How lanolin is used in skin creams
NZ are world leaders in wool production, but shearing sheep gives us more than just jerseys. When a sheep is freshly shorn the wool is greasy due to lanolin, a wax produced in the skin to help waterproof the animal.
This ‘wool grease’ must be removed before the wool can be used in textiles in a process called scouring. The simplest form of scouring is washing the wool in a warm bath.
Just like oil, wax is water resistant because it’s made of large hydrocarbons which are strongly held together by its molecular bonds. These hydrocarbons are also long, like a back-bone, and hold their shape even in high temperatures so bathing the wool separates the grease from the fibre.
The extracted lanolin can then be used in cosmetics as emollient. When you rub it on your skin it prevents water loss-keeping it hydrated and looking lovely.