Alpaca wool has many amazing qualities, like being super soft and incredibly strong. You may have even heard that alpaca wool is mostly itch-free, too. But what about allergies? Is this super fiber hypoallergenic, too?
where to buy gabapentin cream The alpaca fiber contains a minimal amount of lanolin, which is elimated during the production process. This means that alpaca wool is hypoallergenic. People with wool allergy can wear alpaca wool without suffering an allergic reaction.
For many people, alpaca equals wool, and wool equals allergy. I can only imagine how hesitant people can be when it comes to trusting a type of wool that would not cause them any suffering.
Read on to find out more about why alpaca wool is hypoallergenic.
Why Is Alpaca Wool Hypoallergenic?
According to Cameron Holt, the claims that alpacas don’t produce lanolin are false. tight He states that all wool bearing animals, alpaca included, produce lanolin. Lanolin helps the hair to come through the skin and grow. It also helps protect the animal from its harsh living environment.
HOWEVER, alpacas produce a much lower amount of lanolin than other wool-bearing animals, and therefore almost all lanolin is removed during the production process.
|Angora goat (mohair)||20-40%|
The process of removing dirt and vegetable matter from the fiber is called scouring.
Dirt and vegetable matter get stuck on the wool because of the lanolin. Because of the minimal amounts of lanolin found on alpaca fibers, the process requires generally less water and less chemical detergents to be removed.
- Keeping this in mind, the claims alpaca wool doesn’t need any chemical treatment are false, too. Despite their low lanolin-content, alpacas still collect dirt and vegetable matter – which will need to be removed before the fiber can be turned into yarn.
In short, alpaca woolen products are free from lanolin. Alpaca wool is a great “hypoallergenic” alternative to wool, because…
- 100% pure alpaca wool contains minimal levels of lanolin, and is therefore considered hypoallergenic.
- 100% pure alpaca wool does not need to be treated with (lots of) chemicals to remove grease and dirt.
- 100% pure alpaca wool is a sustainable, (dare-I-say better) alternative to other wool substances.
Check the label to make sure “Alpaca Wool” actually means 100% pure alpaca wool 🙂
Once you go alpac-a, you never go back-a.
Defining Important Terms
Before we dig into more details of the wonderful world of lanolin free alpaca wool, let’s get our terms right first.
When something is hypoallergenic, it means that a product probably does not contain allergens (Read more about this on Healthline, link goes to article).
In other words:
Hypoallergenic means that no allergy-producing substances or materials are in the product.
But… here’s the catch: there is no official scientific or legal definition of the term hypoallergenic, and you might therefore expect something to be free of allergens, while it actually isn’t!
According to WebMD, companies have no restrictions or guidelines as to what they are allowed to call hypoallergenic. As you can understand, this can be problematic for people with allergies and/or sensitivities.
One of the things that people can be allergic to is lanolin. Lanolin is a greasy substance that is naturally found on animal fibers. Wool-bearing animals are especially known for wearing the substance on their fleece.
Lanolin is greasy and oily, yet it is not a fat (complicated science, read more on Wikipedia). It is a substance that you can find on all types of sheep.
Lanolin helps the hair grow (it literally greases up the fiber), but it also protects the animals from bad weather as this greasy coat-layer makes it harder for rain to penetrate their fleece.
3. Wool Allergy
A wool allergy (>> Healthline) is a medical condition that can only be diagnosed by a doctor. If you have a history of reacting to wool, and/or have other allergies or asthma, you may find yourself allergic to wool and other things.
The allergic reaction includes, but is not limited to:
- irritated skin
- a runny nose
- watery eyes. For people with an allergy, the reaction continues even though they are no longer in contact with the substance that caused it.
A doctor is the only one who can decide whether or not you are allergic. With special tools, he or she can confirm whether or not you are allergic, and if so, what to.
4. Wool Sensitivity
With similar symptoms, but generally less intense, people can also experience wool sensitivity. The difference between an allergy and sensitivity is the response to the allergy and how quickly and severely symptoms can develop.
People with a sensitivity to wool will likely cause an itch on the skin when in touch with wool, while an allergy can cause more severe symptoms, too.
- People who are sensitive to wool are normally helped by simply removing the fabric from their skin.
- In this Healthline article, you can read more about Wool Sensitivity.
Allergy-producing substances are not limited to wool and fabrics, but also concern make-up, toys, and even pets! People with an allergy or sensitivity don’t have many other options than to stop wearing or using that which causes them a reaction.
|Wool Allergy||Wool Sensitivity|
|Genetic Condition |
Can get worse over time
Caused by lanolin.
|Different degrees, depends per person|
Different causes: lanolin, wool thickness, structure of fiber, or external: like detergent, chemicals used during the production or dying process.
Possibly due to sensitive skin
It requires a doctor to diagnose and confirm an allergy
It requires a doctor to diagnose and confirm (and rule out an allergy)
Irritated or itching skin
Watery or irritated eyes
Symptoms can increase and get more severe over time!
Irritated or itchy skin
|After distancing from the substance that caused the allergic reaction, the symptoms will persist.||After distancing from the substance that caused the allergic reaction, the symptoms usually disappear.|
Visit a doctor
Removing the cause of the irritation makes the symptoms usually go away.
Avoid wool or other allergy-causing fabrics completely
Some people might be able to wear a thick layer of clothing underneath a woolen garment to keep their skin from direct contact
Avoid contact or wear a thick layer underneath woolen items
5. Itchy vs. Itch-free
Another source of discomfort for people wearing wool can be the itch that (often) comes from wool fibers. This, however, often doesn’t have anything to do with an allergy or wool sensitivity. Itchiness is caused by (lacking) fiber quality and sensitive skin.
- If you have sensitive skin, alpaca wool may not always be right for you. However, this article focuses on wool allergy and wool sensitivy, not on sensitive skin.
If you’re curious to learn more about when you can wear alpaca wool with sensitive skin, I recommend another article I wrote:
Can You Wear Alpaca Wool with A Wool Allergy or Sensitivity?
While the degree of lanolin may vary, all alpacas produce lanolin on their fleece. The lanolin itself can be the cause of an allergic reaction, but so can the “contamination” that the fleece itself collects (like dirt and vegetable matter).
Now, most modern machinery won’t even be able to process alpaca wool without the lanolin having been removed. So, you can rest quite assured that most alpaca wool won’t cause an allergic reaction.
However, you might find some very artisinal producers in the Andean mountains, making their own hand-made yarn and products. Those products, will very likely contain some lanolin!
- If you have an allergy, you want to be looking for items that are labelled “hypoallergenic” to give you somewhat of a guideline, although keeping in mind that it may not be 100% accurate.
- You can always test products on your forearm first, to see how your skin reacts.
- Avoid rustic, artisinal, straight-from-the-farm alpaca woolen products if you have an allergy or sensitivity.
- If it’s the itch your skin responds to, opt for Baby Alpaca (or Royal Alpaca if your budget allows for it!). It should be soft enough to not cause any discomfort.
For people with a wool allergy or sensitivity, avoid sheep wool and mohair, opt for treated-lanolin-free wool, or choose a naturally lanolin free alternative, like alpaca wool, angora, and cashmere.
Is all Alpaca Wool Hypoallergenic?
Given the recent “hype” surrounding alpaca wool, you need to be careful when buying alpaca wool from the big brands. The increasing amount of fast fashion brands including alpaca wool in their “exclusive lines” often use blends.
Be mindful when you see one of those, especially if you’re sensitive and/or allergic to wool, as the “affordability” of such items comes with another high price:
- possibly not hypoallergenic, (wool blends)
- unsustainable (acrylic and other synthetic fibers)
- not a good representation of what alpaca wool can really be (lower quality)
Sometimes, blends can be great, especially when combining natural fibers. I wrote an article about this if you’re curious to learn more:
13 Wool Blends that You Will LOVE (from Alpaca to Qiviut)
So… The alpaca fiber doesn’t contain much lanolin, its fiber is still water resistant, and it is also said that it is warmer and stronger than sheep’s wool. Why in the world would we want to use anything other than alpaca wool?
Well, because every great thing has a downside, right? Alpaca wool can be expensive and exclusive. Besides, it is sometimes blended with other types of wool, too.
Assume that it is 100% alpaca wool that you’re looking for if you’re looking for a hypoallergenic garment.
Why Do Animals Produce Lanolin?
Lanolin is Mother Nature’s trick to protect animals from (rough) weather and climate. It protects wool from sneering winds and icy colds, wet climates and burning sun. It helps sheep to wick away water from their coats. It depends on the breed how much lanolin an animal produces.
So, lanolin helps sheep to be water resistant, that’s great, right? Not for everyone, unfortunately.
Lanolin might be helpful for wool-bearing mammals. When their fleece or wool is used for making clothes, untreated fiber will still maintain this grease when it is turned into sweaters, scarfs or other garments. For people with wool allergy or sensitivity, lanolin can be one of the causes of discomfort.
Does Alpaca Wool Have Less Qualities Because it Has no Lanolin?
Since alpaca wool doesn’t contain (much) lanolin and is considered to be hypoallergenic (without doubt about whether it actually is hypoallergenic, or not – as long as it’s 100% alpaca wool!!!), alpaca wool is a great, natural alternative to wear, without risking an allergic reaction.
How can alpaca wool be wool without containing lanolin, you may wonder.
Compared to other (wool) fibers, the alpaca fiber has a different consistency, a different structure and different qualities:
- Alpaca wool actually has wicking, water resisting capabilities, without using lanolin.
Its hair has tiny little scales instead of lanolin. These scales help to give alpaca wool a shiny structure, which suspicious people might confuse for the greasy, allergy-causing lanolin.
It’s scale-like texture is designed to keep water out without using the greasy help like its sheepy family members do.
Can You Treat Alpaca Wool to Be Hypoallergenic?
You might wonder if there is a way to extract lanolin from (alpaca) wool, and yes, there is. However, the process could be chemical and bad for the environment.
- There is a way to DIY at home, which is free of chemicals, but might not be as effective. You can find a way to make wool free of lanolin here from WikiHow.
So, not all products that include sheep wool cause an allergic reaction necessarily. However, given the lack of guidelines and laws regarding the definition of hypoallergenic, they may still include some degree of lanolin.
On the other hand, products that have been treated to remove the lanolin may have used chemicals and have damaged the environment.
How to wear wool without using chemicals and without risking an allergic reaction? Wear alpaca!
Check out my 100% alpaca woolen products if you’re interested in trying out some hypoallergenic scarves for yourself!