Lanolin and Sensitive Skin

Sarah Brown is the founder of Pai Skincare. Entrepreneur, mum and sensitive-skinned soul.


Growing up, lanolin was always in our bathroom cabinet.

My Mum, a kiwi, swore by it, and it was one of those products that, when she was a child, was in every New Zealand household.

Also known as ‘wool wax’, lanolin is produced by sheep to keep their woolly coats waterproof. Although it elicits a bit of nostalgia now, I was never a fan. It was so greasy and had a distinct farmyard smell about it!

When we were formulating our multipurpose Head To Toe Hero Buriti Balm, I was keen to leave it out. Partly because we’re committed to keeping our products vegan, but also because there are better choices for sensitive skin.

Lanolin can cause sensitivity and allergic contact dermatitis, even in those with otherwise unreactive skin, and nobody is really sure why.

One theory is that lanolin is similar to our own skin in terms of the chemical composition, so can penetrate deeper, increasing the risk of sensitivity.


Another theory is that Sheep dips (very strong fungicides used to rid animals of parasites) are to blame, as they leave residues in the extracted lanolin.

However, lanolin is a complex material made up of thousands of molecules and there are so many variables in its production, making pinpointing a trigger tricky.

Everything from the breed of sheep and its habitat, to the way lanolin is refined, can affect a finished product and its potential to irritate.

We use sensitive skin-friendly berry wax in our Head To Toe Hero Buriti Balm, to replicate lanolin’s soft balmy texture and protective properties.


Remember – lanolin doesn’t only come in tubs and tubes. You might find traces in your wardrobe too!

If woolly fibres are leaving you itchy, try alpaca wool instead. These fuzzy friends have lanolin-free fluff  – it’s also softer and less scratchy than sheep’s wool.

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