Is Lanolin Beneficial For Eczema?

lanolin beneficial for eczema

A question from George

Hello Colin,

I was hoping to hear your opinion on a moisturiser by D.R. Harris & Co, the world’s oldest pharmacy. The majority of ingredients in this cream seems very standard, but it is also formulated with isopropyl myristate and lanolin – two ingredients which I know you are particularly fond of. This company also produce lots of shaving paraphernalia which you may also be interested in. I have facial eczema and don’t like to rely too heavily on steroid creams, which my dermatologist is all too keen to dish out. I’m also curious if lanolin can be beneficial in countering eczema as opinion on the internet seems to be on the no side. Regards, George

I have probably written enough about isopropyl myristate to satisfy most people. I have mentioned lanolin a fair bit over the years too. But thanks for this question which allows me to say some more. Yes I think lanolin is beneficial in eczema. And that isn’t just my opinion. The twentieth century’s most famous dermatologist, Albert Kligman, said ‘lanolin is a marvelous material we should emphasise the benefits and not the risks’.  What lanolin does particularly well is to enhance the skin’s barrier function. That after all is exactly what the sheep produce it for in the first place.

So for a condition like eczema where the body’s own immune system is undermining the skin’s barrier function lanolin ought to be particularly beneficial. I don’t suffer from eczema myself, but I do find lanolin is very helpful for dry skin.  I can’t see any reason why lanolin wouldn’t be beneficial for eczema.  Steroids work in a completely different way by suppressing the immune response, so I would expect that the two treatments would work very well together. This seems to be the opinion of a lot of dermatologists as well. They even have a term for how emollients can reduce the amount of steroid cream that a patient needs. They call it steroid sparing.

It is important not to get too paranoid about steroids applied to the skin. Only very mild steroids are used and they are not often applied to large areas. So their effects are unlikely to be harmful. But if you can get good effects from an emollient like lanolin that has no harmful effect and which you can buy and use freely then why not? And if course emollients are much cheaper.

The only drawback with lanolin is that like a lot of natural products it is slightly more prone to cause allergic reactions than synthetic alternatives. But in my opinion it works a lot better than other options, so for 99% of people it’s a great option.

As to D.R. Harris & Co, I confess I have never heard of them before but their website is very impressive as is their location.

 

Medila

Skin Therapy Lett. 2014 Jan-Feb;19(1):5-10. Steroid-sparing properties of emollients in dermatology.
Harcharik S, Emer J.

 

5 thoughts on “Is Lanolin Beneficial For Eczema?

  1. Anna Marie Hamilton

    For Colin:
    My infant son had a skin rash on his face. It persisted as I tried wheat grass juice and I’m sure several other things before I got to lanolin. This was 37 years ago! As I rarely took him to doctor it was not diagnosed because when I got to lanolin, it went away very quickly- not to return. However this child always had sensitive skin.
    My grandson now has a more severe case of this, diagnosed as eczema.
    I do not think the parents have tried lanolin due to what they’ve read about possible allergic reactions. What would you recommend?
    They have tried steroid creams and other pharmacological things without much success.
    Thank you for your response,
    AM

  2. Colin Post author

    Well I am not medically qualified and I only have what you have written to go on, but lanolin is always worth a try. I don’t believe reactions to it are common, but applying a small amount to begin with to be on the safe side.

  3. Anonymous

    I have severe eczema on my eyelids. I hate using steroid so I used lanolin. Big mistake. Made my eyes swell up and almost closed them! Back to pawpaw for me!

  4. Choo Loh

    I am a long term user of steroid creams for my eczema (10 years). When my skin started to thin, it bled easily. I saw my dermatologist and he said that the constant eczema is causing in fact thins the skin more than the steroid creams ever will, so I had to change several things. These are :-
    1. Shower on the eczema affected areas only with water, not any form of soap or soap free solutions.
    2. Dry the skin after shower by patting the towel on it with no rubbing action. So,now I use a micro fibre cloth for drying my skin.
    3. Last but not least, I told my dermatologist that I was now using a lanolin cream. He said that was an acceptable solution, as it was oil based. after 2 weeks of use, I can now see new flakes of skin on the eczema areas. The lanonlin cream appears to both moistens my skin for longer and appears to heal the skin as well by causing new skin growth.

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