Today I wanted to share with you these plant oil based vegan alternatives to lanolin.
Lanolin is great at forming an emollient film on the skin, and reducing water-loss through evaporation from the skin. It’s very sticky which means it often remains on the skin longer than petrolatum and oils. Lanolin also has the interesting ability to absorb water, up to 200% in some cases.
Many people are allergic to lanolin and others, like the wonderful @phyrra, choose to use animal and cruelty-free products, but it’s difficult to get the same effect with natural alternatives. Lanolin is made up wax esters, lanolin alcohols, and lanolin acids which give it its unique properties.
I’ve come across other ingredients that are marketed as lanolin alternatives, but they’re often hydrogenated oils or plant butters. While they often have the melting point and waxiness of lanolin, they lack the stickiness and water absorption.
These have a similar stickiness and effect on the skin as lanolin, absorb around 200% water, and they’re made with components found in plant oils!
Plant oils (and many animal fats) are triglycerides. They are made up of three fatty acids attached to a glycerol molecule.
Below is the structure of tristearin, a triglyceride found in nutmeg! The blue part of the molecule is the glycerol. The long chains are fatty acids, 3 stearic acids are shown.
The company uses a patented method using radio frequency heating and catalysts to rearrange the molecules and attach extra glycerol molecules to the fatty acids. The results are biodegradable, safe, and the whole process adheres to many of the tenants of green chemistry. They’re also ECOCERT and COSMOS approved.
Below is glyceryl stearate, which is 1 glycerol molecule (in blue) attached to 1 stearic acid (in red).
The samples are organized from thinnest to thickest from left to right, and these changes are made by attaching differing amounts of glycerol to the fatty acids, or rearranging them in different structures.
As an example, in the molecule below, 3 glycerol molecules have been chained together to form triglyceryl stearate
These are great for balms, adding extra emollience to moisturizers, and even for keeping pigments from lipsticks on your lips! The company has also done human trials on these that have shown they have a long-term effect on moisture levels in the skin – similar to lanolin!
This is a water gelling agent made from a Gram-negative bacteria, similar to xanthan gum.
A 0.001% concentration can thicken up a product quite nicely, which is good because it costs more than $10 000 for a kilo.
Beyond thickening water, it also has moisturizing properties, similar to hyaluronic acid.
Is it better or worth the money? I’m not sure – but if the popularity of this ingredient increases, the cost will go down. Much of the cost is the low yield from production. You can read more about how it’s produced here.
Japanese and Korean suppliers tend to have many unique and interesting raw materials, from my experience.
It’s found in a few commercial products, which are very luxury and expensive (as is to be expected).