What is tallow salve used for?

November 25, 2023

tallow salves in pile

Tallow salve is a traditional skincare product used to moisturize and soften dry, cracked skin while protecting it from damage.

Moisturizers, such as tallow salve, have been proven to "reduce the intensity of water loss from the skin and can support the skin microbiota, while decreasing skin cell exfoliation". (1)

Tallow salve has a long history of effective use, taking us back to our roots when skincare was simple, effective, and truly natural. 


Discover the Magic and Uses of Tallow Salve

tallow salve melted on table

Although it has been used as a natural remedy since ancient times, it has gained popularity in recent years due to the reemergence of the knowledge of its biologically-compatible, natural composition and numerous benefits.

As we delve deeper into the topic, we will explore what tallow salve is, its history, the science behind it, its common uses, benefits, and where to buy it.

This article is a comprehensive guide to understanding and appreciating the wonders of tallow salve.


What is Tallow Salve?

tallow salve in tins

Tallow salve is a type of skincare product made from tallow.

Tallow is the purified fat rendered from the kidney suet of ruminant animals such as cows, sheep, deer, bison, or elk. Today, tallow is predominantly derived from cattle.

Once the suet is rendered and purified into tallow, it is then mixed with other ingredients such as essential oils and beeswax to create the salve.

Made the traditional way, tallow salve is natural, biodegradable, and free from synthetic chemicals, preservatives, and fragrances, making it safer than many commercial skincare products laden with harmful substances.

Tallow is rich, thick, and melts into the skin upon application.

It is highly moisturizing, nourishing, and protective, making it an excellent choice for dry, mature, or sensitive skin types. Being so versatile, however, tallow salves can be used on all skin types.


The History and Traditional Uses of Tallow Salve

three women in all shades

The use of tallow in skincare dates back thousands of years. Ancient civilizations like the Kemetics, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used tallow in their beauty routines for its moisturizing and healing properties. (2)

In fact, tallow was one of the first skincare ingredients known to man.

In traditional societies, nothing was wasted, and every part of the animal was used, including the fat.

Tallow was often mixed with herbs and other natural ingredients to create salves that were used to heal wounds, soothe skin irritations, and moisturize the skin. (3)

Tallow salve was particularly popular during the Victorian era, where it was used as a hand cream, lip balm, and general skin salve.

It was considered a luxury item that was often homemade, with recipes passed down from generation to generation.


The Science Behind Tallow Salve

diagram of tallow in skin

The effectiveness of tallow salve is not just anecdotal but backed by science.

Tallow closely resembles the structure of our skin's own lipids or fats. (4) This similarity is believed to be the mechanism behind tallow's ability to penetrate deeply into the skin, delivering nutrients and hydration at the cellular level.

Tallow is rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that are crucial for skin health. It contains high levels of vitamin A, D, E, and K, all of which are known for their skin-nourishing properties. It also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an anti-inflammatory compound that helps soothe irritated skin.

Furthermore, tallow is a great source of palmitoleic acid, a fatty acid that naturally occurs in our skin but decreases with age. This makes tallow salve an excellent anti-aging product as it can help replenish this fatty acid, keeping the skin firm and youthful.


Common Uses for Tallow Salve

man applying tallow salve to hands

Tallow salve is a versatile product that can be used in various ways. It can serve as a rich moisturizer for the face and body, helping to nourish and hydrate the skin. It can also be used as a hand cream, foot cream, lip balm, or even a hair conditioner.

In addition to its moisturizing properties, tallow salve has also been known historically for its healing abilities.(2) It can be applied to wounds, burns, rashes, insect bites, and other skin irritations to promote healing and reduce inflammation.

If made into a softer balm, tallow salve can be used as a massage cream due to its ability to melt on contact with the skin.

It can also be used as a carrier for essential oils, enhancing their therapeutic effects.


Benefits of Using Tallow Salve

person with dermatitis applying tallow salve to skin

Using tallow salve has numerous benefits, reported in ancient texts as well as modern-day research.

Tallow deeply moisturizes and nourishes the skin, leaving it soft, smooth, and healthy. It also protects the skin from environmental damage, thanks to its high vitamin content and natural barrier-boosting properties.

Tallow salve can also help soothe a variety of skin issues, including eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, and acne. It's anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties make it a potent remedy for irritated or inflamed skin.(2)

Furthermore, tallow salve can promote healthy aging by combating wrinkles and fine lines. Its rich fatty acid content helps replenish the skin's lipid barrier, keeping it firm and plump.


How to Use Tallow Salve

applying tallow salve to feet

Using tallow salve is simple and straightforward. It can be applied directly to the skin as needed and wherever you wish to apply it. As with any salve or lotion, for best results, apply it to clean, damp skin to lock in moisture.

Many times, tallow salves are very firm in texture, making applying it to your entire body quite difficult without warming the salve first in between the palms of your hands which can prove to be quite time-consuming.

This is why traditional companies like Nefertem, produce a tallow moisturizer as well as a tallow salve.


Nefertem moisturizer and tallow salve

Tallow moisturizers, being softer in texture, allow you to more easily scoop and spread the tallow product over large areas like the legs, arms and back with little palm-melting effort.

Whereas with tallow salves, the best way to use them is to spread the salve over dry or rough 'target' areas such as the elbows, knees, hands, and heels, sealing in moisture in a smaller spot. 

For facial use, warm the salve between your palms, then apply a small amount to your face and neck after cleansing and toning. Massage it into your skin using upward, circular motions until it is fully absorbed.

Remember, a little goes a long way with tallow salve, so start with a small amount and add more if needed.


Where to Buy Tallow Salve

Tallow salve can be purchased from a variety of sources or made at home as a DIY project. 

When buying tallow salve, look for products made from grass-fed, organically-raised animals.

This ensures that the tallow is of the highest quality and free from harmful substances. Also, choose tallow salve that is free from synthetic ingredients and fragrances to ensure its purity.


Try Nefertem's Repair Tallow Salve Made from Grass-fed Tallow

tallow salve being applied

Established in 2012, Nefertem has been making tallow salves from scratch in their home studio for over a decade, perfecting a recipe that is smooth, soaks in quickly, and smells amazing.

Made with hand-rendered, triple purified, beef tallow from local, organically-raised cattle, herbs, essential oils, and local beeswax, Nefertem's Repair Tallow Salve is pure and powerful.


The Takeaway: Why Choose Tallow Salve?

Choosing tallow salve means choosing a product that is natural, effective, and steeped in history.

It's a product that respects the wisdom of our ancestors and the power of nature.

It's a product that nourishes, soothes, and protects our skin in a way that synthetic products simply cannot.

In a world where we are increasingly conscious of what we put in and on our bodies, tallow salve stands out as a safe and healthy choice.

It's a skincare product that aligns with our desire for simplicity, authenticity, and sustainability.

So, why choose tallow salve? Because it's a skincare hero that has stood the test of time. It's a skincare product that truly cares for your skin, from the inside out.

And that, in our opinion, makes it a skincare product worth trying.




(1) Skowron K, Bauza-Kaszewska J, Kraszewska Z, Wiktorczyk-Kapischke N, Grudlewska-Buda K, Kwiecińska-Piróg J, Wałecka-Zacharska E, Radtke L, Gospodarek-Komkowska E. Human Skin Microbiome: Impact of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Factors on Skin Microbiota. Microorganisms. 2021 Mar 5;9(3):543. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms9030543. PMID: 33808031; PMCID: PMC7998121.

(2) Pisanti S, Mencherini T, Esposito T, D'Amato V, Re T, Bifulco M, Aquino RP. The medieval skincare routine according to the formulations of Madgistra Trotula and the Medical School of Salerno and its reflection on cosmetology of the third millennium. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2023 Feb;22(2):542-554. doi: 10.1111/jocd.15234. Epub 2022 Aug 9. PMID: 35822229; PMCID: PMC10087853.

(3) Pećanac M, Janjić Z, Komarcević A, Pajić M, Dobanovacki D, Misković SS. Burns treatment in ancient times. Med Pregl. 2013 May-Jun;66(5-6):263-7. PMID: 23888738. 

(4) Tallow: Science Direct

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