Lanolin is the greasy emulsifying byproduct of the wool industry, and is often used in hand creams, lip balms, and mascara. It can also be found in some lubricants, can be used to soften baseball gloves, and is occasionally added to garments to make them water resistant.
Sheep provide nearly all the world’s lanolin—it’s typically extracted from sheared wool that is about to be processed into yarn or felt. Despite the bucolic image of sheep grazing lush hillsides, the wool industry is not a gentle place. Much of the world’s wool comes from Australia where ‘mulesing’ is used—the practice of slashing away wrinkled skin without anesthetic to prevent flystrike. You can read more about what’s wrong with wool, but needless to say, anyone who dislikes cruelty should avoid wool and lanolin alike.
Lanolin may also be labeled as:
- Isopropyl Lanolate
- Lanolin Acids
- Lanolin Alcohol
- Triterpene Alcohols
- Wool Fat
- Wool Wax
While lanolin is widely used in the cosmetics industry, every category of cosmetics will have lanolin-free brands. For practically every need, plant-based oils can be used in place of lanolin.