The Good, the Bad and The Ugly of Using Tallow on Your Skin
August 23, 2022
Alright folks, let's be real.
We're talking about using cow fat for skincare (which we once thought was as nasty as drinking hotdog water 🤮, but then we got educated).
So naturally, the concept comes with some good, bad and ugly sides to the story.
Before we get into the meat of it (pun totally intended 😏), here's a quick snap shot, but trust, there's MUCH more to the story, found below.
The Good: Tallow (specifically grass-fed tallow) just happens to be the best thing to use on human skin because:
of it's similarity to sebum (meaning it soaks in waaaay deep into the layers of the skin)
it has profound levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
it's the highest source of a little known (but suuuper important) essential fatty acid called CLA that's responsible for our skin holding onto moisture (I know right...mind blown 🤯...)...more on this guy below.
it's great for every skin type: dry, oily, combination, sensitive, and even baby butts.
The Bad: Tallow is thick, so if you use too much, your arms are going to slide on every surface you lean on like you dipped your forearms in butter.
Tallow is also temperature sensitive, so if you leave it outside in an Arizona summer, you can bet your arse, it's going to be rancid when you grab for it.
The Ugly: The cow has to die before the tallow can be extracted...worry not...the cow doesn't die FOR its tallow, the cow dies for its meat and THEN us resourceful folks, prevent the tallow from being tossed, by rendering it and using it in tallow skincare.
So now that you know, let's get this out of the way...if you are vegan, tallow is clearly not your jam. Feel free to leave now.
If you're not, keep reading for more gems, including a 15% coupon...
Tallow For Skin...Let's Get Into It
When it comes to natural skin care products, there are a lot of ingredients that come to mind like beeswax, aloe vera, and shea butter.
But what typically doesn't come to mind is cow fat aka tallow.
So let's learn a bit about it...
What is Tallow?
Tallow is the purified, rendered fat that comes from the cattle's suet (the name for the nutrient-rich, hard fat that surrounds the animal's kidneys).
It is NOT the liquid fat you pour off the pan after browning ground beef - that is muscle fat, not the same thing.
*Quick note here: ALL TALLOW IS NOT EQUAL.
Tallow that comes from grass-fed cows is FAR different than tallow that comes from factory-farmed, steroid-injected cows that are disrespectedly (yeah...I make up words) raised without grass, sunshine or love. (...more on this subject later...)
How is Tallow Rendered?
Tallow is simmered in a pot with a little bit of water until it turns to liquid.
It's then progressively filtered to remove impurities like little meat parts, sinew and other floaty-majobbers.
As you can see in the picture below, here is the "home-style" process we do.
Keep in mind, we go through the rendering process (simmer, filter, freeze, cure) 3 times which makes our tallow the best, most cleanest tallow on the market.
How is Tallow Used?
Tallow has a wide range of uses due to its high smoke point (making it excellent for cooking), long-shelf life, and its valuable skin nourishing properties, which is why it's making a HUGE comeback.
Tallow has been used in a variety of applications since...like forever...and is still used (albeit they don't advertise this) in so many products:
Lip sticks, candles, soaps, lotions, as biofuel, as cooking oil, in the textile industry, as animal feed, as flux for soldering, as a lubricant for casting, in print making, aviation fuel, Native American pemmican, McDonald's french fries (ok, they did away with REAL tallow in 1990, in favor of tallow-flavored vegetable oil...uh gross...), as shortening, dog food, and a plethora of other uses that most people have NO IDEA about.
Ultimately, It's Your Choice
Before you choose whether or not to use tallow on your skin, let’s take a deep dive into the good, the bad and the ugly of using tallow on your skin – so you can make an educated decision!
Or, if I've already convinced you of the awesomeness of tallow, and you're ready to try the world's greatest tallow skincare products (alright, I'm super partial, but they are), browse our tallow skincare products here.
AND... Enjoy 15% off your first order with this coupon code: TALLOW15
THE GOOD of Tallow
There are a host of benefits of using GRASS-FED tallow on your skin. So, here's the "good" of it all...
#1 Tallow Hydrates Skin Better Than ANY Other Ingredient
To avoid boring you with the scientifical-ness of this property, suffice it to say that because of the chemical composition of tallow, it is the single most compatible ingredient we could rub on our skin and have it actually absorb.
Ever try using coconut oil as a moisturizer?
I'll betchya (I'm from Wisconsin, that's just how we talk) you looked shinier than a new penny and were oilier than a piece of fried perch.
That's because coconut oil is made up of around 90% saturated fats, whereas our sebum (human skin oil) and tallow are both made up of around 55% saturated fats.
Meaning, coconut oil tends to stay on the surface of your skin as opposed to soaking in deep, like tallow does.
It's good in small doses (like we do in our tallow moisturizers) but as a stand alone lotion, naw, not so much.
#2 Tallow is Loaded with Skin-Loving Nutrients
Tallow contains high levels of vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as antioxidants and essential fatty acids (like CLA) not commonly found in modern day skincare (uh duh...most modern skincare doesn't even contain REAL ingredients).
Benefits of these vitamins:
Vitamin A: speeds up the wound-healing process (think fast repair of cuts and blemishes), is involved in the production of fresh new cells, and can help with the appearance of wrinkles and saggy skin (just to name a few).
Vitamin D: strong anti-inflammatory properties, helps improve cell turnover, can prevent the skin from aging damage (again just to name a few).
Vitamin E: very important fat-soluble antioxidant, helps protect the skin from UV damage, soothes irritated skin.
CLA - The Star of the Show: Conjugated Linoleic Acid aka CLA is an essential fatty acid that is responsible for the free flowing of moisture in and out of our cells.
When we don't have enough of it, our skin will not stay hydrated no matter how much water we drink or lotion we apply.
It also has been shown to help with weight loss, cancer cell reduction and a host of other amazing things you can explore some other time.
But let it be known that only GRASS FED TALLOW contains these high levels of CLA because of the grass diet and sunshine it "consumes" in order to produce it in its fat. Factory-farmed, corn-fed cattle DO NOT contain high levels of CLA (they barely have any at all).
...stepping off my soap box now....
Because of this, tallow is a great moisturizer that not only gives you glowing, red-carpet-ready skin, but it also FEEDS your skin with serious nourishment.
#3 Tallow is Gentle Enough for All Skin Types
Tallow is thick enough to handle calloused, rough skin patches, gentle enough for baby's butts, and light enough to absorb into any skin type.
It's non-irritating, 100% natural, and very soothing.
It's ranked a 0 on the comedogenic scale (a fancy term for saying that it doesn't clog the pores) and absorbs super fast and uber deep.
Whether you have extremely dry, overly sensitive, super oily or combination skin, tallow can do it all (feeling like an info-mmercial sales lady now 😂...but what there's more...).
It can be used to soothe irritated skin, hydrate extremely dry skin, and even help balance oil production in oily or acne prone skin.
So basically, it's awesome.
(Shameless plug here → Our Transform Tallow Moisturizer is consistently ranked #1 among other tallow brands for its creamy, luxurious texture!)
#3 Tallow Smells Great
Tallow actually has a lovely smell to it (if rendered properly like ours is).
Although very faint, it has a warm, rich smell that’s oddly familiar. My opinion – because our ancestors used it so frequently, our sniffer naturally remembers it!
THE BAD OF TALLOW
There are some cons to using tallow on your skin, however, with careful use, these “bad” factors can be easily avoided.
#1 Tallow is Thick
Tallow is a fat, so of course, it’s a thick ingredient much like shea butter or cocoa butter.
If you apply too much to your skin in one area, it’ll take hours to absorb and leave you feeling greasy.
To avoid this, only scoop out a pea-sized amount, warm it in between your palms, then apply along your skin.
A pea-sized amount of tallow moisturizer is all you need to cover your entire arm and effectively hydrate your skin!
#2 Tallow is Temperature Sensitive
As a solid ingredient that can turn liquid in the heat, if tallow melts, it can separate into fats and liquid.
Once cooled, it can then have a grainy, unpleasant texture.
To avoid this, keep all tallow-based products out of the heat.
Do not store tallow products in your car in the summer, for example, and keep them stored out of direct sunlight.
Refrigeration is NOT needed, however, because tallow is shelf-stable.
#3 Tallow Expires
All natural ingredients expire. Tallow is one of the longer-lasting, natural ingredients with a substantial shelf-life.
Without the use of any preservatives, if properly purified (like ours is), tallow can easily last up to one year at room temperature, and 5 years or more if frozen.
THE UGLY OF TALLOW
Some people think that using tallow on your skin is an ugly thing.
There is nothing wrong with using tallow when you know you are using a high quality, grass-fed, pasture-raised, ethically and humanely sourced tallow (like we use in our tallow skincare products).
Factory farmed cattle are NOT a good source of tallow.
Ensure your tallow-based products are made only with tallow rendered from family farms that raise their cattle as nature intended – with plenty of grass, sunshine and zero antibiotics or steroids.
But even with this level of care, some people simply object to using tallow and that’s ok.
Here’s their stance on the Ugly side of using tallow.
#1 Tallow is Not Vegan
Tallow is not vegan. Obviously, the animal must be butchered to harvest its organ fats.
Keep in mind the cattle are not being butchered FOR their tallow, but for their meat.
Therefore, if meat eaters exist, cattle will be processed.
When processed, if the tallow wasn’t being used, we’d be wasting a precious resource.
At Nefertem, we believe in the nose-to-tail theory that if an animal is to be butchered, all parts of it need to be utilized.
I mean, that’s only respectful.
We Understand, Yes, There are Non-Animal Options
This is true. We all have options. Some of us opt for the way our ancestors used to do it and some of us opt for modern day preferences.
Although recently humans have had the option to be selective with what we consume and use, with all the commercial, store-bought options available, there was once a time when we all had to use what was available to us locally to survive.
Tallow allowed people to…
light their homes
hydrate their skin
clean their skin
wash their clothes
lubricate farm equipment
…for tens of thousands of years (we know for sure…but probably much longer than that).
So, there you have it. The good, bad and ugly of using tallow on your skin.
Now, let's learn about where you can get the BEST tallow skincare products, now that you have been convinced of its awesomeness.
Nefertem Tallow-Based Skincare
Nefertem offers the highest quality, pure tallow skincare products on the market...there, I said it!
We triple-purify our grass-fed tallow, then combine it with organic, unrefined plant oils, pure essential oils, soothing herbs, and 100% good vibes.
Every skincare product is handmade in small batches right here in Park Forest, Illinois, USA, by a family committed to keeping the lost art of tallow skincare alive.
No parabens, preservatives or junk
No artificial fragrances, colors or flavors.
Packaged in glass and recycled cardboard - NOT plastic
Tallow comes from cows not treated with steroids, hormones, or antibiotics.