Lanolin description

Emollient, very thick substance derived from sheep. Lanolin has long been burdened with a reputation for being a sensitising agent, which has always been a disappointment to formulators because lanolin is such an effective moisturising ingredient. A study in the British Journal of Dermatology concluded “that lanolin sensitisation has remained at a relatively low and constant rate even in a high-risk population.” Based on a review of 24,449 patients who were tested with varying forms of lanolin, it turned out that “The mean annual rate of sensitivity was 1.7% - and it was lower than that for a 50% concentration of lanolin. The amounts of lanolin used in products like facial and body moisturisers are much less than this, so the risk, if any, is negligible. Lanolin is a very good ingredient for someone with dry skin, though it can be a problem for someone with oily or breakout-prone skin. Also, as an animal-derived ingredient, lanolin is sometimes viewed as less favorable in comparison to synthetic or plant-derived alternatives.

Lanolin references

  • Dermatitis, March-April 2008, pages 63-72
  • British Journal of Dermatology, 2001, issue 1, 28-31

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not rated

We have not yet rated this ingredient because we have not had a chance to review the research on it.