Exploring Lanolin in Hair Care: Benefits, Uses, and Considerations

Lanolin and Aromatherapy and its Magical Healing Powers

Lanolin is an interesting raw ingredient and in itself isn't typically used in aromatherapy. Instead, essential oils derived from various plants are the primary focus in aromatherapy practices. Aromatherapy involves using essential oils to promote health and well-being through their aromas.

Where does lanolin come from? It is a natural substance derived from sheep's wool, often used in skincare and cosmetic products due to its moisturizing and protective properties.  It's extracted from the wool of sheep during the process of shearing. It's a waxy substance that sheep produce to protect their wool and skin from harsh environmental conditions. Here's an overview of lanolin and its uses in skincare:

Carrier for Essential Oils:

1. Blend Creation:  In the creation of aromatherapy blends, carriers like lanolin can be used to dilute essential oils for safe skin application. Lanolin, due to its skin-friendly properties, can serve as a carrier to mix with essential oils before topical application.

2. Salves and Balms:  Lanolin can be used in the creation of salves or balms where essential oils are incorporated for specific purposes. For example, mixing essential oils known for relaxation or stress relief with lanolin to create a soothing balm for massage purposes.

Supporting Topical Applications:

1. Skin Penetration:  Lanolin's ability to aid in the penetration of substances through the skin might be used in aromatherapy to enhance the absorption of essential oils during massages or topical applications.

2. Moisturizing Properties:  When used as a base in aromatherapy products, lanolin can contribute to moisturizing the skin, complementing the effects of essential oils.  Lanolin is an excellent emollient that helps to moisturize and soften the skin. It's especially beneficial for dry and rough skin.

3. Barrier Function: It forms a protective barrier on the skin, which helps to prevent water loss and shields against harsh weather conditions and environmental pollutants.

4. Compatibility with Skin:  Lanolin is similar to the skin's natural oils (sebum), making it easily absorbed and well-tolerated by most skin types, although some people may be allergic.

In aromatherapy, essential oils take center stage for their aromatic and therapeutic properties, while carriers like lanolin might serve as a vehicle for safe topical application. Always follow recommended dilution ratios and safety guidelines when using essential oils with carriers like lanolin in aromatherapy practices. 

Uses in Skincare:

1. Lip Balms and Lip Care Products:  Due to its emollient properties, lanolin is commonly used in lip balms and lip care products to soothe and hydrate dry, chapped lips.

2. Moisturizers and Lotions: It's an ingredient in moisturizers and lotions designed to hydrate and soften the skin, particularly in products aimed at treating dry or rough patches.

3. Nipple Creams:  Lanolin is popular in nipple creams for breastfeeding mothers as it helps soothe and protect sore or cracked nipples.

4. Baby Care Products: Some baby lotions and creams contain lanolin due to its gentle and moisturizing nature, beneficial for sensitive baby skin.

Uses in Haircare:

Moisturizing Properties:

Hair Hydration: Studies suggest that lanolin can help retain moisture in hair strands. Its emollient nature helps soften and condition dry or brittle hair, potentially reducing issues like split ends.

Protective Barrier: Lanolin forms a protective barrier on hair, helping shield it from environmental stressors like UV radiation, heat styling, and pollutants. This barrier can also help prevent moisture loss from the hair shaft.

Scalp Health:

Moisturizing Scalp: Lanolin's moisturizing properties may benefit the scalp, potentially reducing dryness and itchiness.

Potential for Irritation: While lanolin is well-tolerated by most people, some individuals might experience scalp irritation or allergic reactions. Patch testing is recommended, especially for those with sensitive skin or allergies.

Product Formulations:

Conditioners and Hair Treatments: Lanolin is incorporated into some hair conditioners, treatments, and styling products to provide moisture and improve the texture of hair.

Hair Masks and Serums: Some hair masks or serums utilize lanolin as an ingredient to deeply condition and nourish the hair.

Safety Considerations:

1.  Allergies:  Some individuals may have an allergic reaction to lanolin. Patch testing is recommended, especially for those with sensitive skin.

2. Purity: Quality varies, and there might be concerns regarding the purity of lanolin in some products. Opting for pharmaceutical or cosmetic grade lanolin ensures higher purity.

3. Ethical Considerations:  Some individuals prefer alternatives to lanolin due to ethical concerns regarding its extraction from sheep.

While not a safety concerns per se, but I have read quite a few online reviews of  100% pure lanolin and how disappointed consumers were regarding its odour and its thickness and non-spreadability. 

So be forewarned my natural-seeking friends! Lanolin comes from sheep and 100% pure lanolin that has not been heavily refined will have a 'barn-like' odour.  And its viscosity is similar to molasses and has a distinct stickiness. 

When I use lanolin straight-up and do not blend with other carrier oils, I put a couple of drops on my fingertips and rub my two hands together. Then I gently apply to the ends of my hair - especially when still damp from washing. My hair happily soaks it up.  I personally do not apply to my scalp - I have other blends for that, but if you want to, you will likely have to blend with a carrier oil like argan oil to make it less thick and more spreadable. 

This is what I do most often - equal parts lanolin and argan with added drops of hair supporting essential oils like clary sage, ylang ylang, cedarwood Atlas and rosemary of course!

A good place to start shopping for lanolin are you local health food/product shops. And online, well.ca is based in Guelph, Ontario and carries the NOW brand of lanolin. 


Lanolin has been used for centuries in skincare due to its moisturizing and protective properties. When used appropriately and in quality formulations, it can be a valuable ingredient, particularly for those with dry or sensitive skin. 

While scientific research on lanolin specifically for hair care is limited compared to its use in skincare, its moisturizing and protective properties suggest potential benefits for hair health. Lanolin-containing products like conditioners, treatments, and serums may help improve hair hydration and texture. However, individual reactions and variations in product quality should be considered when using lanolin for hair care purposes.


Bonus material for us nerdy folks:

Lanolin is a complex mixture of various compounds, primarily composed of esters, alcohols, and fatty acids. Its chemical composition includes:


  • Lanolin Alcohols: These are the primary components of lanolin, including cholesterol, lanosterol, and agnosterol. These alcohols contribute to its emollient and moisturizing properties.

Fatty Acids:

  • Saturated Fatty Acids: These include stearic acid, palmitic acid, and myristic acid, which contribute to the structure and texture of lanolin.

  • Unsaturated Fatty Acids: Oleic acid and linoleic acid are also found in lanolin, contributing to its moisturizing and skin-conditioning properties.

Sterol Esters:

  • Cholesteryl Esters: These compounds, such as cholesterol oleate and cholesterol palmitate, are part of the esters in lanolin, contributing to its emulsifying properties.


  • Squalene: A hydrocarbon compound present in lanolin, contributing to its moisturizing and conditioning effects on the skin and hair.

Other Components:

  • Triglycerides: Although in smaller amounts, lanolin may contain triglycerides, contributing to its overall lipid composition.

  • Waxes and Alkanes: These substances are also found in minor quantities within lanolin.

The specific composition of lanolin can vary based on factors such as the source (sheep breed), processing methods, and purity levels. These components collectively contribute to the moisturizing, emollient, and protective properties that make lanolin a valuable ingredient in skincare and hair care products.

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