Lanolin, also known as wool wax or wool grease, is a wax secreted by the sebaceous (oil) glands of wool-bearing animals. Lanolin used by humans is obtained from domestic sheep breeds that are raised specifically for their wool. In cosmetics and personal care products, lanolin functions as an emollient and skin-replenishing ingredient. Lanolin is a very thick substance that works as an emollient by forming an occlusive barrier on the surface of skin. This protective barrier helps to prevent evaporation of the skin’s natural moisture. Over time, this increases skin hydration by causing buildup of water in the stratum corneum (the uppermost layer of skin).
While all skin types can benefit from emollients, lanolin is especially helpful for those who have dry, rough, and/or flaky skin. Lanolin can alleviate these symptoms, leaving the skin looking and feeling soft and smooth. In addition, emollients can benefit those that suffer from conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, or other inflammatory skin conditions. However, lanolin may be problematic for those with oily or acne-prone skin.