Lanolin. It's one of those beauty ingredients that people either swear by or steer clear of, but when Lanolips launched in 2009, its aim was to change the perception of the natural ingredient — which, although a great moisturiser, can irritate the skin if it doesn't go through the correct purification process to remove pesticides. We caught up with the brand's founder Kirsten Carriol to talk about common lanolin misconceptions and what's up next for the brand.
When did you first start using lanolin? I grew up going to my grandparents sheep farm every holiday. There was a shearing shed and I was always surrounded by the ingredient [which comes from excreted sheep sebum and is found in their wool]. My father, who is a Professor of Genetics, always used lanolin on us as it resembles your own skin lipids more than any other ingredient — natural or non-natural.
Keep reading . . . What made you want to start a lanolin-based beauty brand? I ended up in cosmetics marketing and discovered lipsticks, lip glosses, lip glacés and forgot about lanolin. But it was in 2003, when I was about to fly off on honeymoon and was dreading the long flight that I started remembering how lanolin worked and how nothing had ever measured up to it. And that’s when I decided to do it.
Did you find any resistance? It took me quite a few years to do it because at that time lanolin was very misunderstood. Factories hadn’t worked with it for a very long time and everybody tried to convince me to do a product that featured two percent lanolin just so I could claim it but not actually put any in there. I had so much resistance. It took me five or six years to bring to fruition, but for me it’s all about the lanolin — I have to have as much as possible in anything I do as we’re about intense moisturisation.
Why do you think it's such a misunderstood ingredient? When it was first used heavily in the ‘50s and ‘60s people didn’t realise they were using lanolin with residual pesticides in from the farming. In farmers' defence, chemicals can come from a car driving past their field and the exhaust fumes sticking to the lanolin. It’s such a sticky, absorbent substance — which makes it so great — but it really holds onto things so it’s really important to get highly-purified lanolin.
So how can we make sure we're using safe lanolin? I realised how safe lanolin was when I was looking into the different grades and I came across medical grade lanolin. If people have any concerns about the safety of lanolin they just need to remember that it's used in pretty much every hospital in the western world after surgical operations on open wounds. It’s used by hundreds of thousands of women as a nursing cream so it is safe for a newborn baby to ingest.
Are there any things we should avoid when it comes to lanolin? Organic lanolin is a huge no no. It's like drinking water that hasn’t been purified. Lanolin needs to be purified. It’s from the farming industry. The better the quality of lanolin, the more purification processes it’s been through but it’s still natural. The key is to look for medical grade. We use what is called ultra medical grade lanolin in Lanolips, so it’s three times more pure again.
What's so great about lanolin versus other moisturisers? As well as being 100 percent natural, it’s actually called a semi-occlusive so, unlike petroleum jelly, it’s creates a breathable barrier, letting your skin self-hydrate from within. Top quality lanolin like the one we use also holds up to 400 times of its own weight in moisture and because the molecular structure resembles your skin lipids, it just feels like an extension of your own skin.
What next for the brand? Well we launched in 2009 with the 101 Ointment and the colours, adding hand cream, which I'd been working on pre-launch. Now we've got three body products coming in a few months. I found that I was adding 101 Ointment to everything so now I'm doing my own creams including an all-over body ointment that's super moisturising!