Can Lanolin Be Cruelty-Free?



by Becky // in Beauty

Lanolin is a waxy oil that comes from sheep. Once curated, it can treat dry skin and hair as well as be used for treating tanned leather and polishing equipment.

To curate lanolin, sheep wool must be stripped and processed through either centrifugal separation or solvent extraction. So this begs the questions, can lanolin be cruelty-free?

Can Lanolin Be Cruelty-Free?

The collection of lanolin is cruelty-free. However, sheep are often bred for the meat industry because that is where their main financial value lies. However, if the lanolin is curated from sheep that are bred for wool production, then no harm to the animals is necessary.

Lanolin is one of the most potent natural moisturizers available, holding up to 400% of its moisture weight. Luckily for us, it can help boost our protective skin barrier’s strength – which we need because it slowly weakens as we age and are exposed to harms like pollution or the sun.

Can Lanolin Be Cruelty-Free?

Lanolin being removed from a sheep

Acting as a breathable skin barrier, the benefits of lanolin on the human skin are tenfold. It is possible to collect lanolin from the wool of sheep without harming them or negatively affecting them. The purpose of lanolin is to condition and moisturize the skin on sheep. Once humans discovered this, they began extracting it from sheep wool for the human body.

Often, the products that humans collect from animals are at the expense of the animal's well-being. In this case, it is possible to give sheep a good haircut and use the cut wool to extract lanolin. Lanolin is an intense moisturizer used to treat dry, itchy, scaly, and cracking skin. Whether used on a baby's bottom or in shampoo, it is a useful product.

  • Baby oil
  • Shampoo
  • Hemorrhoid medications
  • Diaper rash treatment
  • Skin creams
  • Lipstick
  • Nipple cream

Lanolin is one of the best forms of hydration that humankind has found. There are three types of lanolin:

  • Unpurified, raw lanolin – This is the purest form of lanolin. Dark in appearance and thick in consistency, this form is not sold on the market.
  • Medical grade lanolin – This form of lanolin is a dark yellow color. It is used in hospitals and for official medical treatments.
  • Marketable medical grade lanolin – This is the most "watered down" form of lanolin. Apparent to the eye and used in lotions and shampoos that can be sold in stores.

How Lanolin Works

Lanolin is a type of oil that has the consistency of lotion. It is referred to as "wool fat," because it comes from a sheep’s oil-producing glands under its skin. These glands help lubricate the hair as it grows.

Humans also have these oil glands all over our bodies, and they mature during your teenage years. This is one of the main reasons many teenagers struggle with oily hair, skin and even acne.

However, what is important to know is that this ‘wool fat’ does not come from a sheep’s body fat at all. It is a natural set of oils that are produced under their skin and released into their woolie coats.

Lanolin is a natural emollient, meaning that it can successfully protect, repair, and maintain the health of your skin barrier. It is so potent that it can reduce the amount of water your skin loses every day by up to thirty percent.

Even though this product is for topical use only, the lanolin soaks into the skin under the surface and creates a protective shield between your body's natural moisture and the dry skin on the surface. Not to mention the thick consistency of lanolin is perfect for healing and restoring both skin and hair.

Reasons why lanolin is a great moisturizer for the human skin:

  • Natural – it is a completely natural product. It is not processed or made with artificial ingredients.
  • Aids the skin – it treats dry skin and helps to retrain your skin to moisturize itself from the inside out.
  • Safe – it is safe for topical use on the skin. It is a natural product that allows for safe and comfortable use on the human body.
  • Durable –  not only does it moisturize the skin after it is applied, but it has long-lasting effects on your actual skin’s health that can't be matched by synthetic products.

How Is Lanolin Collected?

Lanolin is collected by washing sheep wool with a unique tool that is like a comb. When cleaning the wool, a special scouring detergent is used to eliminate all dirt and bacteria. The end goal is to save all of the waxy lanolin that is within the wool.

The wool that can be found on a Merino sheep can collect anywhere from 200-350 ml of wool grease. This is what the lanolin will be created from after all of the unneeded parts are extracted from the wool.

Through a separation process, fatty salts, dirt, and other impurities are extracted in hot water before the lanolin can be collected. The harvested wool wax is dark and greasy, with a strong odor of sheep wool. As it takes the form of a thick paste, it can be used for technical applications at this stage.

After separation through centrifugal extraction has taken place, the lanolin is ready for use. This includes cosmetic purposes such as in lotions and shampoos. 

Substitutes for Lanolin

Seed based lanolin

Some people do not like using lanolin because they are allergic to the lipids that lanolin is made of. In this case, other products are both natural and artificial that can be used in its place.

Plant and seed oils

Provide a wonderful source of healthy fatty acids that our skin needs to protect itself and can be absorbed rapidly when applied.

  • For mature or very dry skin, some of the best options include sweet almond, argan, avocado and olive oil.
  • For highly reactive, sensitive or inflamed skin, look for natural products with evening primrose or borage oil.
  • For oily skin, we recommend natural products high in safflower oil, red raspberry seed and rosehip oil.

Plant and seed oils

The biggest difference between butters and oils is that the butters are solid at room temperature, but they work in the exact same way.

  • For mature or very dry skin, shea and cocoa butters are deeply moisturizing and are rich in powerful antioxidants
  • For highly reactive, sensitive or inflamed skin, look for calendula or coconut butters.
  • For oily skin, we recommend kokum or mango butter.

Overall, lanolin is proven to be the most natural and supportive product for your skin. This product comes directly from the wool of a sheep. The fact that it is completely natural encourages your skin to self-regulate its own moisturizing properties. Factors like age, environment, and lifestyle habits can all affect our skin’s natural protective barriers, and we end up not producing the natural moisture we need.

Researching what product is best for you and your skin is especially important. Different people have different allergies and sensitivities. Because of this, it is vital to try out various products in small portions to test the effect that they will have on your skin.

Final Thoughts

Lanolin is a cruelty-free, natural product that is fantastic for moisturizing dry and cracking skin. Though this product is used topically, it promotes yours skins natural ability to regulate its own moisture and hydration levels.

Lanolin is a by-product of sheep's wool, which makes it completely natural and cruelty-free. Extracting the unwanted dirt, bacteria, and whatever else was in the sheep's wool and then collecting the grease out of the wool are the beginning steps to creating a product that will moisturize the driest skin.

Over time, you will notice a drastic change in your skin's quality after you have used lanolin for some time. You can use lanolin daily, knowing that no animals or living beings were harmed in the making and processing of this natural ingredient.

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