Lanolin Vs Petroleum Jelly For Dry and Acne Prone Skin

Acne prone skin can easily become dry when using harsh acne treatments.

When looking for options to soothe this dry skin, you also want to make sure you are not aggravating the existing acne or causing new breakouts.

When it comes to extremely dry skin or a damaged skin barrier, a good idea is to incorporate an occlusive in your skincare routine.

An occlusive is a thick substance that can be applied to the skin that dramatically reduces water loss from the skin.

Examples include things like Vaseline and Aquaphor. The main ingredients of these include petroleum jelly and lanolin, respectively. 

Everything You Need To Know About Lanolin

What Is Lanolin?

Lanolin is fat from sheep’s wool. It is a thick substance that is purified to remove detergents and other substances that may cause allergic reactions in some individuals (1).

Is Lanolin Good For The Skin?

Lanolin can provide a variety of benefits to the skin.

Since it is a fatty substance, it can impart a moisturizing effect on the skin.

When applied topically, it can speed the time it takes to heal sore areas, such as on the nipples after breastfeeding (1). 

Does Lanolin Reduce Wrinkles?

Lanolin does not reduce wrinkles. However, since it is an emollient that can moisturize the skin, it may plump the skin, making the wrinkles appear less prominent. 

Emollients are a type of moisturizer that softens the skin cells and helps to repair dry skin.

Can You Use This Ingredient Under Eyes?

It is best not to use lanolin close to the eyes as the area around the eyes is thinner and more sensitive and prone to allergic reactions or dermatitis.

One article suggests that lanolin is only a weak contact allergen and that it is unlikely to prompt an allergic reaction (2). 

However, a recent article suggests that dermatitis or an allergy to lanolin is more likely to happen with prolonged exposure to the substance (3).

Dermatitis is a skin condition in which the skin becomes irritated from substances applied to it.

It is characterized by red, itchy, or swollen skin. 

How Is This Waxy Substance Extracted?

After the sheep’s wool is washed to remove dirt and debris, centrifugation is used to separate the wax from the wool.

Does Lanolin Really Work?

Since lanolin is a mixture of multiple substances including fatty acids (3), it does impart a softening effect on the skin.

Fatty acids are an essential component of the skin barrier.

Increasing the amount of fatty acids applied to the skin elevates fatty acid levels in the stratum corneum, which can lead to softer skin.

Does It Affect Eczema?

Eczema is a type of dermatitis that is characterized by dry and itchy skin.

It is caused by a dysfunctional skin barrier that can be aggravated by harsh products such as aggressive cleansers or drying skin treatments (4).

The use of lanolin may aggravate eczema as it is a common culprit of contact dermatitis on the skin.

Does Lanolin Block Pores?

All ingredients affect people in different ways.

However, since lanolin is a waxy substance that forms a barrier over the skin, and is a common contributor to dermatitis, it may clog the pores or aggravate breakouts.

Petroleum Jelly

What Is Petroleum Jelly?

Petroleum jelly is a waxy white substance that is a type of occlusive. When applied topically to the skin, it significantly reduces transepidermal water loss.

Transepidermal water loss is the loss of water from the epidermis, or outer layer of the skin.

Is Petroleum Jelly Good For Skin?

When the skin is extremely dry, it weakens the skin barrier and makes the skin more prone to infections and other ailments.

To enhance the benefits of serums and moisturizers that provide hydration to the skin, an occlusive can be used to seal in this moisture. 

It is an inert substance that yields very few reactions in those that use petroleum jelly. It can be used frequently and safely and works to keep the moisture levels up in the skin.

Does This Ingredient Reduce Wrinkles?

Dehydrated skin can give the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles overtime.

If you are suffering from dry skin, petroleum jelly may be an effective way to keep moisture in the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines.

Read here to find a detailed explanation of how petroleum jelly can be used as an occlusive to reduce dehydration.

Can You Use It Under The Eyes?

Petroleum jelly is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction.

It has even been used to treat eyelid inflammation (5). It is safe for use around the eyes.

If you are dealing with crow’s feet, fine lines, and dehydrated skin around the eyes, using petroleum jelly as an occlusive can soothe the eyes and keep moisture in.

Does Vaseline Block Pores?

Petroleum jelly reduces transepidermal water loss more than 98%. Due to its ability to protect sensitive skin and its unlikely nature to produce an allergic reaction, it is not likely to cause breakouts on its own.

However, due to the barrier it forms over the skin, it keeps serums and moisturizers in the skin. If you are using skincare products that irritate your skin or cause breakouts, petroleum jelly may enhance the effect of these products and cause more breakouts to appear.

By comparison, the safer option is petroleum jelly.

Find a comparison chart below comparing both of these ingredients.


  1. Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); 2006–. Lanolin. 2021 Feb 15. PMID: 30000902.
  2. Kligman AM. The myth of lanolin allergy. Contact Dermatitis. 1998 Sep;39(3):103-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0536.1998.tb05856.x. PMID: 9771981.
  3. Knijp J, Bruynzeel DP, Rustemeyer T. Diagnosing lanolin contact allergy with lanolin alcohol and Amerchol L101. Contact Dermatitis. 2019 May;80(5):298-303. doi: 10.1111/cod.13210. Epub 2019 Mar 19. PMID: 30624788; PMCID: PMC6593808.
  4. Nemeth V, Evans J. Eczema. [Updated 2021 Aug 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. 
  5.  Devambez H, Richeux M, Guericolas M, Choquet C, Casalino E, Ghazali AD. Eyelid inflammation: An uncommon cause in occidental countries. Am J Emerg Med. 2017 Nov;35(11):1789.e3-1789.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2017.08.021. Epub 2017 Aug 7. PMID: 28888529.

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