Yes, you read that right - I rub fat on my face.
Okay...let me explain.
For those that know me well, know that forever I have suffered from excessively dry skin. In the winter, it's super common for my skin to crack and bleed, and boy is it painful. The harsh weather doesn't care if it's my hands, legs, or face, they all succumb to the elements.
For years I have struggled to find the skin moisturizer that worked for me. Anything with fragrance feels like it's burning the skin off my body, and 99% of all lotions I have ever tried leave my hands greasy - like, soo greasy I could enter a pig catching contest and no need to grease the pig, I got it covered already. Also, do you ever feel like you continue to apply lotion over and over and you're often left with the same results? You have the same dried, cracked and bloody skin, and now you've just added a glob of straight up crap to the top of it that doesn't penetrate or absorb into the skin, and only leaves you having to grab door knobs with your sleeve because your hands slide right off.
I had this insightful light-bulb-over-the-head moment this past fall while driving home from the airport and listening to an episode of the Old Fashioned On Purpose Podcast: S7E10 "How to Opt-Out of Toxic Mainstream Skincare". They were discussing the uses of animal fats as a beneficial skin care regiment. Now, they didn't dive into the science nerdy details about HOW and WHY animal fats are beneficial, but I couldn't help but think how much of a profound concept that was, my interest was piqued.
As a self-labeled Homesteader, of course I have quart jars of beef tallow stowed away in the fridge, so accessing tallow wasn't a problem. The problem was the mind game that ensued over the idea of rubbing fat on my skin...What if the oils clogged my pores and caused acne? What if I had a bad reaction to it? Would I smell like rancid meat? How in the World am I supposed to even apply this to my skin? Is it really that easy?
YES...the answer is yes. It's really that easy.
I was a few days into bleeding knuckles from cracked, dried skin, before I mustered up the courage to give it a try. I slowly opened the fridge and hesitated to grab the jar, clearly having second thoughts about this. I opened the jar and faced down into the pure, white, solid tallow that smelled of light grass-fed beef and 100% anatural. I broke off a small chunk and held it in my hands to slowly start melting. As it started to melt, I slowly rubbed it across my hands and into the cracks of my knuckles. I was genuinely surprised at how well my skin absorbed the tallow and left me with a very slight greasy feeling that was short-lived as the excess tallow soaked into my skin.
Okay...so that wasn't too bad. No reactions, no greasy feeling, no weird smells.
I noticed the next morning that the largest crack on my hand had started turning white, signaling that the skin was healing. Talk about a quick result! This left me feeling positive and hopeful, so I repeated the application before bed again that night. Within 3 days, all of the cracks on my hand had healed up and my skin felt like it wasn't screaming for moisture.
I decided to start digging into the science behind what makes tallow so successful, as my nerdy side started to shine through. I discovered a lot of awesome information about the power of tallow.
So let's start with the basics...what is tallow? Tallow is rendered fat from beef, venison, elk, horse, and sheep. People often confuse tallow and lard, but lard strictly comes from rendered pig fat. Rendering is the process of purifying fats by cooking the fat straight from the animal on a low temperature for a long period of time, and then straining, to remove any impurities. The end result is a pure white solid after it dries. I pour my rendered fats into quart sized jars and place in the fridge to harden. It's kind of like pouring your bacon grease into a can after you cook it if you don't want to pour it down the drain. You noticed that after it dries, it's a white color with many specks of debris in it. This is a similar process to how fats get rendered, there's just a few more steps involved.
In addition to skin care, tallow is also good for frying and cooking because it has a high smoking heat, meaning it can get really hot and won't evaporate, burn, or create a lot of smoke. You can use tallow in place of oils/fats in recipes too! I HIGHLY recommend using tallow in place of vegetables oils. Vegetable oils might actually be the worst thing in your kitchen at the moment, but we'll dive into that in a later post.
I do need to put the disclaimer out there that grain fed/finished and grass-fed/finished tallow are different, and I would advise only using grass-fed/finished tallow on your skin. Cattle that are grain fed/finished will store different properties within their fat and often deposit the toxin loads from any conventional grown feeds they eat into their adipose tissue, aka, fat. As we don't treat our pastures with chemicals/pesticides, I know the grass my cattle are ingesting is safe and they are not bearing toxin loads inside their fat tissue. When I talk about tallow moving forward, I am referring to grass-fed/finished tallow.
The biggest scientific benefit to tallow is that it contains fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, K, and B1. All of these vitamins are vital for important bodily processes and the fact that they are fat soluble is key. Fat soluble means that your body can absorb the vitamins and store them in our own fat stores. Whereas, many vitamins that are water soluble are less likely to become bioavailable because they process through the kidneys and exit your body faster, so you do not have the ability to store them.
Tallow also contains conjugated linoleic acid, stearic acid, and palmitic acid. Conjugated linoleic acid is an omega-6 natural trans-fat acid chain that is found primarily in beef and dairy. Vegetable oils claim to have these properties as well, but synthetically produced industrial trans-fats are toxic when consumed in large quantities. Conjugated linoleic acid is a natural anti-inflammatory agent and can help boost immune function. Stearic acid is a saturated fatty acid that naturally softens skin and also aids in the repairing of damaged skin. Lastly, palmitic acid is a saturated fatty acid that is commonly found in food additives and cosmetics due to it's wax-like properties. Palmitic acid can help improve the skin barrier function. Did you know the skin is the largest human organ? It's the body's first line of defense against foreign entities and the environment, so this is one of the most important organs to take care of in your body!
I have been successfully using tallow a few months now and I have seen a noticeable difference in the health of my hands. I also started using tallow on my face and have completely stopped using the skin moisturizer I had been using for years. There's simply no comparison - the tallow has been such an enrichment to my skin. Also, I no longer have to spend $20 on a bottle of fancy moisturizer.
Last week I got a dreaded cold sore. You know...the ugly unsightly sores you get on your lips when stress triggers a flare up. I have suffered from cold sores for years and probably should have bought stock in Abreva - *eye roll*. I decided to test tallow against the cold sore, and tallow kicked that cold sore's butt. From the start of the cold sore to it going away only took 4 days! To those that get cold sores often know that's near impossible - I don't think Abreva can even advertise that kind of turnaround time. So, needless to say I am now using tallow as a chapstick too. I actually keep a small jar of tallow on the shelf in the bathroom to use as needed and it easily can be thrown into my suitcase when I travel. I would caution leaving tallow out in a hot room, otherwise you'll end up with liquid. Since my tallow sits in my cold bathroom, it keeps it's solid form nicely.
If you're interested in trying out the benefits of tallow-based products, I would recommend the following:
1) If convenience is your thing, there's a good company called Toups & Co: https://toupsandco.com/ that offers all tallow-based skincare products.
2) Find your local grass-fed/finished beef farmer, start a relationship, buy a 1/4 cow for your freezer and ask if the butcher can save you the fat. Try your hand at rendering - stay tuned for a later post about rendering fat. If you have a crockpot, then half the w0rk is already done.
3) If you want to try a sample without having to invest time and money, send me a message! I am happy to send a small sample of tallow your way. The only kicker is that you have to give me feedback after using it.
I can say with confidence that I will forever opt-out of mainstream skin lotions, moisturizers, chapsticks, and cold sore medications now as long as I always have a supply of tallow on hand. Our ancestors used every part of the animal in a nose-to-tail fashion, and I think we could all benefit from getting reacquainted with that idea again.