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What is it?

“Lanolin (from Latin lāna ‘wool’, and oleum ‘oil’), also called wool wax or wool grease, is a wax secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals. Lanolin used by humans comes from domestic sheep breeds that are raised specifically for their wool.” Wikipedia

What are the effects?

This substance belongs to the groups:

This substance is derived from animals. Lanolin is oil extracted from the wool of sheep. The oil, or sebum, helps the sheep to shed water from their coats.

The non-profit organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has multiple reports on sheep being gravely mistreated in the wool industry. PETA claims that the wool industry is not only causing grave animal cruelty, it is also using huge amounts of energy and resources, making the “wool production” environmentally irresponsible. (Note – it is not tagged as an environmental hazard).

There are also reports that lanolin may cause irritation and allergies but as it is a natural substance (often somewhat inconsistent) with numerous derivatives, the effects are likely to vary. Many derivatives of this substance are ethoxylated, meaning that they are polyethylene glycol derivatives of Lanolin, and could therefore also be contaminated with trace amounts of carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane and ethylene oxide.

Although not so common, there are also lanolin derived ingredients that contain diethanolamine (DEA). Products with DEA compounds risk containing nitrosamine contamination. The scanner highlights and specifies which of the lanolin derivatives that may be contaminated. See the information in the hover box.


Even though it is not listed on the ingredient labels, products with lanolin may contain toxic impurities from:

  • 1,4- dioxane – linked to cancer.
  • Ethylene oxide – linked to cancer, organ system toxicity, genetic defects and irritation.
  • Nitrosamines – linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, developmental toxicity and damaged fertility.

How is it used?

Lanolin can be found in many cosmetics*, household and pharmaceutical products. In cosmetic products it works mainly as an emollient which means that it helps soften and smooth skin and hair. Lanolin can also function as a moisturizer and lubricant in cosmetics, which further add to a smoother appearance of skin and hair. The ingredient can be found in all kinds of skin care, hair care, makeup, baby, and nail products.

We use the European Commissions definition of Cosmetics:
“Cosmetics range from everyday hygiene products such as soap, shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste to luxury beauty items including perfumes and makeup”.

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