Wool wax alcohols

Author: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer

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Last updated on: 29.10.2020

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Alcoholes adipis lanae; Alcoholes lanae; Lanolin alcohol; wool wax alcohols

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Mixture of stearines (at least 30% cholesterol) with aliphatic alcohols of wool wax.

Field of application/use
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Additive to lipophilic basic materials (e.g. vaseline, paraffin) in concentration of 3-6% as W/O emulsifier.

Other uses include furniture polishes, water-miscible cooling lubricants in the metal industry, leather and furs, corrosion inhibitors for metals, paper and printer ink, textile finishing agents and as a lubricant for mounting car tyres.

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Methyl cellulose, tragacanth, phenols, tar products, hydrophilic surfactants and surface active agents.


Pesticide exposure and allergenic potency are present.

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Woolwax alcohol occurs in the standard series of the epicutaneous test (see also Amerchol L101). "High" sensitization rates are found in patients with leg ulcers. Weakly positive sensitizations in the epicutaneous test can also be irritative. In case of strong test reactions, an " angry back" should also be considered. The clinical relevance of a sensitization is often controversially discussed and should be evaluated by means of a repeated open application test(ROAT) or a " use use test".

The sensitizing potency of wool wax alcohols is weak! The effect of an allergy is minimal (even in the combined presence of sensitization to wool wax alcohols and cetylstearyl alcohol). Especially simple positive reactions should usually not be an expression of an allergic but of an irritative reaction.

Sensitization to wool wax alcohols is significantly more frequent in older patients or patients with chronic venous insufficiency or stasis dermatitis. It is described as a "lanolin paradox" that patients suffering from allergic contact dermatitis of the leg ulcers can frequently continue to use wool-wax alcohol-containing cosmetics on other body areas without any problems.

As it is possible that not all wool wax sensitized persons are detected by commercially available wool wax alcohol test preparations it is recommended to additionally test Amerchol L-101 (consisting of lanolin alcohol and paraffin) in case of a corresponding suspicion.

Occupational sensitisation is particularly conceivable in the medical field, especially in activities involving direct exposure to various externals for the care and treatment of patients, such as in geriatric care or masseurs. Exposure possibilities are also conceivable in the household sector, in the textile and leather industry, in the paper and printing industry and for metal workers handling cooling lubricants.

Occupational exposure to wool wax alcohols and cetylstearyl alcohol in activities which regularly involve occupational contact with various external agents (e.g. in outpatient care and masseurs) corresponds to general occupational dermatological knowledge; in most cases, direct skin contact can be avoided by applying suitable personal protective measures and/or testing substitutes. On the other hand, in individual cases, exposure must be verified by means of a workplace analysis for the other occupational fields that may be affected (domestic sector, metal industry with exposure to cooling lubricants, textile and leather industry, etc.).

Furthermore, it has to be examined to what extent sensitisation to wool wax alcohols and cetylstearyl alcohol could have been acquired indirectly through the use of skin protection topicals or the application of skin care products or extema for the therapy of occupational skin diseases.

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  1. Aberer W (2006) lanolin alcohol - a controversial contact allergen. Dermatol at work and in the environment 54: 135-139
  2. Lim KS et al (2007) Contact sensitization in patients with chronic venous leg ulcers in Singapore. Contact Dermatitis Feb 56: 94-98
  3. Skudlik C, John SM, Becker D, Dickel H, Geier J, Leesmann H, Mahler V, Rogosky E, Wagner E, Weisshaar E, Diepgen TL, for the working group "Evaluation of allergens at BK 5101" of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Berufs- und Umweltdermatologie in der Deutschen Dermatologischen Gesellschaft (2008) Justification for the assessment of the impact of allergies against wool wax alcohols and cetylstearyl alcohol within the scope of the MdE-evaluation. Assessing the effects of delayed allergies to wool wax alcohols and cetostearylic alcohols with reference to the reduction in earning capacity]. Dermatol Occupation Environment 56: 66-69
  4. Trummer M et al (2002) Clinical relevance of + patch test reactions to lanolin alcohol. Contact Dermatitis 46: 118


Last updated on: 29.10.2020