How to Make Your Own Skin Balm
Little did I know that a trip to a farm in Mexico would lead me to embark on another journey, one to discover a practical solution to the modern skin care dilemma, a solution consistent with the true principles of nutrition and health. This journey led to the discovery of what people used for skin care before the introduction of man-made chemicals as well as the science behind their traditional wisdom.
Due to the lack of any product on the market that fit the ideal for healthy and effective skin care, I was prompted to create a formula that I could use and share with others—a simple recipe for traditional nourishing and healing skin care.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
My quest began after a tour of a farm in Tequila, Mexico, in the state of Jalisco, near Guadalajara. Tequila is, of course, where the famous liquor of the same name is produced from the blue agave plant. Even though the workers in this desert where the plants are cultivated did not use gloves, their hands were soft and not dry or calloused. I was informed that they had always used a balm which was a mixture of beef tallow and gel from the blue agave plant. This amazing “new” information was the impetus for my research into traditional skin care and what people used on their skin before the advent of unnatural substances such as petroleum products and chemically-fractionated plant products.
In my research, I found that people used naturally pressed plant oils like olive oil, which modern sensibilities would expect and accept. However, I also found that people used another class of oils even more: animal fats. This was astounding information to me, especially in light of the modern taboo on the use of animal products in today’s skin care, but it squared with what I had learned in Mexico.
Currently there are virtually no skin care products available made with animal fats. Interestingly, such topical products disappeared at the same time that animal fats in our diets did. Among the animal fats used for skin care, it appeared from my research that the one used most overwhelmingly was indeed tallow. Tallow is the rendered fat of cows, sheep, and other ruminant animals such as deer. It is very solid and waxy at room temperature and can be kept for extended periods without the need for refrigeration. Rendering is the process of gently heating the interior fat tissue, called “suet,” causing the pure oils to melt away from the rest of the tissue.
Tallow was usually mixed with various other substances directly from nature to form a spreadable skin balm. Further research showed that modern science supports this traditional use of tallow as a principal ingredient of skin care recipes.
Before looking in more detail at what people formerly used for skin health, it would be good to examine sound versus unsound principles of skin care and why many ingredients of commercial skin care products, including those found in health food stores, can be harmful.
COMMON-SENSE PRINCIPLES OF SKIN CARE
Regarding the principles of what we should put on our skin, common sense and reason can aid us in discovering where to look and where not to look. Never mind the fact that modernday conventional thinking considers this way of proceeding as “unscientific.” In reality, right reason and true science never contradict but rather support each other.
We know that the skin is the largest organ of the body and readily absorbs much of what is applied to it, good and bad. That is why so many drugs can be administered through the use of transdermal patches. Therefore, it is an excellent principle and wise precaution not to apply substances to our skin that we would not readily take internally or, in a word, eat. It would be ideal if what we used on our skin were edible, and yet more, a whole food, in which case it would also have the potential of actually nourishing the skin and helping it to heal itself.
“Valuable as a family remedy for chapped and rough skin caused by exposure to inclement weather. Excellent as a skin cleanser and also used as a foundation for various medical ointments.”
Another sound principle of health is to give the body what it needs to maintain and heal itself, since only the body itself can do that job. The modern mentality often seeks to improve on nature or even to supplant nature, which is impossible to do as well as presumptuous and foolhardy to attempt. In the case of skin care, this mentality seeks to manipulate the chemistry of the skin to produce relief or enhancement. It seems logical that such an approach would likely only produce short-term results, if any, and, what is worse, could result in toxicity with possible long-term negative effects on the skin and on the health of the whole body. Therefore, it is no wonder that modern skin care products have to be re-applied, possibly more and more frequently, to maintain their effect, and we can never know all the other harmful effects that their unnatural ingredients may be having on our health.
But what are “unnatural” ingredients? Again, reason comes to our rescue. Ultimately and in the beginning, everything comes from nature, even the most unnatural substances, which is why the word “natural” is one of the most overused and abused of words. The further removed a substance is from its original and native form, the more unnatural it is. The more a substance from nature is manipulated, modified, and refined, the more it should probably be avoided. This is where reading the ingredients on labels becomes essential, even on products in the health food store.
Keep in mind that not all ingredients are necessarily disclosed on the label, and the chemical processes used to produce these ingredients are most surely not disclosed there. We must also understand that such processes certainly leave residues, which are also not shown on the label. In the practical order, however, what is actually printed on the label is often all you need to know. In other words, if it sounds like a chemical, it is a chemical. It does not matter if it is claimed to be “plant-derived.” If it has a chemical name and not the name of something in nature, it must already be too far removed from its original and native source to be healthful. We know that plant substances that are extracted and isolated (and, worse, synthesized) can be toxic whereas the original plant was not. After all, many pharmaceutical drugs, by definition toxic, were originally derived from plants.
Also keep in mind that just because a chemical has not yet been shown to be toxic does not necessarily mean that it is benign. How often do we later hear of toxic effects that were previously unknown or even concealed? Furthermore, chemicals are never tested for their interactions with all the other chemicals around; that would in fact be an impossible task.
Based on the above principles, it would seem superfluous as well as overwhelming to examine the substances that are actually found in many commercial products. Nevertheless, we should take a brief look at some of these ingredients (see Sidebars, bottom). Again, I think it is important to note that just because a man-made ingredient is not yet on someone’s list of healthdamaging substances does not mean it is safe. And, as we will see, just because a product is in the health food store or even labeled “organic” does not mean that it has no chemical ingredients, even ones already known to be harmful, which is why it is important to read all labels.
A HEALTHY AND EFFECTIVE SKIN CARE OPTION
In light of the many harmful ingredients in most skin care products (see sidebar below and opposite), it is difficult to find many skin care products on the market that can definitely be considered a healthy and effective option. Therefore, we should take a look at the traditional wisdom on skin care and then see if modern science supports the ancestral knowledge.
As we have already seen, our ancestors overwhelmingly used tallow for skin care. For example, a book of “recipes” for all facets of life, written by Dr. A.W. Chase, MD in 1866, lists ten formulations of salve, eight of which contain tallow, in addition to other natural ingredients.17 This same medical doctor quotes the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal of his day on using pure tallow for a “very common and very painful affliction,” an ingrown toenail. Even though this use is a very specific one, it is included here as being a strong testimonial on the healing power of tallow: “
The patient on whom I tried this plan was a young lady who had been unable to put on a shoe for several months, and decidedly the worst I have ever seen. The edge of the nail was deeply undermined, the granulations formed a high ridge, partly covered with skin; and pus constantly oozed from the root of the nail. The whole toe was swollen and extremely painful and tender. . . . I put a very small piece of tallow in a spoon, heated it. . . and poured it on. . . . The effect was almost magical. Pain and tenderness were at once relieved, and in a few days the granulations were all gone, the diseased parts dry. . . and the edge of the nail exposed so as to admit of being pared away without any inconvenience. The cure was complete, and the trouble never returned. I have tried the plan repeatedly since, with the same satisfactory results. . . . A repetition in some cases might be necessary, although I have never met with a case that did not yield to one application. It has now been proven, in many other cases, to be effectual, accomplishing in one minute, without pain, all that can be effected by the painful application of nitrate of silver for several weeks.”18
Another piece of evidence to the traditional use of tallow in skin care is an antique one-ounce tin of “McQueen’s Pure Mutton Tallow,” manufactured by G.F. Baker in Nunnelly, Tennessee “since 1895,” which includes the following words on the bottom of the tin: “Valuable as a family remedy for chapped and rough skin caused by exposure to inclement weather. Excellent as a skin cleanser and also used as a foundation for various medical ointments.”
Interestingly, in Germany, deer tallow (Hirschtalg) is still used as a base ingredient in many salves used by athletes to prevent sore skin or blisters.
It would be fascinating and useful to do more research into the traditional wisdom on skin care to confirm the pattern that we can already see emerging. The healthy traditions of our ancestors were not haphazard but had a purpose that seems to have been rooted in their very being, as we can see in the studies of Dr. Weston A. Price.19 We might even say that the ancestral wisdom on nutrition and health is more reliable than modern scientific studies, which are subject to manipulations and misinterpretations and can only look at one small piece of the puzzle at a time.
TRADITIONAL WISDOM ON TALLOW CONFIRMED BY SCIENCE
Modern-day research confirms the traditional wisdom of our ancestors. From biology, we know that the cell membrane is made up primarily of fatty acids, a double layer, to be exact. Saturated fats constitute at least 50 percent of the cell membrane. Since saturated fats tend to be more solid than unsaturated fats at a given temperature, they help give the cell membrane its necessary stiffness and integrity for proper function.20 The monounsaturated fats, while not as “solid” as the saturated fats, are more so than the polyunsaturated fats which are also present in the cell membrane in their own proper proportion, although the modern diet leads to a disproportionate amount of the polyunsaturates. Healthy, “toned” skin cells with sufficient saturated and monounsaturated fats would undoubtedly make for healthy, toned skin. Interestingly, tallow fat is typically 50 to 55 percent saturated, just like our cell membranes, with almost all of the rest being monounsaturated,21 so it makes sense that it would be helpful for skin health and compatible with our cell biology.
Another strong indication of tallow’s compatibility with our skin biology is its similarity to sebum, the oily, waxy matter that lubricates and waterproofs our skin. Indeed, the word “sebum” actually means “tallow” in Latin and began to be used in this biological sense around the year 1700. The sebaceous glands, which secrete sebum, are found in greatest abundance on the face and scalp, but they are distributed over all of our skin except on the palms and soles.22 Sebum is made up of lipids (fats) of which 41 percent are in the form of triglycerides,23 and the lipids of tallow are principally in the form of triglycerides, which is how fatty acids are usually configured in nature.
In regard to this compatibility of tallow with the biology of our skin, we should note that we are animals rather than plants, so the modern taboo against animal products in skin care products would seem unfounded and even illogical. In addition to containing very little saturated fats, plant products do not have the same levels of other nutrients needed for healthy skin. Tallow contains the abundant natural fat-soluble activators, vitamins A, D, and K, as well as vitamin E, which are found only in animal fats and which are all necessary for general health and for skin health.
Tallow (especially tallow from grass-fed animals) also contains fats like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has anti-cancer24 and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as palmitoleic acid, which has natural antimicrobial properties.25 Dr. Mary Enig cites a 2006 study on fats showing that CLA, which is found in high concentrations in tallow, has significant anti-cancer effects, and that supplying tallow increased those effects due its palmitic acid, another fatty acid.26
STEARIC ACID AND STEARATES
Examples of skin care ingredients not necessarily already known to be harmful are stearic acid and stearates. Indeed, stearic acid is a healthful saturated fatty acid eighteen carbon atoms long, and it comprises 20 to 25 percent of tallow and therefore about half of the saturated fat found in tallow. Tallow is our best source of stearic acid; other sources are butter and cocoa fat.27
While stearic acid helps makes tallow a unique and healthful substance, the purpose for which commercially fractionated stearic acid is used is entirely different. It is used as a “surfactant cleansing agent” and “surfactant emulsifying agent.”28 Another concern is its source and the methods used to isolate it so that it actually ends up being a chemically named ingredient rather than a component of a whole substance found in nature. “Stearic acid is prepared by treating animal and vegetable fats and oils with water at a high pressure and temperature (above 200°C [400°F]), leading to the hydrolysis of triglycerides. The resulting mixture is then distilled.” 29
Stearates are compounds “containing” stearic acid. They include “salts” of stearic acid, such as sodium stearate, where the hydrogen of the carboxyl group (-COOH) on the end of the molecule is replaced with sodium, and it is actually a soap or detergent. “The stearate salts are generally used for their lubricating properties. They also help to keep emulsions from separating into their oil and liquid components. The stearate salts increase the thickness of the lipid (oil) portion of cosmetics and personal care products and reduce the clear or transparent appearance of finished products.”30
Stearates also include esters of stearic acid, such as glyceryl stearate, where a molecule of glycerin is bonded to the oxygen in place of hydrogen. “Glyceryl stearate acts as a lubricant on the skin’s surface, which gives the skin a soft and smooth appearance. It also slows the loss of water from the skin by forming a barrier on the skin’s surface. Glyceryl stearate, and glyceryl stearate SE (self-emulsifying) help to form emulsions by reducing the surface tension of the substances to be emulsified. Glyceryl stearate is made by reacting glycerin with stearic acid. . . . Glyceryl stearate SE is produced by reacting an excess of stearic acid with glycerin. The excess stearic acid is then reacted with potassium and/or sodium hydroxide yielding a product that contains glyceryl stearate as well as potassium stearate and/or sodium stearate.”31 Yet again, we do not find a healthful reason stated for using these chemical compounds on our skin.
At first sight, it would seem that these compounds, related to a healthful component of tallow, are a sign of imitating nature, but that does not appear to be their purpose at all. In addition, after all of this fractionating and chemical compounding, they are a far cry from the naturally occurring stearic acid found in tallow as part of a whole food.
And here is a good place to note a couple of reasons why the industry does not create products like tallow balm for skin care. Products directly from nature cannot be proprietary (especially not if you can make them in your own kitchen). In addition, products from nature are not always consistent and predictable since each batch can vary according to the season, the source and so on. This variance does not fit the industrial model, even the health food store industrial model. I believe the safest and most healthful course is in the use of whole food substances from nature, and therefore we should use tallow as our ancestors did.
NOT JUST ANY TALLOW
Surely the quality of the tallow used in a balm would be of paramount importance to the therapeutic properties of the product. Since manmade toxins are found in nonorganically raised animals, it would not be wise to apply their fat to the skin (any more than to eat it) because of the risk of absorbing pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and all of their metabolic by-products. Furthermore, since Mother Nature knows best, it stands to reason that if the animals are fed foods that are not natural to them, the nutritional value of their tallow would be compromised, even if such foods were technically organic.
Indeed, tallow from cows that are only fed grass has a better mineral and micronutrient profile, including higher levels of vitamins. For example, one study found that grass-fed cows have four times the vitamin E of grain-fed cows.32 Products from grass-fed animals were also found to have three to five times more CLA that those fed a “conventional” diet.33
USING SKIN BALM MADE FROM TALLOW
Since, as explained above, tallow is very compatible with our cell biology, it is readily absorbed by the skin. Therefore, applying tallow balm does not result in a greasy look or feel. It is taken up by the skin as nourishment and softens the skin quickly. Furthermore, a little balm goes a very long way, unlike with most commercial lotions that contain a large amount of very expensive water. A tallow balm can be applied anywhere on the body, including feet, hands, face, and even lips, so there is no need for multiple skin care products, not even a separate lip balm, since tallow is perfect for every skin care need.
It is interesting that, with modern skin care, a separate product is marketed for the face, presumably because it is gentler, making one wonder if this is an admission to the harshness of the not-so-natural ingredients in the body lotions. A separate product is not necessary when it is truly from nature as tallow is.
Diaper rash, before and after treatment with tallow balm.
Tallow balm can be used for all manner of skin conditions, including dry, chapped, calloused, cracked and sun-damaged skin, rashes, burning, itching, wrinkles, and so on, because it gives the skin the nutrients it needs to heal itself. It can even be used as a soothing aftershave. One mother applied it all over her baby’s body for eczema, which had been present for a couple months, and it disappeared. Another mother applied it on her baby for a terrible case of diaper rash that did not respond to other “natural” products, and it was gone after three applications. In addition, a man who had had a split lip for over a year and who had already “tried everything,” including “natural oils and shea butter,” had his lip heal in two weeks using tallow balm, and “it’s been healed ever since.” Finally, numerous others have had success using it for calluses, dry and cracked skin, and sunburns, and for moisturizing, smoothing and softening their skin.
HOW TO MAKE BALM USING TALLOW
The first step in making balm is to obtain tallow from pasture-raised animals (cows or sheep) that are 100 percent grass-fed. You can obtain tallow from your local farm or obtain the interior fat (suet) and render it yourself. There are different ways to render tallow, but I recommend this “secret,” superior, and easy method: Cut up the suet into small pieces, excluding anything that isn’t white. Place it in a colander or a vegetable steamer over a pot, and put the pot in the oven at 220°F. Leave the pot in the oven until all of the tallow has melted out of the suet, mashing and stirring once or twice during the process. The tallow will drip out into the pot. Filter the liquid tallow that is in the pot, placing a cloth in a new colander over a new pot and pouring the tallow through the cloth.
With the tallow in the liquid state but as cool as possible (around 120°F), thoroughly mix in the other pure, natural ingredient(s) of your choice to make the tallow softer and more spreadable at room temperature. (Pure tallow has a waxy consistency; candles used to be made from tallow.) Put the mixture in the refrigerator to let it solidify. This gives the balm a smoother consistency than letting it solidify at room temperature.
The amount of the other ingredient(s) that you mix with the tallow will depend on the ingredient and the degree of spreadability you are looking for. I use organic extra virgin olive oil in the proportion (by weight) of eight or nine parts tallow to one part olive oil. Olive oil has been considered a healing salve for the skin since ancient times due to its soothing, cleansing, and moisturizing properties. Olive oil is liquid at room temperature, so not much is needed to soften the tallow. If you use a product that is more solid, such as coconut oil, palm oil, or shea butter, you will need to use more, partially defeating the goal of having a balm high in tallow content. Whatever you use, be sure it is pure and organic. For example, coconut oil, palm oil, and shea butter are sometimes extracted using hexane, which is refined gasoline. Know your ingredients.
If desired, you can add essential oils to the liquid mixture as well. I add specific essential oils, such as lavender, which are known for their long-standing tradition of being healing to the skin. Another major benefit of using essential oils in your balm is to give it a fresh, pleasant scent and to neutralize the scent of the tallow, which is distinctive although not necessarily unpleasant. Since essential oils are extremely concentrated, not much is needed, but care should be taken not to use any that are adulterated, extended, synthesized or distilled using chemicals or high temperatures and pressure. For this reason, I use Young Living Therapeutic Grade™ essential oils. Again, it is important to know your ingredients and to remember the principle of using only those ingredients that are edible whole foods. You will be able to take pride in the fact that you could take out a spoon and eat this balm since it is a nourishing food for skin and body!
Note: Andrew Gardner has formulated several varieties of the tallow balm described in this article. They are available for purchase at his website, www.vintagetradition.com
HARMFUL INGREDIENTS IN MODERN SKIN CARE PRODUCTS
PETROLATUM or mineral oil jelly, along with mineral oil, a carcinogenic by-product of the distillation of gasoline from crude oil.1
PARABENS , known to mimic estrogen and suspected of being carcinogenic.2
BHT, a carcinogenic preservative,3 which is also linked to allergic reactions, hyperactivity, rashes, asthma and toxicity to the liver and kidneys.
TITANIUM DIOXIDE ,4 a carcinogen.
TRIETHANOLAMINE (TEA),5 a carcinogen.
DMDM-HYDANTOIN , a carcinogenic formaldehyde releaser.6
METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE , which causes nerve damage.7
SODIUM HYDROXIDE , which is lye or drain cleaner.
POLYSORBATE 80 and CETEARETH -20 are commonly contaminated with the highly toxic 1,4-dioxane.8
EDTA, a harsh detergent and hormone disruptor.9
PHENO XYETHANOL , which “can depress the central nervous system and may cause vomiting and diarrhea” in infants.10
DIAZOLIDINYL UREA , a preservative that releases carcinogenic formaldehyde11 and can cause dermatitis.12 (For skin care products, it is certainly ironic to find chemicals that cause dermatitis.)
PROPYLENE GLYCOL , associated with irritant and allergic contact dermatitis as well as contact urticaria (hives).13
BUTYLENE GLYCOL along with propylene glycol is a component of antifreeze.
HARMFUL INGREDIENTS IN “NATURAL” AND “ORGANIC” SKIN CARE PRODUCTS
FRAGRANCE almost certainly synthetic, and such fragrances have been documented to be carcinogenic and toxic in other ways, causing headaches, dizziness, allergic rashes, skin discoloration, coughing, vomiting, and skin irritation as well as nervous system and behavioral effects.14
CHEMICAL PRESERVATIVES such as sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate. Sodium benzoate has many toxic effects on the body as outlined in its Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), and when combined with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), it forms benzene, a known carcinogen. Potassium sorbate is fundamentally non-toxic but can cause skin irritation per its MSDS listing. In any case, it seems that synthetic preservatives that inhibit the growth of micro-organisms would also generally not be beneficial to other living organisms such as humans.
VITAMINS, probably synthetic. Some studies published in Science, The New England Journal of Medicine, and other journals suggest that some synthetic vitamins are toxic, and some extracted vitamins have been found to be useless since they need to be in a whole food form because the whole vitamin is a complex, not just the one molecule identified as the principal component.
POLYUNSATURATED OILS like safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, corn, soy, and canola. High heat is generally used in the production of these oils. Polyunsaturated oils are unstable, fragile, and susceptible to rancidity when subjected to heat, which causes the production of free radicals, associated with cell damage, aging and disease. Certainly, we do not want to be applying products high in free radicals to our skin, causing the very types of problems we are trying to relieve or prevent. And polyunsaturates would not seem to be conducive to skin health, extrapolating from the fact that the modern excess consumption of these types of oils leads to a host of health problems.15
1,4-DIOXANE: This shocking hidden ingredient is not listed on the label. A carcinogen and a known eye and respiratory tract irritant that readily penetrates the skin, it is also suspected to be a kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant, and respiratory toxicant, among others.
There was a press release from the Organic Consumers Association (www.organicconsumers.org) on March 14, 2008 entitled, “Carcinogenic 1,4-Dioxane Found in Leading ‘Organic’ Brand Personal Care Products.” I believe this example could be considered the tip of a toxic iceberg, a discovery of the sort of thing that is probably happening with many of the other ingredients of skin care products.
According to Mike Adams, “A cancer-causing compound called 1,4-dioxane has been found in some of the most commonly used petroleum-based cosmetics by a study commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association, including products from Kiss My Face, Nutribiotic, Jason, Ecover, Citrus Magic, 365, Alba, Lifetree, Giovanni, Seventh Generation, Method, Earth Friendly Products, Sea-Chi Organics and many other brands. The explanation for the presence of 1,4-dioxane is that ‘ethoxylation, a cheap short-cut companies use to provide mildness to harsh [harsh!?] ingredients, requires the use of the cancer-causing petrochemical ethylene oxide, which generates 1,4-dioxane as a by-product.’ There are many labeled ingredients that imply the presence of 1,4-dioxane. To avoid 1,4-dioxane, the OCA urges consumers to search ingredient lists for indications of ethoxylation including: ‘myreth,’ ‘oleth,’ ‘laureth,’ ‘ceteareth,’ any other ‘eth,’ ‘PEG,’ ‘polyethylene,’ ‘polyethylene glycol,’ ‘polyoxyethylene,’ or ‘oxynol,’ in ingredient names.”
Quoting a poignant passage from the same press release: “A visit to any health food store unfortunately reveals that the majority of products in the personal care section with ‘organic’ brand claims are not USDA-certified and contain only cheap water extracts of organic herbs and maybe a few other token organic ingredients for organic veneer. The core of such products is composed of conventional synthetic cleansers and conditioning ingredients usually made in part with petrochemicals. According to market statistics, consumers are willing to pay significantly more for products branded ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ which they believe do not contain petrochemical-modified ingredients or toxic contaminants like 1,4-dioxane. . . When it comes to misbranding organic personal care products in the U.S., it’s almost complete anarchy and buyer beware unless the product is certified under the USDA National Organic Program.”16
1. International Agency for Research on Cancer (27 March 2012). Agents Classified by the IARC Monographs, Volumes 1–104: 20.
2. Harvey PW, Everett DJ (Jan 2004). “Significance of the detection of esters of p-hydroxybenzoic acid (parabens) in human breast tumours.” Journal of Applied Toxicology 24 (1): 1–4.
3. International Agency for Research on Cancer (1986). “Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)” IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans 40:161-206.
4. “Nanoparticles Used in Common Household Items Cause Genetic Damage in Mice” Science Daily 16 Nov. 2009.
5. Stott WT, Radtke BJ, Linscombe VA, Mar MH, Zeisel SH (2004). “Evaluation of the potential of triethanolamine to alter hepatic choline levels in female B6C3F1 mice.” Toxicol Sci 79 (2): 242–7.
6. Epstein, MD, Samuel S. (2009). Toxic Beauty: How Cosmetics and Personal-Care Products Endanger Your Health… and What You Can Do About It. BenBella Books, Inc., Dallas: 33.
7. Shen Du, BethAnn McLaughlin, Sumon Pal, Elias Aizenman (2002). “In vitro neurotoxicity of methylisothiazolinone, a commonly used industrial and household biocide, proceeds via a zinc and extracellular signal-regulated kinase mitogen-activated protein kinase-dependent pathway.” Journal of Neuroscience 22 (17): 7408–7416.
8. Epstein: 33.
9. Epstein: 34.
10. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (23 May 2008). “FDA Warns Consumers Against Using Mommy’s Bliss Nipple Cream.” FDA News Release.
11. Epstein: 33.
12. Lehmann, Søren Vig; Hoeck, Ulla; Breinholdt, Jens; Olsen, Carl Erik; Kreilgaard, Bo (2006). “Characterization and chemistry of imidazolidinyl urea and diazolidinyl urea.” Contact Dermatitis 54 (1).
13. Epstein: 39.
14. Epstein: 93.
15. Fallon, Sally, Enig, Mary G., PhD (1 Jan. 2000). “The Oiling of America” section: “Dangers of Polyunsaturates”. (https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/know-your-fats/the-skinny-on-fats/#poly)
16. Organic Consumers Association (14 Mar. 2008). “Carcinogenic 1,4-Dioxane Found in Leading ‘Organic’ Brand Personal Care Products” Press Release. (http://www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare/DioxaneRelease08.cfm)
17. Chase, Alvin Wood, M.D. (1866). Dr. Chase’s Recpies; or Information for Everybody, 33rd edition. Published by the author, Ann Arbor: 110-112, 162-163.
18. Chase: 174.
19. Price, DDS, Weston A. (2000). Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, Inc., La Mesa.
20. Fallon, Sally, Enig, Mary G., PhD (2001). Nourishing Traditions. NewTrends Publishing, Inc., Washington: 11.
21. Fallon: 18.
22. James, William D.; Berger, Timothy; Elston, Dirk M. (2006). Andrews’ Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. Saunders Elsevier: 7.
23. Cheng JB, Russell DW (September 2004). “Mammalian Wax Biosynthesis: II. EXPRESSION CLONING OF WAX SYNTHASE cDNAs ENCODING A MEMBER OF THE ACYLTRANSFERASE ENZYME FAMILY”
24. Ip, C, J.A. Scimeca, et al. (1994). “Conjugated linoleic acid. A powerful anti-carcinogen from animal fat sources.” Cancer 74(3 suppl):1050-4.
25. Fallon: 19.
26. Enig, Mary G., PhD (Winter 2007). Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts. “Some Recent Studies on Fats.”
27. Enig, Mary G., PhD (Spring 2004). Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts. “The Importance of Saturated Fats for Biological Functions.”
28. Personal Care Products Council. “Stearic Acid”. http://www.cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredient_details.php?ingredient_id=12
29. Anneken, David J., Both, Sabine, et al. (2006). “Fatty Acids.” Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Wiley-VCH, Weinheim.
30. Personal Care Products Council. “Sodium Stearate.” http://www.cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredient_details.php?ingredient_id=961
31. Personal Care Products Council. “Glyceryl Stearate.” http://www.cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredient_details.php?ingredient_id=498
32. Smith, G.C., “Dietary supplementation of vitamin E to cattle to improve shelf life and case life of beef for domestic and international markets”. Colorado State University, Fort Collins.
33. Dhiman, T. R., G. R. Anand, et al. (1999). “Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets.” J Dairy Sci 82(10): 2146-56.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2012.
Geri Quintero says
We will be making face and body cream out of suet this week in our GAPS Class! I got a terrible sunburn in Mexico over a year ago (after camping out and 3 full days of being sprayed by chem-trails…yes, unfortunately they are doing that down there too), and have tried many all natural things including raw coconut oil, aloe vera, and other stuff for my skin and have not gotten as much relief as when I started using a tallow cream that my friend made and gave to me based on this recipe!
I’ll let you know how it goes in my class!
Geri Quintero, LAc, CGP, Co-Chapter Leader of Siskiyou County WAPF
Andrew Gardner says
I’m very happy to hear that your class is trying this out. I hope you had great results!
Is tallow balm also good and heals acne scars? Thanks
Andrew Gardner says
Regine, tallow balm can help with a wide variety of skin conditions because it gives your skin the nourishment it needs to heal itself. Scarring usually doesn’t completely disappear, but its appearance can be improved.
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. Thank you for your research/efforts. My grandmother had a salve that uses tallow, and since it is so difficult to get, I wondered if I should swap it out for lanolin. After reading this, I’m more convinced than ever that wouldn’t give me the same results.
Andrew Gardner says
I’m glad you enjoyed the article! Lanolin is indeed also a very traditional skin care product, although it is a wax and not a fat. The problem with lanolin these days, though, is that unless you can obtain it directly from a natural, grass-fed sheep farm, it is highly contaminated with chemicals. If you have a source for good, 100% grass-fed beef, they should also be able to sell you some suet or tallow at a reasonable price.
Sandra Taylor says
Can I use this on my hair, if so, what would be some of the benefits of doing so? Have you ever heard of anyone using tallow for this purpose? I am trying to grow out my hair and need moisture.
Thank you in advance for any information you may be able to share with me!
…that’s what Sandi said…
Andrew Gardner says
Sandra, we do have many customers that use tallow balm on their hair, sparingly, of course, unless you’re going for a pompadour. 😉 They say that it moisturizes and calms frizziness without weighing it down, leaving the hair silky.
robin sherman says
This is such a wonderful article but the before and after pictures of the baby’s dermatitis do such a disservice as the after photo is quite obviously blurred so you can not see the true difference. With all due respect, you are working against your message with these photos. Please please consider removing these as we have enough people thinking us snake oil salesmen.
Andrew Gardner says
Robin, thanks a lot for your comment. These photos were provided by a customer, so we didn’t have any control over them. I agree that the “after” photo leaves a lot to be desired. Thanks again.
Thank you for the valuable information about tallow. I made the balm today and have applied it to my feet, legs, hands, and face. I am a little apprehensive that it will clog the pores of my face. Do you have any information about this and if it should be a concern. So far, my skin seems smoother, cracks on my thumbs seem less rough and jagged. For that alone, I am delighted!
My balm turned out a little granulated, but when it is massaged into the skin, the granules dissipate. I would like to know how to avoid this granulation on my next batch if any one has an insight.
I am very enthusiastic about this use of tallow to make body balm. And my fingers are crossed that it will produce a great improvement in my dry dry skin!
Andrew Gardner says
Carla, we have never had anyone complain that the tallow balm has clogged their pores. This is because the skin absorbs it so readily. One caution is that folks have to be careful not to use too much because only a little is needed since there is no water in it. If the skin feels greasy after rubbing in well, then too much was used.
Regarding the balm feeling granulated, did you cool it in the fridge? We find that the consistency is smoother when it is cooled quickly.
We’d love to hear your updates!
I actually own a grass fed tallow soap company ( http://www.nefertemnaturals.com )and was chuckling inside while reading through this. I have never tried making grass fed tallow balm with our tallow, thinking that it might leave a film or not absorb or something unpleasant would come of it. After reading your article I gave it a shot. I made some tallow balm and it is amazing stuff! I’m already passing it out to friends and family. At first, they are all taken aback, with the same hesitation I once had. Now, loving it! Thank you for the wonderful post.
Wonderful article, I had to share it with friends. Thank you. I make buffalo tallow balm(90%)/olive oil (10%) and it is working wonderfully as a hard lotion bar, and gotten good feedback from many. Thank you for all the research and sharing it.
so if i get tallow that may have had grain or corn before they go to the meat processing plant it wont be any good?? This artical was very interesting thank you so much
Anita Baker says
I own McQueens Pure Mutton Tallow and several of my customers use the tallow as a base for salves/balms and are very pleased with their results. Some customers use it without any additives with good results. I can’t guarantee the tallow comes from grass fed sheep however I have no complaints from my customers. It is amazing at the uses for my product. Unfortunately I do not have a website at the moment. I can be reached by email email@example.com
Andrew Gardner says
Mary, thank you! This page on our website has additional information on your question: http://www.vintagetradition.com/not-just-any-tallow.php
Where can I buy skin products with this tallow? I am very enthused about this information on the use of tallow. However I do want to purchase it from a reputable company. Any suggestion? Thanks!
Andrew Gardner says
Leona, you might try http://www.vintagetradition.com.
I order tallow (and other grass-fed beef products, lard from pastured pigs, sugar-free bacon, etc.) from U.S. Wellness Meats. They deliver all over the U.S. via FedEx and their product line is top-notch! I have used their beef tallow to make bar soap, as well as tallow balm.
For the tallow balm, I melted about 1/4 cup of tallow and poured it into a small jelly jar. Unfortunately, olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil all clog my pores and make me break out, so I had to find something else to make the tallow more spreadable as a balm. My choice was to stir in about 2 Tbsp carrot-seed oil, which is a wonderful (although not cheap) essential oil for skin care. Others may do just fine with those less expensive oils – they just don’t work for me.
To mask the beefy scent and add to the skincare qualities, I then stirred in 2-3 drops each of frankincense, myrrh, and cedarwood essential oils. Since I could still smell the tallow scent, the next step was to add about 10 drops of lavender. The whole thing went into the fridge for about two hours to firm up. The end result was a luxurious balm that is all I use for a facial moisturizer. My skin is radiant, firmer, smoother, and much more even in coloring. Old acne scars and sun spots are fading fast – that’s what the carrot seed oil does, without creating photosensitivity. I would encourage everyone to experiment with tallow and find the blend that works for them.
Taylor Schaible says
This sounds amazing!! I have found the same issues. You should bring this product to the market!
I made tallow balm for the first time yesterday. There was some scent of meat in the tallow and I have read a lot of people comment that they find it smells of meat. I put the melted olive oil and tallow in a pan and mixed in a big bunch of crushed dried peppermint leaves. I let it steep and then filtered through some paper towel. There is no Meat smell. I don’t know if the smell attached to the leaves and was removed and wether any other “good bits” would be lost this way. Anyway it smells great and fells wonderful on my skin.
Andrew J. Gardner says
Fiona, that’s an interesting idea regarding the peppermint leaves! So, did your final product smell minty? I’m not sure I would feel comfortable with the paper towel filtering because so many chemicals go into making papers. In any case, a little tallow smell is not a bad thing because it tells you that the tallow has not been overly refined and still has all the great nutrients for skin healing. I would be wary of using tallow that has none of the distinctive tallow scent. And just like anything else, you get used to it quickly and the scent goes away quickly too.
Beth Bishop says
Our skin is the largest and fastest growing organ in the human body. It should be intuitive that we need to give it some tender loving care. A consensus has yet to be reached about the level of penetration and/or absorption of topical applications through the skin. However, when such a simple change like making your own skin care can mitigate risk, why not take advantage of it?
Duarte Martins says
Thank you Andrew for the amazing article! i hear the podcast some months ago, and only now the article! so good that you are doing it and finally taking all the mystery of animals fats in our body! i are made of it!
im a chapter leader in lisboa, portugal, and always thought to use fat as a balm.. i use a lot of lard (pork fat) to cook, because is the most accessible in portugal (from pastured animals) and i thought, is lard have also “good” components as tallow for our skin?
im wonder to know that, because if no.. i have to start having my own cow to make it!
Andrew Gardner says
Duarte, lard does also have many good constituents for the skin, particularly leaf lard, and you should certainly try it out since that is what you have readily accessible. It is a bit inferior to tallow, however, mainly because it is not as highly saturated, which also results in some greasiness when it is applied. Um abraço para você também!
Zita Hans says
Liked the article until I came to the recommendation for Young Living essential oils. As a certified aromatherapist I am aware that this company, great at marketing, has inferior oils from unethical distillery processes. Always look or organic oils and if the company won’t give you a GCMS sheet be leary.
Andrew Gardner says
Zita, thanks for your comments. Certainly use whichever essential oils you know and trust when you make your tallow balm.
Mrs B says
I walked the Camino (900 km across Spain from St Jean Pied de Porte in France) and the German pilgrims all used HirshTalg which I looked for all across the Camino. I could not find any. Two years down the track, I have finally found a source for deer tallow from a hunter. I am rendering my first batch. I have been obsessed with finding deer tallow and making my own foot balm (a young German girl gave me hers to use during our time together on the Camino. I was amazed and thankful that you mentioned Hirshtalg, and if you could point me to resources for any recipe I would be most grateful. I already render my own beef tallow from grass fed beef and make tallow balm and shampoo bars. I am ready to experiment with deer tallow!
Maureen Diaz says
Hello Mrs. B,
As an experienced soap & face/body care maker, I can assure you that you may use derrière’s tallow in the same way as beef or sheep tallow; it works the same!
Hallie Reeves says
Howdy. I’m concerned about microchipping for pets. I’m wondering if exposure to 5G radiation could cause a microchipped animal to be subject to mind control, which could cause it to become dangerous to its beloved family? How can I protest it?
Hi, I’m looking for a reputable business, individual/ farm that sells organic , rendered grass fed tallow for my skin care formulation. I live in Northern California and would Love to source as locally as possible. Can anyone point me in the right direction ? Thank you ~ Rachel
Tina Aurora says
Thank you for the informative article. If we would like to add additional oils and therapeutic skin drops to our DIY Whipped Tallow Balm, where would we go to learn the ratios of such add-ins?
Thank you so much!
Natalia Tozour says
Can tallow be used for dark circles around eyes?