A retrospective analysis of contact allergy to lanolin

Br J Dermatol. 2001 Jul;145(1):28-31. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2133.2001.04277.x.


Background: Lanolin is often stated to be an important sensitizer but some of the available literature is based on the analysis of high-risk patients.

Objectives: To analyse the frequency of contact allergy to lanolin (wool alcohols) in a central London teaching hospital patch-test population.

Methods: Review of 24,449 patients recorded on our database during 1982--96 who were tested with a standard series containing 30% wool alcohols.

Results: The mean annual rate of sensitivity to this allergen was 1.7%. The wool alcohols-allergic group contained a higher proportion of females (P < 0.05), and the mean age of both males and females (48.4 and 49.2 years) was higher than that of non-wool alcohols-allergic patients (41.4 and 35.9 years; P < 0.0005). There was no difference in atopic eczema status between these groups. The highest prevalence of allergy to wool alcohols was among patients with lower leg dermatitis (6.0%; 95% confidence interval, CI 4.46--7.54), followed by those with anogenital dermatitis (3.23%; 95% CI 1.81--4.65). There was an unexplained decline in the rate of positive patch tests to Amerchol L-101. However, some patients who reacted to this were negative with wool alcohols, so it may be a useful additional test reagent. The mean rates of allergy to Eucerin (0.65% per annum) and 50% hydrogenated lanolin in petrolatum (1% per annum) were low, and we no longer use these as test reagents.

Conclusions: This study illustrates that lanolin sensitization has remained at a relatively low and constant rate even in a high-risk population (i.e. patients with recent or active eczema).

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dermatitis, Contact / epidemiology*
  • Dermatitis, Contact / etiology*
  • Dermatitis, Contact / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lanolin / adverse effects*
  • London / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patch Tests
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Lanolin