Lanolin is one of the more obscure substances that vegans go out of their way to avoid. Just like gelatin, people are typically repulsed once they discover how it’s produced. It’s a disgusting substance tied to widespread animal cruelty.
What is Lanolin?
Lanolin is a byproduct of wool production. Wool of course comes from sheep hair. Just like human hair, wool gets greasy. Before freshly-shorn wool is processed to make fabric or yarn, its grease is squeezed out and removed. But who on earth could possibly want the thousands of tons of this grease the wool industry generates each year? The cosmetics industry!
So basically, lanolin is a wholesome-sounding name for the grease extracted from sheep hair. Many lip balms contain lanolin, although thankfully vegan lip balms are widely available. People who buy the non-vegan stuff clearly have no idea what they’re putting on their lips!
Lanolin also commonly appears in hand creams and mascara. Additionally, lanolin is the primary ingredient in most vitamin D supplements. Fortunately, vegan vitamin D is also easy to find.
Derivatives of lanolin go by a variety of names:
- Isopropyl Lanolate
- Lanolin Acids
- Lanolin Alcohol
- Triterpene Alcohols
- Wool Fat
- Wool Wax
A variety of vegan fats can nicely replace lanolin. Vegan hand and body lotions commonly contain shea butter, which has the virtue of being far less allergenic than lanolin. Vegetable-based glycerine and triglycerides, which are sugar alcohols, likewise appear in place of lanolin in a variety of vegan cosmetics.
Is Lanolin Vegan?
Since lanolin comes from wool, which in turn comes from sheep, it’s not vegan. As with all other non-vegan substances, there’s substantial cruelty and animal exploitation tied to lanolin that merits attention.
Despite the bucolic image of sheep grazing lush hillsides, sheep production entails a variety of cruelties. Much of the world’s wool comes from Australia, where shepherds commonly engage in a barbaric practice called mulesing. In mulesing, the sheep have strips of skin on their buttocks sliced off with a knife.
You can read more about what’s wrong with wool to learn more about this horribly cruel industry.
While lanolin is among the most common cosmetic ingredients, it’s easy to find lanolin-free personal care items and makeup. There’s nothing special about lanolin, as it offers no unique properties. It’s only used in cosmetics because it’s cheaper than other fats and most consumers are clueless about its origin.