If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you’ve probably been recommended to use personal care products containing lanolin to ease sore or cracked nipples from breastfeeding by healthcare providers. The FDA has approved lanolin for use in many products, such as cosmetics, lip balm, and nipple cream, but is lanolin really safe for you – and more importantly, for your baby? You’ve trusted Mamavation to cover topics like which retailers are protecting your family from toxic chemicals, 13 foods you don’t need to purchase organic, and ways to support a pesticide-free school lunch now join us as we explore the dangers of lanolin as skin care products.
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What is Lanolin?
Lanolin is a waxy substance that coats a sheep’s fur, keeping it moist and protecting its skin. After a sheep’s wool has been shorn, a waxy substance called sebum is left on the fur, which comes from the animal’s sebaceous glands – just like human sebum skin produces oil – and is affected by hormone production. This is also referred to as “wool wax,” “wool fat,” or “wool grease.”
While lanolin contains sebum, according to “The Scouring Post” by Beth Smith, it can also contain sweat, dirt, dust, pollen, fecal matter, and more. In addition, different sheep breeds create different consistencies of lanolin with different makeups. Lanolin must first be purified before it can be used in any products and that can be a challenge. This refining process varies greatly between different companies, the chemicals used, and the degree of purity in the process. After refinement, lanolin is used in a number of skincare and beauty products for consumers and in hospitals for wound care on top of the skin, but it’s also one of the most common ingredients for nipple cream, which provides relief from cracked and sore nipples to breastfeeding moms.
Lanolin is also used for contact dermatitis as an emollient, for skin irritation, diaper rash, eczema, dry skin, scrapes, nipple pain, swelling, psoriasis, for moisture, and as a lubrication.
Pesticides & GMOs: The Dangers of Lanolin
While refining can be complicated and difficult, the real problem with lanolin is its toxic makeup. Sheep that are conventionally farmed in the U.S. for wool are typically not raised USDA organic. According to the American Sheep Industry Association document, “Fast Facts about Sheep Ecology (PDF)”, sheep eat a range of foods and much of their feed is made of alfalfa, which is considered “grass” and does contain GMOs. They may also be given GMO supplements. GMOs that are doused with glyphosate can have trace amounts of endocrine disruptor chemicals like glyphosate which can, in turn, affect the lanolin that sheep secrete.
Other foods sources hold potential problems as well. According to Susan Schoenian at “Shepherd’s Notebook“, dried distiller’s grains with solubles (DDGS), which are made from corn products distilled at ethanol factories, are becoming a popular source of food for sheep. However, this food source may have a negative impact on reproduction in sheep herds. The corn used in these ethanol factories can be GMO-based.
However, one of the biggest dangers of lanolin is that sheep are sprayed directly with pesticides to treat mites and pests. In addition, harvested fur is treated again with pesticides during refinement. Lanolin can legally contain up to 40 parts per million (ppm) of pesticides to be FDA-compliant. This is interesting to note because lanolin that is reserved for hospital use on open wounds is regulated to no more than 3 ppm of pesticides.
Lanolin Can Be Harmful to Babies, So Choose Organic
While these minuscule amounts may not pose much of a harmful effect for human adults, babies exposed to lanolin while breastfeeding may not be safe. According to Livestrong’s article on the “Infant Digestive System Development”, when mothers nurse a newborn, they provide the enzymes the baby is lacking because their digestive system is too immature. Even with the enzymes present in mother’s milk, they may not have enough enzymes to process out pesticides. Exposing them to the impurities inherent in lanolin can be harmful to their systems.
Because lanolin goes directly into your baby’s mouth, we recommend using organic lanolin alternatives instead to ensure that everything that goes on your skin – and into your child’s mouth – is GMO, pesticide, and cruelty-free. For instance, Earth Mama Organics makes a natural nipple cream that is non-GMO and contains no lanolin. Products like this ensure the health and well-being of your baby.
Here are some great products available on Amazon and elsewhere for your convenience:
- Earth Mama Nipple Cream (Mamavation also sent this product to the lab to test for indications of PFAS and received a non-detect lab report.
- Honest Organic Nipple Balm
- Bamboobies Organic Nipple Cream
- Badger Organic Nursing Balm
- E*raorganics Nipple cream
- Pure Haven Mom Balm Certified Organic
Each of these products will be free from parabens, toxic persistent pesticides like glyphosate, petroleum jelly, petrolatum, and mineral oil (baby oil). You will more likely find ingredients like coconut oil, cocoa butter, olive oil, vitamin e, and beeswax.
Interested in Safer Products for Baby
Interested in safer products for mother and baby? Mamavation has done several investigations to find the safest products! Here are some examples below: