3 Uses for Nipple Cream That Have Nothing to Do With Your Nipples

Have leftover cream after nursing? Lucky you! A shmear can help your dry heels, chapped lips, and more.
Tolikoff Photography/ Shutterstock

If you've ever breastfed a baby, you probably, at one point or another, slathered lanolin on your nipples. The thick, pale yellow ointment is a godsend for many moms who've wound up with cracked, dry, painful or bleeding nips in those early months of nursing. I used gobs of it myself, stashing it next to the rocking chair and fumbling for it during midnight feedings.

So when I recently received an email from Lansinoh, the company behind those lavender-hued lanolin tubes, with the subject reading "Lanolin: The Perfect Product To Take Your Brows To The Next Level," I was perplexed, to say the least. A quick click showed me that the company is now pitching their product for all sorts of non-nip uses, from taming stray eyebrow hairs to moisturizing lips, cuticles, and feet.

I was intrigued.

I started poking around, asking friends if they've ever heard of using nipple balm as an all-over beauty hack, and to my surprise, it turns out there's a whole underground world of non-nursing folks using nipple cream like Toula Portokalos' dad used Windex in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I.E. on everything.

What, exactly, is lanolin?

First, a primer. Lanolin is a waxy product that comes from sheep. Yes, sheep. When farmers shear their sheep, the wool contains naturally occurring grease, which helps keep the animals' coat dry and protected. After a number of treatments and purifications, that grease turns into lanolin.

Growing up on an Australian sheep farm, Kirsten Carriol remembers her father teaching her that lanolin mimics the oil in humans' skin. In fact, "it was the only ingredient my parents used on my skin and lips growing up," she says. Carriol's dad was right: skin care scientist Uma Kulkarni says that research shows similar physical properties between lanolin and the lipids found on the outermost layer of our skin, and continued use of lanolin "actually helps to restore hydration and makes skin soft and supple," by forming a layer on the skin that reduces water loss.

"Once it penetrates into the skin, it holds up to 400 times its weight in water," says Carriol, who now runs a beauty company called Lanolips. Model and mom-to-a-one-year-old Rosie Huntington Whitley, recently called Lanolips' 101 Ointment the "holy grail for dry lips this summer. And cuticles, and rough patches…"

Here's how you can use your leftover cream:

Your lips

Hairstylist and mom of two Jacklyn Snorek, 33, started using lanolin as a lip balm while nursing her younger son late one night. "He was nine months old, and I remember my lips were super dry. There was no lip balm nearby, but the nipple cream was right there. It totally worked." Actress Margot Robbie has copped to using nipple cream as lip balm, too.

Chicago-based freelance makeup artist Lauren Taylor, owner of Lauren Taylor Makeup Art and a mom of two, says she often uses lanolin on clients' lips, especially when prepping them before lipstick application. "When I was done breastfeeding my son, I had all this nipple cream leftover," Taylor says. "So I Googled alternative uses for it. It's really moisturizing, so I'll put it on clients' lips first, before lip stain or lipstick."

Dermatologist Emily Rubenstein, D.O., director of Swedish Covenant Medical Group's Swedish Skin Institute in Chicago, confirms that lanolin "is a nontoxic, safe soothing cream that can help heal cracked and dry lips."

If you think about it, every time a baby nurses from a lanolin-ed breast, she's getting a dose of lip balm herself. And what's more gorgeous than a pair of plump, rosebud baby lips?

Your eyebrows

Taylor confirms that lanolin could, in a pinch, work as an eyebrow tamer. But she recommends using the tiniest amount possible to avoid excess sheen, and setting it with brow powder, eyebrow-hued eyeshadow, or translucent powder if it's too shiny for your taste. You'll want to avoid using it with an eyebrow pencil, as it could cause smudges.

As long as you're in the eye vicinity, Taylor also likes lanolin under the eyes, to fill in fine lines before applying concealer. "It also works well with concealers that are too thick. I'll mix it with a pinch of lanolin to thin it out and make it really creamy." The resulting concoction "moisturizes the undereye area and prevents seeping."

Your heels

As someone with feet that closely resemble horse hooves, I have yet to find a lotion or cream that can penetrate my heels and stop them from feeling like the exterior of a coconut. So when the Lansinoh peeps wrote in their email that "flip-flop season is in full swing…[but] sometimes, as a result of the constant exposure of our feet in the warm weather, they tend to become rougher much faster than during the winter," I took it as a direct challenge.

Before applying, I checked in with Kulkarni, who said that lanolin outperforms petrolatum when it comes to easing dryness, scaling, and cracks, but noted that it may lack a "pleasant or aesthetic feel or application."

I started spackling it on before bed, immediately slipping a pair of socks on to avoid staining my sheets. It felt greasy, but these heels ain't gonna lubricate themselves, knowwhatImean? After marinating overnight, I was able to successfully pull a pair of pants on without them snagging on my heels. (Oh come on, you know this has happened to you.)

A few things worth noting...

Because lanolin is derived from sheep, some vegans may not want to use it.

In the past, people have expressed concerns over possible allergic reactions to lanolin. Kulkarni says that today's complex purification techniques are able to remove potentially irritating compounds and impurities, rendering lanolin more hypoallergenic…safe enough to be suitable for people with eczema, even.

It can also stain fabric and sheets. Treat it like a grease stain: Spot treat it with grease-fighting dishwashing liquid (like Dawn), then soak the fabric in hot water or some type of soaking agent for as long as possible, even overnight, before washing the item as normal.


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