Lanolin is a protective and lubricating substance that is derived from the glandular secretions of animals with woolen coats. Most of the lanolin used in commercial products comes from domestic sheep raised specifically for its production. Synthetic lanolin is also widely used, and though it is less expensive, it is believed to not work as well as natural lanolin and higher instances of allergic reaction have been documented with the synthetic version. Some of the more common lanolin products include skin moisturizers, makeup, and protective creams. Lanolin is also used in various lubricants and polishers.
Since lanolin is essentially a fat, it works very well for moisturizing the skin, and is a common additive in moisturizers for both the face and body. Many people use it after bathing or at night before going to bed. Lanolin products are believed to help keep skin smooth and may even help prevent wrinkles. Due to its high content of fat and oil, lanolin may not be ideal when pimples or outbreaks of acne are present.
As a skin protectant, lanolin has generally been shown to be quite effective. Many lanolin products are designed to guard the skin against environmental agents and damage caused by weather. Lanolin is often found in lip balm, sunscreen, and topical ointment.
Within the cosmetic industry, lanolin is commonly used as an ingredient in many different types of makeup, including foundation, lipstick, and eye shadow. Not only does it act as a bonding agent, helping to hold all the ingredients together, but it also makes cosmetic products easier to apply. Cosmetics that contain lanolin typically go on smoothly, without excessive caking or clumping.
Lanolin products are also frequently used in the heavy equipment industry, especially in marine environments where water resistance is a factor. Many boat owners coat the bottom of their vessels in lanolin to keep them free from mold, barnacles, and fungus. Lanolin products can also be used to grease gears and other moving parts that can become stiff from exposure to dampness.
In the household, lanolin is found in products such as furniture polish, waxes, and even fabric softeners. The oily base of lanolin can penetrate wood, not only making it shine, but also giving it a layer of protection against dirt and spills. Many fabric softeners contain small amounts of lanolin, but some people prefer lanolin alone for softening laundry. Lanolin can be added to the washing machine during the rinse cycle in the same way that fabric softener is used.