Lanolin is a wax that is taken from sheep’s wool and is used in creams, waxes or oils. Lanolin alcohol can be produced by mixing lanolin acid, boiling water and a mixture of organic alcohols. Lanolin can be found in many skin treatments and lip balms.
The Food and Drug Administration has granted permits for lanolin to be available as an over-the-counter treatment for protecting the skin. Lanolin has also been approved for use as a softener in chewing gum and as an indirect food additive.
Lanolin is found in sheep’s sebaceous glands. Sometimes this material is called wool wax, wool fat or wool grease. Lanolin is water repellent and helps sheep to shed water that builds up in their thick coats.
Lanolin can be used as an ingredient in a variety of products such as cosmetics, lip balms, skin creams and lubricants. Many people use lanolin as a grease to remove objects from tight spaces. Medical uses for lanolin are skin creams to soothe the skin, hypoallergenics and bacteriostatics. Breast feeding mothers can use lanolin for treating cracked nipples. Lanolin also treats chapped lips, dry skin, diaper rashes, rough feet and minor burns.
Products that contain lanolin include diaper rash creams, baby oils, eye creams, breastfeeding nipple creams, hemorrhoid medicines, various skin lotions, shampoos, lipstick, face powders, foundation, makeup removers and shaving cream.
Medical-grade lanolin is usually nonpoisonous. However, non-medical grade lanolin can cause a rash on your skin or can block the intestines if ingested. Symptoms of lanolin poison include rash, swelling, redness of skin, vomiting and diarrhea. Most people who experience lanolin poisoning recover easily. If you are poisoned, you should contact poison control immediately to receive instructions on what you need to do.