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Lano Spreads the Message of Lanolin at Ulta Beauty

The Australian skin-care brand centered on the moisturizing byproduct of wool production is growing globally.

After reinventing lanolin for Australian skin-care customers, Lano is attempting to popularize the moisturizing ingredient in the U.S.

Priced from $15 to $19, three of the lanolin-driven brand’s star products — 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm, Rose Hand Cream Intense and 101 Ointment Strawberry Multipurpose Superbalm — are launching at impulse purchase sections across Ulta Beauty’s store network on Aug. 1. The nationwide retail push follows Lano’s American introduction at Shen Beauty and Net-a-porter.

“In Australia, lanolin is a very basic everyday item, and I had to make it the purest and the best. It’s actually an exceptionally expensive product, but people think it is a cheap item. In the rest of the world, I knew people would see it as fresh and unique,” said Lano founder Kirsten Carriol. “I always designed the brand as a global brand. I had very big goals from the outset.”

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A year after its founding in 2009, Sydney-based Lano stretched from Australia, where David Jones and Mecca Cosmetica are key accounts in a 600-door reach, to the U.K., where it’s available in 700 doors at shops such as Boots and Whole Foods. The brand has entered Joyce Beauty in Hong Kong as well. Australia and the U.K. vie for Lano’s top markets, although, buoyed by interest in natural beauty products, the U.S. could quickly catch up to them.

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“We have managed to straddle mass and prestige. I want to be very democratic. It’s about kind of being the Zara of skin care. The product has a high cost to make, but I wanted it be as affordable as possible,” said Carriol. “We are in Boots – we are double the price of anything in our category there – but we are also in Whole Foods and in Net-a-porter. Consumers are smart enough to know now that they can have fantastic quality in both prestige and mass environments.”

In the U.S., lanolin, a byproduct of the wool industry sometimes referred to as wool wax, fat or grease, is a sleeper ingredient. It’s common in nipple creams for breastfeeding mothers and lip balms like Carmex, but isn’t celebrated. Carriol envisions Lano awakening Americans to the cruelty-free, sustainable, safe version of the ingredient in the brand’s products, and making inroads in the U.S. against competitors including Burt’s Bees and Kiehl’s.

“When it comes off the sheep, it’s industrial grade, and it’s useful for lubricating machinery. It gets purified for various reasons and, every time it’s purified, it becomes more expensive and time-consuming to make. We actually use what we call ultramedical grade. It is three times more pure than medical grade. That’s the best lanolin in the world, and we are the only company to use it,” said Carriol. “It takes months to get it made, and there are long lead times for our products.”

Carriol and lanolin have a long history. Her grandparents were sheep farmers, and her father, a genetic scientist, preached the hydrating power of lanolin. “He taught me the molecular structure of lanolin mimics human skin oil,” recalled Carriol. As she transitioned from youth to adulthood, Carriol’s career as a publicist enmeshed her in the glamorous side of the beauty business that didn’t embrace lanolin. But, in a search for solutions to chronic chapped lips, she returned to lanolin and rekindled her enthusiasm for the ingredient.

“I moved away from lanolin and figured new products were better because they were expensive and luxurious. I tried everything. I was the biggest beauty junkie you’d ever meet until I realized that nothing works like the lanolin I grew up with,” said Carriol. “That’s when I knew I had to bring it back and develop a beautiful brand around it, and make it something women were happy to have in their handbags.”

Lano’s approach to lanolin has been well received. The brand has consistently registered sales growth in double-digit percentages annually, and Carriol predicted it could hit triple-digit growth over the next few years as it continues international expansion and increases its penetration in the U.S. She revealed negotiations are ongoing to place Lano in additional American stores. Carriol asserted, “I want to be a household name. I want lanolin to be a staple in everyone’s cupboard.”