Tallow Skin Care

Tallow for Skin Care? Really? Yes, it’s the closest thing to our natural sebum; the oil that lubricates & waterproofs our skin.

The word “sebum” actually means “tallow” in Latin. It began to be used in this biological sense around the year 1700.

Grandma Lukie used tallow for anything that you could use tallow for. This included cooking (both as an ingredient and a cooking oil), candles, soaps, making lotions, salves and balms, bird food and lubricating anything that was ‘stuck’. It’s very versatile and immensely useful. I seriously think that the ancestral wisdom on nutrition and health is potentially more reliable than some modern scientific studies. Modern studies can be subject to manipulations and misinterpretations, usually dependent upon who is funding the research.

So What is Tallow?

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Tallow is a nutritionally dense form of rendered animal fat from suet. Suet is the fat that encloses kidneys and extends down the loin of ruminant animals. The equivalent rendered fat from the suet of pigs is lard. With a smoke point of 480 °F (249 °C), tallow is traditionally used in deep frying (a practice still followed in places such as Yorkshire). When you render suet the resulting oil component has a mild smell which is easily camaflouged with natural scents. So before you go ‘Yuk’ at the idea of ‘Tallow Skin Care’ it won’t end up with you smelling like a Sunday roast dinner.

Compatability of Tallow with Human Skin

The human skin is an amazing design; it has its own moisturising system. Located over virtually the whole of the body are sebaceous glands, which release a multi-functional, nutrient rich oil, called Sebum. The composition of the tallow is one of the closest to the composition of human skin’s natural sebum. So it is immensely suitable for people who have sensitive skin that reacts to commercial moisturisers. Tallow (grass fed) contains Vitamins A, D, K, E, & B12, conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) that has natural anti-inflammatory properties, oleic acid (omega 9), palmitic acid, and stearic acid [1]. All of which have beneficial healing and soothing properties that are also antibacterial & antimicrobial. Its use as a skin moisturizer is a practice that is thousands of years old.

You don’t have to take just my word for it.

“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… 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.”

“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.

Traditional Nourishing and Healing Skin Care by Andrew J. Gardner, Weston A. Price Foundation

Tallow is easily absorbed into the skin without any signs of stickiness or greasy residue.

Grass Fed Matters

THE WESTON A. PRICE FOUNDATION® has done a lot of research on fats. This includes an in-depth study on fatty acides in Grass Fed vs Grain Fed Tallow. A direct quote from their findings:-

Thus, while even grain-fed beef tallow has a much lower content of polyunsaturated fatty acids than modern vegetable oils, the amount found in grass-fed tallow is much lower and similar to that found in the coconut products that dominate the traditional diets of Pacific Islanders, who have been extensively studied and shown to be free of heart disease. This would allow the use of tallow in the context of a mixed diet that includes other foods naturally rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as fatty fish, while still keeping the overall intake of these fatty acids low and similar to that found in successful traditional diets.

Fatty Acid Analysis of Grass-fed and Grain-fed Beef Tallow

The total breakdown is as follows.

Fatty AcidFatty AcidGrain-FedGrass-Fed
Numerical DesignationCommon NamePercentof Total FattyAcids
16:1Palmitoleate (may include sapienate)3.42.5
Putative Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA )0.250.3
20:4n-6 + 22:0 AArachidonate + Behenate0.10.1
Total SFA47.6550.4
Total MUFA47.946.3
Total PUFA3.451.9

We Have Been Misled About Fats

This is an issue that is so large it would take a book to cover. What I will do is cover the basics and where it started from and then provide links so that you can follow the information to any depth that you like. As with most modern ills within our food system it began in the USA as far back as the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. It was driven by the producers of processed and imitation foods (who are now very large corporations). Quote:

I want to address the topic of food fats and oils and their impact on health, because fat represents an important nutrient that was negatively impacted by the forerunner to the planned National Nutrition Summit, namely, the 1969 White House Conference on Foods and Nutrition and the resulting McGovern Committee hearings in the 1970s, which produced the Dietary Goals. These Dietary Goals and later Guidelines have been largely responsible for promoting an unbalanced intake of the fat components of our diets. Natural fats such as butter, tallow, lard, and palm and coconut oils have been relegated to the garbage heap, and the man-made fats such as the widely-used, partially hydrogenated shortenings and margarines, and excessive polyunsaturated oils, have been promoted as if they were magic medicine. That is just the opposite of what we should be doing because those natural fats and oils have components found only in them, which are health-promoting, and their replacements are now known to be disease-causing.

The 1969 White House Conference produced the New Foods Document, which promoted the acceptance of imitation foods as if they were real foods. This has led to a major decline in the quality of our foods and especially in the quality of food fats. It has led to the open promotion of genetically-modified foods that suit the production of processed fats, and has also led to a decline in quality and uses of our farm-produced fats.

Now, 30 years later, there may be an opportunity to correct some of the mistakes. It is necessary, however, for those who will be in charge of the forthcoming Summit to make an effort to become properly educated as to the changes in the diet that occurred during the intervening 30 years, which have resulted in the situation we have today. We are confronted with the problems of widespread obesity, runaway diabetes in adults, ever-increasing cancer incidence rates, immune dysfunction, a continuing increase in heart disease rates, and growth and development problems in our young.

In 1970, the FDA prepared an internal memo that said the trans fatty acids in the food supply should be identified. Thirty years later the FDA has proposed the cloudy labeling of the trans fats under an unsuitable saturated fats umbrella. In the intervening 30 years in my former position as a fats, oils, and lipids researcher in a university lipids laboratory, I have frequently pointed out to various agencies, through reports to the appropriate dockets, that ignoring the levels of trans fatty acids in foods has prevented us from having accurate data on fat composition of our diets. As a result of being misled, we have a consuming public terrified of natural fats and oils–a public, which, by its avoidance of these natural fats and oils, and consumption of fabricated, man-manipulated fat and oil replacements, such as the trans fats and the unstable polyunsaturates, is becoming increasingly obese and ill.

This attempt by the FDA to tar the wholesome saturated fats with the sins of the trans fats so as to promote in the minds of the consumers the idea that they are both the same, is not supported by real science. Biologically, the saturates and the trans have totally opposite effects; the effects of the saturates are good and those of the trans are undesirable.

By considering a proposal which would put trans fats and saturated fats together on nutrition labels, the FDA is simply responding favorably to a petition by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which is a transparent and ingenious effort by the CSPI and its mostly vegetarian nutritionist staff to malign the dairy and meat industries by having consumers incorrectly associate animal products with trans fat.

Fats and Oils and Their Impact on Health

Unfortunately there are still many, many sources of information out there that are still trying to push this agenda (and push it really hard). After all if we, in large numbers go back to using the saturated fats of our ancestors, they stand to lose a lot of money.

Whilst most of the research is geared toward the digestion of these fats the information is very much applicable to Tallow Skin Care. What we put on our skin is absorbed into our bodies and can equally cause harm and create detrimental side effects.

Links for Further Reading

  1. Know Your Fats – Butter is better for your brain!
    Yes, butter provides the brain with the nutrients it needs:
  2. What the Evidence Really Says About PUFAs
    — Another look at the supposed benefits of corn oil. by Kamal Patel MPH, MBA April 14, 2015
  3. Why You Should Try The PUFA-Free Diet
  4. Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA): Why You Should Avoid Them and How Mainstream Nutrition Got it Wrong

Coming Soon: How to render Tallow & Recipes for Tallow Skin Care products


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