Lanolin Allergy: History, Epidemiology, Responsible Allergens, and Management

Bailey Lee; Erin Warshaw


Dermatitis. 2008;19(2):63-72. 

In This Article

The “Lanolin Paradox”

In 1996, Wolf used the term “lanolin paradox” to describe four clinical phenomena.[64] The first two were similar to those outlined by Fisher for parabens (“paraben paradoxes”): (1) medicaments containing lanolin can sensitize patients, especially those with eczema, whereas lanolin-containing cosmetics are generally less sensitizing; and (2) lanolin-containing medicaments can cause an allergic contact dermatitis when applied to ulcerated skin, but those same patients will not develop a reaction to lanolin-containing cosmetics. Wolf reasoned that lanolin is a weak sensitizer in normal skin whereas damaged skin is easily sensitized. The third lanolin paradox is that lanolin-sensitive patients often have negative patch-test reactions to pure lanolin; this may be due to a low concentration of allergens. As the fourth paradox, Wolf concluded that just as Fisher stated that using only a paraben mix is not a reliable method to test for paraben allergy, the use of only 30% wool alcohols to test for allergy to lanolin is insufficient[64,65]


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