Lanolin is a natural, organic, renewable raw-material originating from the natural secretion of the sebaceous glands of sheep. Lanolin has been known since ancient times for its skin treating properties. It has been scientifically studied and industrially manufactured only since the end of the last century. Lanolin can be obtained from wool grease which is itself extracted from the scouring effluents obtained during the cleaning of wool. Throughout its life, the sheep naturally give out a fat which soaks into its fleece and stays there until it is washed in the textile factories. The quantity of wool grease, or suint as it is called which soaks into the fleece is high. It can amount up to 10 % of the wool’s weight. However, the process used to extract it from wool washing-waters makes it possible to recover a limited amount, only. Lanolin is obtained either from suint (Woolgrease) extracted by centrifugation which is then collected by mechanical skimming of the baths in which the wool is washed or from extracted suints or from pressurised suints obtained by breaking down with acid all of the waters used in washing the wool. This process is slowly disappearing due to the increase in the use of synthetic detergents which make the breaking down of emulsions more difficult.
Depending on the type of animal, the secreted fat which soaks into the fleece has a different composition. The quality of woolgrease depends to a great extent on the breed of animal and the conditions in which it is brought up. However each woolgrease is free of glycerol (wool grease is not a grease in the true sense of the word but more a wax). They also contain cholesterol and have an exceptional affinity for water.
Compared with most fatty components, woolgrease stands out on account of its relatively low saponification level (about 100). Its very hich proportion of non-saponifiers (almost 50 %) and a very low iodine value (17 to 32).
Woolgrease is therefore a wax made up mainly of a mixture of esters, fatty alcohols (cholesterols, lano-sterol, agno-sterol, cerylic alcohol, cetyl alcohol, lano-octadecyl alcohol, carnaubylic alcohol), with a small percentage of these alcohols in their free state and combined with a mixture of fatty acids, namely palmic acid, myristic acid, capric, butic, lognoceric and cerotic acids.