By Clive Wright

Beef Tallow Skin Care Has Taken Over Social Media — But Does It Work?

Tallow has been used for centuries as a restorative and regenerative moisturiser. In skincare, it declined in popularity through the 20th century, along with other natural ingredients, as economic factors pushed manufacturers to incorporate more synthetic ingredients. Tallow, rendered beef fat by origin, was also plagued by the push towards 'low fat' in the late 20th century – an ideology that captured and conquered the western world.

But first. What is tallow?

Tallow is a rendered form of fat derived from ruminant animals. In skincare, tallow generally comes from cows, but may also come from deer, bison or mutton. It's an important distinction that tallow in skincare typically comes from the suet, which is the interior fat surrounding a ruminant animal’s kidneys. While tallow can be made from suet or muscle fat, the suet is more nutrient dense, highly saturated, and beneficial to the skin.

Tallow could be termed a by-product, which with skill can be formulated into functional skincare. This can also be a sustainable practice when cows are pasture-raised and humanely-raised, taking a nose-to-tail approach with respect to the animal's life. 

Is tallow actually good for skin?

Similar in molecular composition to our skin, beef tallow is a match for our skin. Grass fed tallow in particular contains a higher amount of the same fatty acids, vitamins, micronutrients and minerals found in our skin naturally, so it's immediately identified and absorbed when applied topically. Like attracts like. Grass fed tallow holds the ability to mimic your skin and improve skin health as it so closely matches the sebum of healthy human skin.

The benefits of tallow are aplenty. As a nutrient dense fat, beef tallow naturally contains anti inflammatory properties and fat soluble vitamins. A touch of tallow contains vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K and vitamin B12, plus conjugated linoleic acid and niacin. Together, these beneficial nutrients work to fight signs of aging skin, including fine lines, lack of tone, and the appearance of UV-damaged skin. Wondering if you should use beef tallow as moisturizer? Read on.

An essential rundown on fatty acids

Complete with essential fatty acids – including oleic acid, palmitic acid and stearic acid – grass fed beef tallow applied topically as a face cream can help balance your skin's natural oils. Here's a little more about what fatty acids can do for your skin:

  • Oleic acid. With higher levels of monounsaturated fatty acid, the oleic acid in beef tallow can bring natural oil production back into balance to prevent future breakouts. It helps to form a protective layer on the skin's surface that protects against and even reverses free radical damage.

  • Palmitic acid. This saturated fatty acid is widely used in skincare, often added after the fact. It's best when found in moisturisers and balms because it has a skin softening effect. Palmitic acid in beef tallow helps to retains moisture by forming an occlusive layer. It helps improve and protect your skin's barrier.

  • Stearic acid. Found across cosmetics and other skincare products, stearic acid has a double function, as a surfactant and emulsifier. It's essentially a clever binding agent. Stearic acid in beef tallow helps to repair damaged and dry skin, as well as improve skin health, flexibility and suppleness.

What are the benefits of using tallow for skin?

Tallow balm has multi-purpose benefits, due to its mixture of natural ingredients, without the inclusion of any synthetics. Most tallow balms are formulated without a laundry list of ingredients, making tallow as a skincare product suitable for most skin types.

Tallow balm is typically made without essential oils, fragrances, mineral oils, parabens, petrochemicals, polysorbates, silicones, thickeners or preservatives. Tallow contains natural preservatives, which is why it's renowned for a long shelf life.

The key ingredient in tallow balm, typically being beef tallow, mimics our skin's natural sebum. That's why it's uniquely positioned to balance natural oil production, without clogging your pores.

The combination and concentration of grass fed tallow in a tallow balm typically renders the formula biocompatible, or skin-identical. This is because grass fed tallow contains an abundance of stratum corneum lipids, the ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids that already occur naturally in the extracellular skin matrix. Tallow balm is nourishing for dry skin, but also restores oily skin and acne-prone skin as it rebalances oil production.

The clock goes TikTok: Tallow's comeback

So, you might be here because you've just watched a skincare influencer putting beef fat on their face or saw an ASMR video of tallow on TikTok and went down the #tallowtok rabbit-hole. Welcome.

There's a growing movement towards tallow skincare for various reasons, from a trend towards sustainability, provenance and a nose-to-tail approach, to the rise of cottagecore, a quiet rebellion driving the return to a more traditional lifestyle, and of course, the clean beauty mega-trend. In its simplest form, in an increasingly complex world, tallow skincare represents a return to a simpler way of living.

Let's not overcomplicate matters more than we need. Why buy a $300 cream with a long list of synthetic ingredients attempting to imitate tallow, when you can simply buy the real thing for under $50? Tallow brings a whole new meaning to the term skincare dupe, especially considering it's the original skincare product.

@bybelicia guyssss, I've been missing out ahhhh!! can u believe that despite doing skincare for what, 3 years online now, I've NEVER used an original face balm before y'all had it goooddd fr! I got the regenerative face balm from @tuttofarebeauty a couple weeks ago and finally decided to try it out and it's AMAZING! I use it after I've done my skincare as like my last step to seal all that goodness in and it just works absolute magic 🧖‍♀️🪄 I also slug with this and use it as lip balm and eye cream - bro it's like an everything balm ahaha #facebalm #slugging #moisturisedskin #dewyskin #glowyskin #beforeandafterskin #skintransformation #skincaregsecrets #skincarecommunity ♬ original sound - Belicia 

Does tallow work? Experiences using tallow for 30+ days

Grass fed and grass finished tallow has a unique ability to mimic the skin, with the potential to reach deeper at a cellular level compared to many plant-based oils.

Tallow performs the function of acting as natural sebum, locking in moisture in the skin barrier without clogging pores. As a semi-occlusive moisturising cream, beef tallow helps with skin barrier function, while penetrating deeply into the skin.

Whether you have normal, sensitive, oily or acne-prone skin, tallow can bring out the best in your skin. Still wondering about the benefits of tallow as a face cream? Here's what customers have to say about their experiences with TUTTOFARE tallow balm.

Normal to combination skin

If you have normal to combination skin, tallow won't clog pores and will also settle periodic skin issues. See what Madison had to say: "I have been using this balm as a nighttime moisturiser and on dry areas on my body such as my hands. It has a balmy texture that melts as soon as it touches the skin, absorbs quickly and a little goes a long way. When I first started using this balm, I was worried that it would cause breakouts, but so far it hasn’t caused any breakouts or irritation. I have noticed the redness around my breakouts has reduced. I enjoy how well this balm hydrates and moistures, but it does leave my skin feeling a tiny bit greasy. It provides a healthy glow and leaves my skin feeling very soft. I like how this balm has a short ingredient list and is all natural.

Sensitive skin

"Tallow has a very similar complex to our own natural skin lipids. It's very good for sensitive skin types, which is me. If you're the kind of person who likes to minimise ingredients, this product has ingredients you can actually skin. It also sits well underneath makeup, but I also slug it all over at night. If you have sensitive skin and like to use products that are natural, tallow is ancient skincare."



Can you use tallow for oily skin?

As an animal fat, tallow mimics your skin's sebum to rebalance natural oil production, which helps if you have oily skin. Tallow skincare suits a wide range of different skin types, from very oily to very dry, and sensitive to sensitised. You can read more about why tallow is skin-identical skincare here.

According to Stephanie, who has oily skin, she experienced weeks of clear skin as a result of using tallow. This is what Stephanie had to say about her experience with tallow.

"Tallow is a completely raw and natural product that at first, I was scared to try. Sometimes things that look like this or even have that yummy cocoa butter smell always leave my pores clogged. This balm is magic. I’ve been using it religiously every night and it seals all my skincare in and my face is so hydrated, soft and clear the next morning. Any skin irritations I had are gone, my skin has been having a good couple of weeks and its thanks to this product. My skin gets pretty oily in the T-zone when I wear makeup and since I’ve been using this every night my oils have kept away."

Crisco on your face? Why it's just not the case

If you've seen comments comparing tallow to Crisco on the basis of skincare products, there is simply no way. Crisco is a shortening made from a particular type of vegetable oil with a much shorter history than beef tallow. Crisco was first formulated by Proctor & Gamble in 1911. It was marketed as an alternative to animal-based products, namely butter and lard, primarily for economical reasons. (It wasn't until the mid-20th century that fear campaigns began against animal-based products and saturated fats citing 'health' reasons today called into contention.)

Crisco was originally made purely from cottonseed oil, which even then, had a mixed-to-negative reputation in the market. Due to labelling laws of the time, Proctor & Gamble marketed Crisco with "evasion and euphemism" according to The Conversation. It was claimed to be '100% shortening' and 'strictly vegetable' or 'absolutely all vegetable' - an early gesture to plant-based marketing, something now so pervasive, it has become the norm. At their most specific, states The Conversation, advertisements said Crisco was made from 'vegetable oil' - another relatively new phrase that Crisco helped to popularise. These days, Crisco is made from a combination of plant oils, including palm, soy and canola oils.

Back to the point. As we've pointed out before, the process of making a 'vegetable oil' of any variety is vastly different to the process of making a tallow balm. The former exists in euphemisms and inverted commas for a reason. It's often clouded in secrecy or mystery.

'Vegetable oil' is the unnatural result of a process that involves refining, bleaching and deodorisation a variety of seeds at an industrial scale. The process incorporates harsh chemicals such as petroleum-based solvents and hexane to maximise the amount of oil extracted from the seeds.

Tallow is a natural product that undergoes a refining and rendering process before making it's way into skincare. At TUTTOFARE, we never bleach or deodorise our tallow. We don't use any harsh chemicals, solvents or hexane to produce our tallow skincare.

Bottom line: Crisco and tallow are apples and oranges when we're talking skincare products. Or, more pertinently, Crisco is the lab-made version imitating real ingredients. Inevitably, there will always be people who don't read labels, others who put blind faith in labels, and then those who refuse to believe real ingredients can work better than synthetics. (Did you know Crisco even drove a campaign in the 20th century for consumers to buy on brand not ingredients?)

So, how do you use tallow skincare?

It's easy to apply tallow skincare. As a semi-occlusive with emollient properties, tallow can be used as a balm, salve or moisturiser. While tallow balm is often formulated for face, it's versatile to be used on the body too. Regardless of where you apply tallow balm, it will hydrate, heal and protect the skin. 

As a balm or salve, grass fed tallow can be used to soften dry skin, help wound healing, and shield against environmental damage.

Absorbed quickly as a moisturiser, tallow functions like a barrier cream, best used as the last step in a skincare routine or left overnight. As a barrier cream on the skin's surface, tallow may serve the purpose of a makeup primer, as no product applied afterwards will be able to penetrate the skin.

It's important to remember when using tallow for skin that a little goes a long way, especially when trying to avoid an oily consistency or glowy finish. Tallow is incredibly nourishing with a unique ability among skincare products to deliver intense moisture. It's the ancient secret to healthy skin. Have you tried tallow on your skin yet? If you want to find out more about why every one is talking about tallow, check out this article exploring reasons why tallow is good for skin.

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