Lanolin (latin for ‘wool oil’) and its use in history dates as far back as approximately 8000 years in human history, this oil is produced by the sebaceous (skin) glands of sheep, the raw material taken from the sheep's wool is known Adeps lanae, or wool fat / wool grease. It helps to keep their wool as water resistant as possible as it holds back the water. Lanolin is a perfect moisturiser for skin and hair, it's completely renewable and easy to harvest as it is a byproduct of wool-gathering and does not harm the sheep in anyway.
Evidence of use can be found way back into ancient history wherein the Egyptians would place blocks on their heads which melted in the sun and spread over their faces making their skin soft! It’s been well documented over the years, a greek physician called Pedanlus Dioscorides had a medical encyclopedia of ingredients which has been around for over 1500 years and Lanolin was included for its healing and soothing properties.
High Purity Grades of Lanolin
High purity grades of this compound where developed in the late 1800’s, it had been used for millennia but was extracted by boiling wool by hand, a slow process that does not get the most Lanolin out of the wool. Then a german by the name of Otto Braun figured out a way of spinning the wool and washing to produce the purified version he then named Lanolin.
This process still meant that the compound was earthy smelling and hard to spread so in the late 1900’s new techniques were drawn up and the end result was an odourless, hypoallergenic and tasteless Lanolin which enabled it to become more streamlined into medical and cosmetic products across the world.
The animal oil is a mixture of fatty acids, organic compounds and wax, which makes it perfect for penetrating the skin and strengthening the effectiveness of moisturisers, as it continues absorbing moisture from the air retaining its effect for longer.
One of the first true skin creams now known in today's world as Nivea was created over 100 years ago by a chemist which contained this amazing wax. In production processes today the Lanolin oil is derived from the wax already cutting this process out altogether, therefore making it far easier to manufacture, saving time and money as it does not have to be melted first. It being an oil also makes it lighter on the skin and hair while retaining its beneficial properties. It is used in many cosmetic products such as premium beard balm. The extraction process itself is boiling the unwashed wool with added salt (to enhance the yield) for many hours, then the liquid is filtered out leaving an off-white solid material which is in fact pure Lanolin. This is then washed with olive oil and water which removes any dirt.
This light yellow coloured compound is made from complex waxy esters which are a byproduct of acids and alcohols when water has been removed, its estimated that there could be up to twenty thousand types of these esters formed from the combinations of different Lanolin acids and alcohols. This means that certain combinations of these different chemical components are more effective than others, many derivatisation routes exist (a technique used in chemistry transforming compounds into products with a similar makeup of compounds) and these methods are widely used in high quality hair and skin treatments, balms, creams, oils and salves. As well as being a great moisturiser it also possesses anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that would originally help protect the sheep against foreign bacteria.
There are many benefits of this oil for the human skin, curing most dry skin ailments such as cracked, rough, scaly patches and tight skin. It is lightweight and does not block the pores. It has brilliant healing and soothing properties on the skin, healing aggravated areas and locking in moisture as it can hold twice its weight in water. It also helps to reduce ageing of the skin and wrinkles making it a popular anti-aging product and is an ingredient also found in premium lip balm as it penetrates the lips rather than sitting on top making the issue worse. It miraculously helps skin grow much faster supporting the healing of injuries like wounds.
Studies have shown that premature babies skin barriers do not work as effectively as they should, a group of 60 babies received topical Lanolin cream to apply twice a day which showed good results across the board assisting in reducing levels of bacteria, retaining water that would have been otherwise lost through their skin and dermatitis prevention.
An Essential Ingredient
Scientific studies back in 1935 showed conclusively that Lanolin speeds up natural skin repair and also acts as an anti-irritant. A 1980’s study showed that Lanolin could reduce roughness in the skin by up to 40% in one hour and 50% in two! It's no wonder today it's still one of the most essential ingredients in beard balms, skin creams and topical treatments. It's not just good at locking in moisture however; it is just as effective as keeping it out too.
Lanolin conditions your beard enhancing its health and appearance while being ideally suited for taming any unruly hair. The ingredient helps to weigh the hair down as it rejuvenates, particularly helpful for itchy or dry beard hair.