Lanolin Might Be the Ingredient to Save Your Skin This Winter

Woman putting cream on her face
CoffeeAndMilk / Getty Images 

For those of us who deal with dry skin—whether it be year-round or only during the colder months—we all know that finding moisturizing products with effective ingredients can sometimes be easier said than done. This is where lanolin comes in—an underrated ingredient that soothes and prevents dry, chapped skin while restoring much-needed moisture.

Lanolin is an oil produced by sheep and can be found in their shorn wool. This beneficial oil keeps their wool coats waterproof and deodorized. In its pure form, it looks like a yellow-colored, waxy substance. Despite its oily nature and power to keep skin hydrated from the outside in, it won't clog pores. "It's soothing for dry, chapped skin and also protects against cold, harsh weather conditions," says integrative and functional medicine physician Dr. Frank Lipman, who calls lanolin a "winter skin wonder." He also explains that lanolin's coating effect keeps moisture from being drawn out while also allowing the skin to breathe. Keep scrolling to learn more about the ingredient your skin has been waiting for. 

  • Type of ingredient: Emollient.
  • Main benefits: Locks moisture into the skin, extremely rejuvenating and healing, allows the skin the moisturize itself from within.
  • Who should use it: In general, those with dry or damaged skin would benefit most from using lanolin products.
  • How often can you use it?: Lanolin products can be used daily, both AM and PM.
  • Works well with: Lanolin works best alongside other moisturizing products, as it assists in locking moisture into the skin.
  • Don't use with: In general, lanolin is safe to use with most ingredients and products.

What Is Lanolin?

Lanolin has been used since ancient Greek times and is a multi-faceted asset that is becoming more popular when formulating moisturizing skincare products. This potent component is derived from oil secreted by sheep to condition their wool. Lanolin is then collected when the wool is sheared. Though it can get a bad rap for being received from an animal source, lanolin itself is nothing more than a natural substance ("Lanolin is a cruelty-free product," mentions Dr. Lipman). Lanolin has been classified as an emollient, which means that it traps in moisture, and reduces the skin's overall moisture loss. Emollients are typically used during the treatment of dry, itchy, or scaly skin conditions. In addition to its many skin benefits, lanolin is also used as a nipple ointment for sore nursing mothers, is included in diaper rash creams for babies, and is an ingredient in many lip balms, such as Lanolips.

Benefits of Lanolin for Skin

Every dry skin woe—from tight, cracked skin, to rough, scaly patches—benefits from Lanolin.

  • Lightweight: Lanolin forms a non-occlusive barrier, which means it doesn't smother the skin or feel too heavy.
  • Extremely healing: Its emollient properties soften and heal aggravated areas while forming an oily layer on the top of the skin that traps water to prevent moisture loss. 
  • Retains moisture: Lanolin can hold up to twice its weight in water, which means it's fantastic at keeping moisture trapped within the skin.
  • Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles: Since lanolin does retain so much moisture, it tends to plump the skin and fill in fine lines and wrinkles, which makes it popular when formulating anti-aging products.
  • Heals chapped lips: Lanolin has the ability to penetrate the moisture barrier of the lips, as opposed to just sitting right on top. This makes it a great option for healing dry, chapped lips.

Side Effects of Lanolin

If you are allergic to wool, you should steer clear of lanolin, since it is wool-derived. You should also be careful to not ingest large amounts of this ingredient since you can acquire lanolin poisoning. According to Dr. Maryam Zamani, London-based oculoplastic surgeon, and creator of MZ Skin, you should also avoid lanolin if you have congested pores. "If you have blocked pores or problem skin, I would avoid using any products containing lanolin on your skin", she says. You can avoid widespread allergic reactions and product sensitivities by doing a patch test.

The Best Products With Lanolin

In addition to pure lanolin, there are many moisturizing cosmetic products on the market that incorporate it as an ingredient, including lip balms, cuticle creams and more. Keep scrolling to see some of our favorites!  

Blistex DCT - Daily Conditioning Treatment
Blistex DCT (Daily Conditioning Treatment) $3

Recommended by Dr. Maryam Zamani, this daily conditioning treatment by Blistex is a favorite of hers. "My favorite lip balm is Blistex's DCT (Daily Conditioning Treatment) that contains lanolin. It has SPF 20 and is the only balm that keeps my lips feeling hydrated and nourished, especially during the cooler months. It is still important to use SPF during the winter, which is another reason I love this lip balm." 

Aquaphor Healing Ointment
Aquaphor Healing Ointment $5

Dr. Dendy Engleman, a Manhattan-based dermatologist, and board-certified dermatologic surgeon swears by Aquaphor. "Aquaphor is incredibly effective at moisturizing severely cracked or dry areas. It works by preventing loss of water in the skin, which allows natural oils to nourish and repair. This product uses lanolin to condition and soothe dry skin", she says. 

Lano 101 Ointment
LANO The Original 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm $17

Dr. Engleman also recommends this Ointment by LANO that features lanolin as its main ingredient, saying, "LANO's 101 Ointment is one of my favorites. It works for so many different skincare concerns—from dry, chapped lips and cuticles to burns, eczema, and beyond. It really is a wonder ingredient for hydration and healing alike. Overall, the LANO brand has a full range of lanolin-based products that are ideal for hydrating and moisturizing."

Related Stories