Alternatives to Lanolin

Written by angela baird
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There are a few alternatives to the animal-based emulsifier lanolin. While lanolin, a word taken from Latin that translates as "wool oil," has been surrounded by myths that are largely debunked, there are still those who object to using it, especially vegans. As an animal product extracted from the wool of sheep after the wool is sheared, it is not permitted in the strictest sense into the vegan lifestyle. Other people may develop an allergic reaction to lanolin as an additive in their cosmetics, soaps or lotions, and need to find an alternative. Lanolin is used in many of today's beauty products, so always read labels to determine if it is in a product.

Potassium Carbonate

This white powder is a plant byproduct, formed by using the ashes of burnt wood or the ashes and soil of burnt kelp, and mixed with carbon dioxide gas to form an emulsifier. Also known as "pearl ash" or "potash," it gives beauty products a matt finish.


Used in a wide range of products, this emulsifier is a synthetic blend of alcohols and amines. It is found in eyeliners and mascaras, foundations, hair care products and perfumes. It lends a pearlescent finish to make-up.

Lipex L'sens

With its pure vegetable base, this synthetic emulsifier is another alternative to lanolin. It has only a very faint odour, and therefore can be used in fragrance-free products for those with sensitivities to fragrance additives. It is highly effective at moisturising, as well as providing a smoothing effect to the skin.


The oil of the soybean is being used in a variety of cosmetic applications, and is prized for its availability as a natural vegetable product. As an emulsifier like lanolin, it can be melted and whipped for pouring lip balms and body butters. Soy lecithin is another material extracted from soybean oil that acts as a natural emulsifier with little chemical alteration.

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