Lanolin Cream: Uses & Side Effects

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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The use of lanolin cream can soothe dry or cracked skin, chapped lips, and irritated nipples that have become sore from breastfeeding. 

What Is Lanolin Cream?

Commercial lanolin is a refined version of oil that is secreted by sheep onto their wool. This natural oil coats the wool and protects it from rain, sun, and adverse weather. It also helps to keep a sheep’s skin clean. When a sheep is sheared, the raw wool is processed and lanolin is extracted as per a report published in the National Library of Medicine (US). That extract is then refined and blended into creams, balms, lip balms, and other products since it has proven to have a number of beneficial effects for human health and appearance.

Benefits of Lanolin Cream

Creams and other products containing lanolin have a number of surprising benefits for the skin, lips, and nipples.

Tube of cream with a mound of cream placed next to it.

Lanolin cream moistens and softens the skin. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Relieving Nipple Irritation

According to a report published by Kristine Morland Schultz, MS, RN, and a pediatric nurse practitioner at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at OSF, Illinois, lanolin nipple cream are commonly used by mothers who are nursing. It can reduce swelling, cracking, and pain associated with breastfeeding.

Soothing Dry Skin

Lanolin skin cream has become a popular skin product for many people, although lanolin has been used for this purpose for thousands of years. It both moisturizes the skin and creates a barrier that keeps the skin from drying out any further.

Healing Cracked Skin

Especially on the hands, elbows, knees, and feet, lanolin cream will penetrate into deep cracks and help to moisturize and heal them on a deeper level.

Treating Skin Conditions

For conditions such as eczema, rashes, psoriasis, and other skin irritations, lanolin cream can provide welcome relief from symptoms like itching and redness.

Preventing or Healing Chapped Lips

Many lip-specific balms are available that contain lanolin cream, as this can help to create a barrier against the cold, dry air that leads to chapping. It can also help to heal lips that are already cracked or chapped.

Side Effects

There is some potential for side effects when using lanolin cream. Let’s take a look at them!

Allergy: One such concern is the possibility of a lanolin allergy. Some allergic reactions have been reported, but there is little scientific data to show if lanolin is actually an allergen. Another possibility is that lanolin may act as a skin irritant for certain people as per a study by Marion B. Sulzberger, M.D. Wool is a well-known allergen, but the use of lanolin does not provoke an allergic reaction in those sensitive to wool because any wool residue will have been filtered out during the refining process. 

Pesticides: The concentration of pesticides in lanolin cream has also been a concern for some people over the years. Because commercially raised sheep tend to eat grass and alfalfa treated with pesticides, and because they may be chemically treated to prevent ticks and lice, there is the potential for those chemicals to become concentrated in the lanolin. The FDA has established a maximum amount of allowable pesticide residue in lanolin that is generally considered safe for adults. There is also a concern that nursing infants may be exposed to trace amounts of pesticides via lanolin nipple cream. No scientific studies exist to either prove or disprove this concern, but as with any product of this type, it is best to ask a medical professional about any concerns before using it, particularly if it may affect the health of your child.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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