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Lanolin, also called Adeps Lanae, wool wax, wool fat, anhydrous wool fat or wool grease, a greasy yellow substance from wool-bearing animals, acts as a skin ointment, water-proofing wax, and raw material (such as in shoe polish). Chemically akin to wax, lanolin is secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals, such as sheep. These glands are associated with hair follicles. Lanolin's ability to act as a waterproofing wax aids sheep in shedding water from their coats. Certain breeds of sheep produce large amounts of lanolin, and the extraction can be performed by squeezing the wool between rollers. Most or all the lanolin is removed from wool when it is processed into textiles, such as yarn or felt.


Chemical makeup

Lanolin is chiefly a mixture of cholesterol and the esters of several fatty acids. Crude (non-medical) grades of lanolin also contain wool alcohols, which are an allergen for some people. Recent studies also indicate that antibiotics are present in the lanolin. The extract is insoluble in water, but forms an emulsion. At one point, the name Lanolin was trademarked as the generic term for a preparation of sheep fat and water. [1]


Lanolin is used commercially in a great many products ranging from rust-preventative coatings to cosmetics to lubricants. Some sailors use lanolin to create a slippery surface on their propellers and stern gear to which barnacles cannot adhere. The water-repellent properties make it valuable as a lubricant grease where corrosion would otherwise be a problem, particularly on stainless steel, which becomes more vulnerable to corrosion when starved of oxygen.

Medical grade lanolin is used as a cream to soothe skin. It is pure, hypoallergenic and bacteriostatic. In this form it is used by some breastfeeding mothers on sore and cracked nipples. This grade of lanolin can also be used to treat chapped lips, diaper rash, dry skin, itchy skin, rough feet, minor cuts, minor burns and skin abrasions. As an ointment base, it is readily absorbed through skin, facilitating absorption of the medicinal chemicals it carries.

The name given to the product 'Oil of Olay' is derived from the word "lanolin," a key ingredient, which was chosen by the inventor, Graham Wulff.[2]

Using cosmetic products which contain impure lanolin can result in an allergic reaction in some people.

Lanolin is often used as a raw material for producing vitamin D3.

More Information on Lanolin

Lanolin is a unique natural substance derived from the greasy coating on raw wool. It is an all-natural, highly effective substance which acts as a moisture barrier and lubricant. Its unique properties have been recognized for centuries, and have not, as yet, been possible for scientists to duplicate.[citation needed]

Quick Facts on Lanolin

  • Lanolin is secreted from a sheep’s sebaceous glands and acts as a waterproofer to protect the sheep’s wool from the elements
  • It is made up of a mixture of wax, fatty acids and alcohols
  • Crude lanolin constitutes approximately 5-25% of the weight of freshly shorn wool
  • The wool from one Merino sheep will produce about 250-300ml of recoverable wool grease (lanolin)
  • Lanolin is extracted from wool via a scouring process. This process involves washing the wool in hot water with a special wool scouring detergent to remove dirt, wool grease (crude lanolin), suint (sweat salts), and anything else stuck to the wool. The wool grease is continuously removed during this washing process by centrifugal separators, which concentrate the wool grease into a wax-like substance melting at approximately 38ºC.
  • To date, scientists have been unable to duplicate either the performance or composition of lanolin.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Jaffe v. Evans & Sons, Ltd.,   U.S.  (Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, New York March 21, 1902)
  2. ^ History of Olay. Procter & Gamble.


[1] Lanotec - Lanolin based alternatives to petro-chemical products

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Lanolin". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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