Lanolin– the Good, The Bad and The Ugly

lanolin comes from sheepQuestion:  What do you think about lanolin?  Some  experts say  its the closest to natural human skin oil.  But I have also read that it causes skin problems.  Who is right?

Answer:  Actually they are both right.  Lanolin is extracted from the wool sheared off from sheep.  It indeed shares  many characteristics   of human skin oil and is definitely a very  effective emollient for  both skin and hair.  As a byproduct of wool, this oil  is both inexpensive and wonderfully sustainable. Wool ( and lanolin) can be harvested without harming the sheep.  Nice.

The Bad News About Lanolin

But lanolin has a dark side.  There is definately  a group of people who have a true allergy to this popular moisturizing ingredient.  It can cause red bumps and   patches that are both itchy and unattractive. When used  as a hair care product, allergic reactions can cause scarring on the scalp and  even hair loss.Lanolin is also  a well-known acne trigger.  It tends to clog up pores that proceed to whiteheads and breakouts.  Lanolin rich conditioners and pomades can provoke long standing acne, especially  along the hairline and forehead.

Because it is inexpensive and an effective emollient, it  is found in any widely used  bran including  Eucerin, L’Oreal, Luriderm, St Ives, Chapstick, and even  Desitin diaper rash.  Well known  lanolin free brands incude Aveeno and derma e.Lanolin is an equally  popular ingredient in hair care products including those from Alberto VO5, Nexxus, Tresemme, Mane and Tail and L’Oreal.  For  soft hair and acne free skin look for conditioners with silicone rather than lanolin.  If you want a more natural option,  look for products with Moroccean  or Jojoba seed oil.

To bottom line it, lanolin is a safe and affordable ingredient– if your skin can handle it.  If  itchy red spots or acne appears after using a  moisturizing product,  this  oil  is not your friend.

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