1. History of Lanolin

Ancient civilizations such as the Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans were pioneers in utilizing lanolin for various purposes. These societies understood the importance of lanolin as a multipurpose material with both medical and beauty effects, according to historical documents.Lanolin was highly valued for its emollient qualities in ancient Greece, where it was frequently used into cosmetics products. Hippocrates and Galen were among the Greek doctors and academics who recorded the use of lanolin as a medicinal remedy for wounds and skin ailments.In a similar vein, lanolin was a component of ancient Egyptian beauty rituals and cosmetics. Archaeological discoveries and Egyptian hieroglyphs attest to the usage of lanolin in lotions, balms, and fragrances. It is reported that Cleopatra, who was well-known for her beauty routine, preferred skincare products with lanolin as an ingredient.

Lanolin was essential to Europe’s growing textile industry in the Middle Ages. The medieval economy depended heavily on sheep husbandry and wool production, and lanolin extraction developed into a crucial step in the processing of wool.
Lanolin, which was subsequently employed in textile finishing to soften and waterproof garments, was extracted from wool by means of processes devised by medieval European cultures for washing and refining wool. Wool that was rich in lanolin was also traded as a valued good, boosting the income and well-being of the wool-producing areas.

The use of lanolin underwent a dramatic shift throughout the Industrial Revolution due to advances in manufacturing techniques and chemistry that increased its usage in a wider range of sectors. Lanolin discovered new use in cosmetics, industrial lubricants, and medicines with the rise of industrialization. Lanolin was a common component in pharmaceutical preparations in the 19th and 20th centuries, especially ointments and salves for skin conditions and wound healing. Its inherent emollient qualities make it a perfect foundation for topical drugs, securing its position in contemporary pharmacopoeias. Concurrently, the cosmetics industry adopted lanolin due to its benefits for moisturizing skin. Because of its superior moisturizing and protective properties, lanolin has emerged as a crucial component in skincare formulas, such as creams, lotions, and lip balms.

The history of lanolin reflects its enduring legacy as a natural resource cherished for its therapeutic, cosmetic, and industrial applications. Human culture and trade are intricately linked to the history of lanolin, spanning from prehistoric times to contemporary communities. Future generations will be able to benefit from lanolin’s heritage as a useful and adaptable material as we continue to explore its possibilities via scientific research and innovation.

Lanolin’s natural origin and many uses have made it valuable even in the current period. Lanolin has seen a comeback in favor as a desired ingredient in cosmetics and personal care products due to increased customer interest in natural and sustainable components. Furthermore, lanolin’s purity and efficacy have been improved by developments in lanolin extraction and processing methods, opening the door to the creation of premium lanolin-based formulations. The reduction of environmental effects related to lanolin production is another goal of initiatives to support sustainable methods in sheep husbandry and wool production.

  1. Composition of Lanolin

Sterol esters, which are substances created when sterols (alcohol-based chemicals) combine with fatty acids, make up the majority of lanolin. A comprehensive chemical examination of lanolin demonstrates a diverse and abundant array of lipids, comprising:

  • Cholesterol and its derivatives: Lanolin has a large amount of cholesterol, which helps to give it its emollient qualities. Lanolin extracts contain derivatives that have been found, including psi-cholesterol.
  • Fat acids and fatty alcohols: These consist of long-chain acids and alcohols including oleic acid, palmitic acid, and pentadecenol. These elements are essential to lanolin’s moisturizing properties.
  • Esters of wax: Alcohols and fatty acids are esterified to create these. They help lanolin retain its water-resistant qualities, which makes it a superior barrier cream.
  • Alcohols derived from lanolin: complex alcohol combinations produced by lanolin esters being hydrolyzed. They improve the protecting and emollient qualities of lanolin-based products.


1 Clark EW. A brief history of lanolin. Pharm Hist (Lond). 1980 Dec;10(3):5-6. PMID: 11630744.

2 Ew, C. (1980). A brief history of lanolin. Pharmaceutical historian, 10, 5-6.

3 Grundy, D., Abraham, A., & Wilde, M.J. (2023). Investigating the Chemical Composition of Lanolin Waste to Improve the Production of Sustainable Natural Fibre Materials. ChromCom.