youthful, fresh and radiant for longer – as lanolin mimics the skin’s natural sebum, it has the ability to prevent premature wrinkling and sagging of skin.
- Keeps hair moist
Just as it is able to deeply moisturize skin, lanolin’s fatty acids work to moisturize hair and keep it supple, pliable and free from breakage. For damaged and dry hair, lanolin can be used to replace a daily moisturizer. In addition, due to its ability to trap water, it can also be used as a natural and inexpensive leave-in conditioner to boost hair’s moisture levels, as it keeps it hydrated for a longer period.
- Naturally conditions hair
When the scalp secretes sebum, this sebum travels down the length of the hair strand to act as a natural conditioner to protect hair and keep it soft. As mentioned, lanolin acts like our skin and hair’s sebum, so it can be used in the same way. Whether you continue to use a commercial conditioner or not is solely up to you, but simply using lanolin after your shower can be all you need for that softness and shine that is a sure sign of healthy hair.
- Can be used in place of butters to ‘seal’ hair
For textured hair, ‘sealing’ is often a must. ‘Sealing’ refers to the act of sealing moisture into the hair by applying a heavier oil or butter to the hair after moisturizing. Due to lanolin’s waxy and heavy texture, it is ideal for this purpose. What makes lanolin even more suited to sealing is its water-trapping ability. It effectively seals moisture into the hair whilst simultaneously keeping a supply of water near to the hair strand to prevent your locks from becoming dehydrated – moisture and sealing in one simple application.
- Soothe itchy or irritated skin
Lanolin has long been used to soothe certain skin conditions that leave your skin itchy and irritated. Its deep moisturizing abilities allow it to soothe such skin sensations without containing any harmful or further irritating chemicals. Lanolin can be successfully used on a myriad of skin conditions, including burns, diaper rash, minor itches and eczema.
- Moisturize scalp
Without a healthy scalp, hair growth can be slow or even nonexistent. Sebum helps to moisturize not only the hair, but also the scalp. A well-moisturized scalp is free from flakes and dryness, which often cause discomfort and other hindrances in healthy hair growth. When applied to the scalp, lanolin can soothe any itching and irritation that may exist, and go on to keep the scalp deeply moisturized to prevent any reoccurrence of such conditions.
- Coats hair and skin without suffocating it
When looking at lanolin and noticing its waxy nature, you may believe that it is too heavy for your skin and hair. However, lanolin’s waxy nature does not allow it to fall into the category of mineral oils and petrolatum, which are both made from the refining of crude oil. Mineral oil and petrolatum can be found in every single type of ‘moisturizing’ product, but their effects are barely so. These ingredients coat the hair, allowing it to seem shiny and therefore healthy, but this coating is impermeable. It suffocates skin and hair, and does not allow for the absorption of water or other nutrients. To remove them, shampoo or another sulfate-containing cleanser is needed, many of which dry out hair and damage it. On the other hand, lanolin’s coating abilities are far more superior. Your skin and hair strands are still able to breathe and to absorb water, which means that there is no need to shampoo or wash your face/skin every time you use it.
As earlier mentioned, lanolin is widely used in modern day cosmetics. Thanks to its softening, moisturizing and water-retaining abilities, here are a few common uses of lanolin in cosmetic products.
Lanolin’s softening and moisturizing properties come into play in many shaving creams on the market today. Along with other ingredients, lanolin helps to soften the hair for a cleaner, smoother shave and skin that is less likely to develop razor bumps or other forms of irritation. Additionally, lanolin helps to leave skin moisturized and supple even after the shaving cream is washed off. Using a facial moisturizer afterward can further boost the look and feel of your skin.
Creams and Lotions
Just as lanolin provides deep moisture for the face in shaving creams, it does the same for the entire body when used in body creams and lotions. Using lanolin in a skin lotion allows the lotion to be more readily absorbed by the skin, as opposed to simply sitting on top of it without penetrating. For those who desire the benefits of lanolin but dislike the smell, a skin cream or lotion containing lanolin is perfect, as it retains the softening and hydrating properties while providing you with a wide variety of scents to choose from.
Lanolin is perfect for organic handcrafted soaps. If you’re a soapmaker or a consumer looking for a more natural soap, lanolin is ideal. Soaps that contain lanolin are often softer than commercial soap bars. These soaps also moisturize skin better and do not irritate skin like many store-bought soaps often do.
Lanolin is the perfect moisturizing ingredient. Its versatility, effectiveness and inexpensiveness make it a highly underrated product when it comes to hair and skin care. So whether you’re looking to whip up your own hair/skin cream, butter or leave-in conditioner, the possibilities are endless.