What Is Lanolin Oil?

Lumara Lee

Lanolin oil comes from the waxy substance found on sheep's wool. Also known as wool wax, it is produced by a sheep’s sebaceous glands. Lanolin is water repellant to protect sheep from wet, cold conditions. Sheep need to be sheared at least once a year or else their thick fleece becomes too hot for them to tolerate summer temperatures. The wool is then boiled to extract the lanolin.

Lanolin oil can be used instead of mineral oil in skin care products.
Lanolin oil can be used instead of mineral oil in skin care products.

This oil contains antibacterial and antifungal properties to help prevent a sheep’s skin from becoming infected. Lanolin is composed of organic compounds, including fatty acids and wax esters. These fatty constituents make lanolin oil a popular ingredient in body care products, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical creams.

Lanolin oil may be used in shoe polishes.
Lanolin oil may be used in shoe polishes.

In its natural state, lanolin has a yellow tint and an unpleasant odor. At room temperature it maintains a solid, waxen state. After the lanolin oil is extracted from the wool and processed, it becomes a liquid. It loses its foul odor after it is refined further for use in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.

Lanolin is an emollient, emulsifier, and humectant. These properties make it a popular ingredient in skin and hair care products. Lanolin is commonly used in scalp and hair conditioners because it softens skin and protects it from becoming irritated. Lanolin moisturizes and promotes skin’s elasticity and suppleness, and can be substituted for mineral oil in any skin care product.

This substance has been used for thousands of years. It can be found in medical texts that date as far back as 2,000 years for use as a healing ointment. Lanolin can relieve skin diseases such as eczema. It can also protect skin from becoming too dry after prolonged exposure to water or wind.

Lanolin is a common ingredient in saddle soaps and leather cleaning products. It is used in the leather tanning process, and baseball players often use lanolin oil to soften their gloves. Lanolin oil is also used in shoe polishes to give footwear a glossy shine.

Its water-repellant properties make lanolin a popular anti-corrosive and lubricating grease in various industrial applications. Lanolin oil is commonly applied to ferrous metals as a protective coating to prevent rust. Its ability to prevent rust has been well-known for centuries. During medieval times, lanolin oil was used to coat tools and knights’ armor. Lanolin oil adheres very well to metals and is responsible for the preservation of many ancient relics.

Lanolin is a waxy substance found on sheep's wool.
Lanolin is a waxy substance found on sheep's wool.

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Discussion Comments


Pure lanolin oil does not have an oil consistency. The consistency is thicker, kind of like petroleum jelly. I mix my lanolin oil with olive oil or coconut oil before using it on my skin for this reason. But this bottle is probably going to last me two years.


@ddljohn-- I've been using pure lanolin oil as a heavy-duty skin moisturizer for a few years now and I highly recommend it. Lanolin oil is definitely easier to apply than regular lanolin and it works great. The one I have does not have a scent. If you're interested in a specific brand, you may want to read to reviews that it doesn't have a scent as well.

In addition to moisturizing skin, you can also use lanolin oil to waterproof fabrics. My sister uses lanolin oil to waterproof my nephew's diaper cover.


A friend of mine suggested lanolin for my dry, cracked hands. He said that his dad has the same issue and uses lanolin for it. Apparently, lanolin is also used for animals, to hydrate and protect their skin as well.

I'm not sure what type of lanolin product I should get though. I know that I want something pure, natural and scent free. I've heard that lanolin cream is very thick and a little difficult to spread. So I'm thinking of trying lanolin oil instead.

Has anyone used lanolin oil for dry skin? Did you like it and did it work?

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