What is lanolin allergy?
Lanolin allergy is an allergic reaction to moisturizers, sunscreens, shampoos, lipsticks, makeup removers, ointments and any other product that contains wool alcohol, which is the principle component of lanolin.
Lanolin, due to its moisturizing aspect, is often used to treat breastfeeding women’s nipples and a number of women are now complaining of getting an allergic reaction to this moisturizer, which is why some people label this condition as nipple cream allergy.
But despite its term people are allergic specifically to wool alcohol and not lanolin.
In order to get lanolin, sebum is taken from the fleece of sheep and it goes through a refinement process until the end product is anhydrous lanolin.
The anhydrous lanolin is made up of three components: wool alcohol, fatty alcohol and fatty acids.
The wool alcohol in lanolin is the main allergen that triggers an allergic reaction in individuals, which is why some products with lanolin do not trigger a reaction because they have been chemically modified to not contain too much wool alcohol.
Symptoms of lanolin allergy
An allergic reaction to lanolin often exhibits allergic contact dermatitis. An individual allergic to this substance will exhibit rashes, swelling of the skin and redness of the skin after a few hours, or even after a couple of days, once her skin is exposed to it.
Some individuals can also experience scaly skin or small red itchy bumps. The hands, face, arms and feet are often the sites where an allergic reaction occurs.
When an individual applies lanolin on her face it could swell too along with her lips.
People with a severe reaction to lanolin can even exhibit blisters.
Sources of lanolin
Since lanolin is an emollient a lot of cosmetics, skin care and hair products carry this substance.
Lipsticks, powders, shampoos, soaps, shaving creams and cosmetic creams are known to have lanolin.
Even ointments used for medical purposes have lanolin. The irony here is that there are a number of medicaments being used to treat skin conditions such as eczema, xerosis and open wounds that contain lanolin.
And as mentioned earlier, breastfeeding women often use lanolin to treat their sore nipples.
Other uses for lanolin are for preventing corrosion in metallic surfaces, preventing crystallization in inks, polishing shoes, adhesive plasters, polishing furniture, and it is even used to make leather more water resistant and more pliable.
Despite the abundant sources of lanolin in industrial products research shows that people who reacted negatively to this substance were found to exhibit symptoms only when they were exposed to adhesive plasters and metal coatings.
Lanolin is especially present in sheep wool and wool clothes. According to research, amount of wool wax is high in wool clothes almost as high as in some cosmetics.
But despite this finding reports show that people rarely trigger their allergy to lanolin when exposed to wool clothes as compared to ointments and cosmetics.
So far, there have been only four cases of people reporting an allergic reaction to lanolin when they were exposed to wool wax.
Two of those individuals exhibited symptoms of eczema, one with chronic urticaria and one with acute urticaria.
All four individuals reported that the symptoms of lanolin allergy diminished as soon as they removed the wool garments.
Diagnosing lanolin allergy
When determining if an individual is allergic to a particular substance patch tests are often conducted to diagnose the allergy.
Patch tests are also used to determine if an individual is allergic to lanolin but the difference here is that allergists have to use various chemicals, along with lanolin, to form a proper diagnosis.
According to scientists, pure lanolin is a weak allergen and using only this substance in a patch test could lead to a false-negative reaction, which will render a diagnosis inconclusive.
Since then, allergists have been using various substances in patch tests to determine if a person is allergic to lanolin since most products with this substance contain several substances.
Earlier patch tests showed that wool alcohol have been the standard ingredient in patch tests.
But in time allergists added more substances in their tests because they found that some people exhibited allergic reactions to one substance and not to others making their diagnosis inconclusive when it came to determining lanolin allergy.
Managing lanolin allergy
Once an allergist determines that a patient is allergic to lanolin avoidance of products or items with this substance is advised.
Since wool alcohol is the ingredient in lanolin that often triggers an allergic reaction allergists advise people to stop using products that has this substance.
Wool alcohol is often shown in the product label but this substance is often referred to as these other names:
- Wool grease
- Wool wax
- Wool fat
- Adeps lanae anhydrous
- Aloholes lanae
- Anhydrous lanolin
Allergists also advise patients to inform their physicians that they are allergic to lanolin since there are medications that contain this substance.