New parents may recognise lanolin as a cream that is sold to nursing mothers to help prevent their nipples from becoming dry and cracked. But what is lanolin? And why do I put nipple cream in my beard products?
Lanolin is a waxy substance, similar in texture to petroleum jelly, that is secreted by the sebaceous glands of domesticated sheep. It’s long-chain waxy esters evolved to protect the sheep’s skin and wool from the harsh elements, keeping them soft and moist year-round. It is extracted from the sheep’s wool during the cleaning process, as the raw wool is prepared to be turned into the warm socks and sweaters we all love. Lanolin is a renewable resource, and no sheep are harmed in it’s production.
Lanolin is very similar in composition to the oils secreted by the sebaceous glands in humans. However, modern hygiene practices cause these oils to be washed off during our daily shower, leaving our skin and hair susceptible to becoming dry and cracked. Especially during the harsh Canadian winters. Because the composition of long-chain waxy esters in lanolin is so similar to the oils secreted by our own skin, it is one of the best moisturisers known to man.