Nourishing Tallow Balm

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tallow-balm

An article by Andrew J. Gardner called Traditional Nourishing and Healing Skin Care caught my eye (winter 2012 issue of Wise Traditions journal). It’s a lovely read and in it, Mr. Gardner shares the traditional use of tallow in skin care for both slight and serious conditions. Mr. Gardner makes and sells high-quality tallow balm through his site Vintage Tradition.

Tallow is the rendered fat of cows, sheep, and other ruminant animals such as deer.

I want to summarize the key points in Mr. Gardner’s article. I encourage you to read it for yourself — in fact, click over and scroll down so you can see pictures of how tallow balm cleared up diaper rash.

1. What makes tallow so wonderful for skin care applications?

You might say that tallow is a match made in Heaven (and I believe this) for skin care.

  1. Tallow fat is 50 to 55 percent saturated, just like our cell membranes, making it helpful for skin health and compatible with our biology.
  2. Tallow is similar to our “sebum” — the oily, waxy matter that lubricates and waterproofs our skin.
  3. Tallow contains the abundant fat-soluble activators — vitamins A, D, E, and K — which are necessary for skin health.
  4. Tallow contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
  5. Tallow contains palmitoleic acid, which has natural anti-microbial properties.

By the way, #3, #4 and #5 especially are qualities of grass-fed tallow, not conventional. Which brings me to the second point.

2. Is being grass-fed really that important?

Yes.

Mr. Gardner writes:

“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. Products from grass-fed animals were also found to have three to five times more CLA that those fed a ‘conventional’ diet.”

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3. In what ways can tallow balm be used?

Mr. Gardner shared a remarkable story about a woman with a horrible and painful ingrown toenail. After months of not being able to even wear shoes, tallow balm healed it almost overnight:

“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.” –Dr. A.W. Chase, MD, 1866

Tallow balm is very, very useful — take note!

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.”

I perked up at the word rashes, and began to think of how tallow balm might help my ‘kp’. Keratosis pilaris is a rash — and it is caused by Vitamin A deficiency. Tallow balm is a rich source of Vitamin A. Seems like it could work!

Keratosis Pilaris — Vitamin A Rash

As long as I can remember, I’ve had keratosis pilaris, a skin rash caused by a Vitamin A deficiency. I wrote about it two years ago, including real food suggestions for improvement:

Keratosis Pilaris: ‘Sand paper’ bumps, most frequently on the back of the upper arms, appear when keratin forms hard plugs within hair follicles. This is a classic sign of vitamin A deficiency. In addition to taking cod liver oil orally, mix cod liver oil with evening primrose oil and rub on the affected area. Avoid soaps and shampoos containing sodium lauryl sulfate. –Skin Deep by Sally Fallon Morrell

Since then, my ‘kp’ has gotten better. Avoiding the icky shampoos made a BIG difference. I use hard lotion bars with coconut oil and shea butter for moisturizer (this gal says coconut oil cured her kp). I use a blend of essential oils good for skin, called Skin Care: lavender, frankincense, carrot seed, neroli, roman chamomile and rose otto. (If you order this, please use code 91353 to tell them I sent you!) Finally, my diet contains Vitamin A rich foods such as grass-fed cream and butter, and fermented cod liver oil.

And my rash is better. It isn’t so inflamed or itchy, and my skin is softer. Definitely not like sandpaper anymore. But the rash is still there, as you can see. This photo was taken yesterday.

20130312-keratosis-pilaris-before

(That ugly red mark on the top left of my arm is a scar from getting snagged on a piece of wire. That was painful!)

Though I’m happy about the improvement, I’d really like the rash to go away completely.

Enter tallow balm. (I’m pretty sure.)

I really, really want to see if tallow balm can heal my keratosis pilaris, and we happen to have loads and loads and loads of grass-fed tallow.

So I made myself some tallow balm. And surprisingly, it is not greasy feeling at all. My skin soaks it up right away and just feels nourished and moisturized.

Mr. Gardner’s article contains simple directions. Below you’ll see the recipe I created based on the proportions Mr. Gardner recommended.

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Homemade Nourishing Tallow Balm with Essential Oils

Please use grass-fed tallow. If you don’t have a local source, you can get high-quality grass-fed tallow from U.S. Wellness Meats. A little goes a long way, and wouldn’t tallow balm make great gifts?

  • 18 ounces grass-fed tallow, by weight (here’s how to render it)
  • 2 ounces extra-virgin olive oil, by weight
  • *essential oil that’s good for the skin — such as lavender

*About essential oils: They are concentrated, so use sparingly. What I did was add just enough to mask the not-unpleasant-but-distinct tallow smell, as well as add a nice fragrance to the balm. I’d suggest starting at 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of straight essential oils for a batch this size. Scale up or down as needed. Since I used my Skin Care blend of oils, already diluted in a cucumber oil base, I ended up adding 2 teaspoons of it (and I just might remelt and add more).

Makes 20 ounces. Over low heat, melt tallow until just barely melted. Don’t let it get hot. Add olive oil and essential oils. Stir. Pour into containers (that have covers). Will harden fairly quickly. Store in a cool location and keep covered when not in use. Apply as needed.

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Now, wasn’t that easy?

I am planning on using my tallow balm at least once daily, if not twice, on my arms. I am documenting its effect on my ‘kp’ and I will report back with my results.

Update 11/21/2013 — My ‘kp’ is significantly better… I’m continuing my use of tallow balm and hopeful for 100% healing. Slowly but surely. :)

Do you use tallow balm? If so, for what and with what results? Or, do you have a skin condition that might benefit from tallow balm? Please share!

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Comments

  1. says

    Dr. Marshall at healthline.cc has always said that bumps on the back of your upper arm mean gallbladder problems. You may want to look into a gallbladder flush. So many people get rid of their gallbladder if they have problems instead of doing cleanses. My husband had many attacks until he did several flushes and stayed away from bad fats. He hasn’t had an attack in years. We need our gallbladders to digest fats.

    • amy says

      I battle with acne and I’ve been using tallow on my face for a while. I do feel like I’ve noticed improvement in my skin. I do still get some acne, but not as much. My pores seem smaller and I love the way it makes my skin feel soft and nourished. It doesn’t seem to be as dry, either. I’ll keep using it… even though my husband thinks I smell like celery :) (no, I don’t add celery when rendering my tallow :).

  2. says

    Ooh I’m so psyched about this! I have KP pretty bad and I’ve been trying to get rid of it. I found out I have a genetic issue that prevents my body from converting vitamin A into retinol. So, I’ve been trying to take lots of FCLO and eat liver. I was wondering if your body could absorb it through the skin so I’m really happy you’re doing this experiment. I have some suet in my freezer and I think I’ll make up a batch of this.

  3. Sara says

    This is great! I’ve tried SO many things on my son’s skin. It’ll get better for a bit then go back to how it was before. So I am up for trying one more thing :)

  4. says

    I hope this helps you! I was happy to read it. One of our daughters (grown, married) has had this condition most of her life, so I’ve sent her a link to this page. Thank you!

  5. Natasha says

    I have been making this for my daughter with eczema for a few months and it is truly wonderful! The whole family likes using it too, it is very silky and not oily. It soaks in right away too. I use the same amounts as our recipe, for the olive oil we sometimes add a calendula soaked olive oil for additional calming effects on rashes.

  6. Sandra Wilkerson says

    I had the same rash all my life-50yrs- all of my family do. My grandma called it chicken skin. One of the first changes I made to my diet was adding flax oil to my salads and yogurt. The rash was gone in two weeks! Now I use CLO and butter oil-still gone.

  7. says

    I’ve been making and using tallow balm as a moisturizer on my face for a few months now. I have seen a big difference in my skin. Its incredibly soft, and my acne is much improved. I have gotten to the point where I am so confident with my skin that I can usually go out without foundation on. I feel like my skin looks smoother and younger also. It’s pretty amazing! Love to moisturize my hands with it too!
    I make mine pretty much the same way, only I like using jojoba oil instead. It seems to work better for my skin. I also don’t add essential oil any more….at least not lavender. It smelled like flowery roast beef to me :) I now just rub a drop of lavender on just after I apply the balm and it smells much better for some reason.

    • says

      Lizzy — Thanks for sharing that! I am in Arizona right now and 1) I got incredibly dry upon arrival and 2) I got a sunburn right away. Tallow balm is helping tremendously. The relief is unmistakeable. I look forward to getting long term results like yours. :

  8. says

    I just rendered grass-fed tallow for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I noticed as I was making it that when I rubbed the stuff on my hand into my skin, it made it extremely soft and supple (although a bit smelly). I’m excited to try this recipe.

    I used to have KP too, and have noticed it much reduced with lotion bars, switching soaps, and eating healthy. My dad and siblings still have it, but they also avoid animal fats. Maybe giving them some of this balm can be another step to help win them over. :)

  9. says

    Oooh I’m so trying this! I’m ALWAYS dry (the climate’s partially to blame) and I’ve been feeling increasingly hesitant about using the lotions and potions I bought from the store (so many icky ingredients!). I’ve been saving them for when my skin is too dry/damaged to bear, but I can use this whenever! (here’s to hoping it helps my acne/kp like it should!)

  10. Rebecca C says

    Are you ready to post your update? I am especially interested because my husband has kp and my 2 year old daughter does too. My infant son has a different sort of texture to his skin, not sure if that will become a problem or not. But either way, I really would like something to use on my daughter. She’s got it on her arms and some on her cheeks.

    • says

      Rebecca — My kp hasn’t gone away yet, but it is better. I am going to keep up using it each day! I wish I could say it went away fast, but these things take time. :)

  11. Charlene says

    Wardeh,
    I initially bought some tallow balm from vintage Tradition just to try it out and see if I’d like using it on my daughter’s diaper rash. It worked wonderfully!!! I then decided to make my own so that it would be cheaper, and the batch I made turned out to be runny if it’s not kept in the refrigerator. The vintage Tradition balm was in a solid state even at room temperature, so I’m not sure what I did wrong. Any thoughts or advice? Thank you!

    • says

      Charlene,

      I have noticed with my own batches that some are more solid than others. I really think it is the overall moisture content of the tallow. To firm it up, add some melted beeswax. Like maybe a teaspoon at a time to this batch. You can test the consistency by dropping some in cold water. Add more beeswax until it firms up like you prefer. I hope this helps. :)

  12. says

    Hi Wardee,

    This article caught my eye in Google, and a fascinating one it is too, I have heard of tallow of course, but never knew it could be used for skincare, you learn something new every day.

    Having said that meat butchers who are handling animal fats all day in their shops usually have wonderfully soft hands.

    I read the comment above that asks whether tallow would have any effect on acne skin, which is my own particular area of interest. I wonder if anyone has ever tried it? scrub that, I just read the post by Lizzy,

    My first thought is that tallow may block the pores of skin which would be a disaster for acne sufferers, but it seems this is not the case.

    I wonder if you have inadvertently discovered a miracle acne treatment :-)

  13. jayne says

    Just a heads up first: the “SKin Care’ link didnt work for me…it does go to NAN, but says error, using my savvy techy skills, I entered “skin care” in the search box and then found it….Again just FYI.

    I want to do this. I have tallow in my freezer which I had rendered ( on stove top with salt and water) does this method give the same as the method you use here?

    Love all your posts and emails!!! Hopefully, will be able to do you membership classes…..sooner than later, I hope. :-)

    • says

      Hi Jayne,

      Thanks for the heads up on the bad link. :) I’ve fixed it.

      Is your tallow gritty from the salt? We’re concerned the salt might dry out your skin and are tempted to say ‘no, we don’t recommend it’. But… you could try a small batch and see how it turns out. Let us know if you do and the results.

      Millie
      GNOWFGLINS Support Team

  14. Sybil says

    I am curious if anyone knows whether lard would have similar benefits? At the moment I have access to some good quality (properly raised pigs) leaf lard from a local farm. Will be looking for a good tallow source too after reading this!

    • says

      Sybil, I really don’t know. The article I read shared the benefits of using fat from ruminants. You could always try it and see if you like it. But having said that, people do use lard in moisturizers, so I say give it a try!

  15. Michele says

    I have had KP all my life of 60 yrs. Within 3 wks of starting eating Paleo my KP become almost unnoticeable. The tallow, though, helps keep it smoother. I, too, bought the Vintage Traditions at first. Yesterday was my first rendering and my home-made tallow is great. I cooked some eggs with it this morning and the balm I made with geranium oil, rose hip oil, and lavender is really nice. It has a smoother consistency, better than the VT balm. I have been using the VT balm on my face for several months as a daytime moisturizer under makeup. It’s great for that , too. I’m looking forward to seeing how my home-made compares. Lastly, it is VERY dry in CO and my skin itches to the the point of my scratching until I have black & blue marks. Tallow has been the only product that has consistently helped. It seems that Mother Nature has given us a wonderful product.

  16. says

    I absolutely love tallow salve!! I’ve been using it for almost a year and my skin has never been more moisturized than it has with tallow. All the store bought creams would burn my skin because I’m going through something called Topical Steroid Withdrawal, which is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. If you want more information go to http://www.itsan.org for more information. I will only use tallow salve for the rest of my life as I know exactly what’s in it and it doesn’t contain any alcohol unlike the store bought creams.

  17. Amanda says

    I have been using this tallow balm on my daughters “backne” for one week and it is SO much better. She is desperate to clear her back up before wearing the strapless prom dress… so no complaining about the smell or nightly ritual. I used more essential oils than called for, and ended up using a bit more than a teaspoon or so of these oils: lavender, frank, geranium, rosemary and tea tree. Oddly, the skin on her face has always been clear and lovely:/

  18. ing says

    You should consider eating some tallow to clear up skin even more. I take 1/4 tsp of grassfed tallow and it works so well for my rashes and skin issues and Ive tried EVERYTHING. Who knew. (Wish all my dermatologists did)

  19. Sarah P says

    I’m so grateful for this post/recipe and to see I’m not alone in this KP issue too! Kids can be cruel and I always felt ugly while growing up. I just made my first batch with lavender oil and filled two 16oz jars. Thank you for recommending U.S. Wellness Meats!

    My question to anyone is: How to store it? The package slip that came with my order said tallow keeps for months in the fridge, a year if frozen. Can I keep my prepared balm in a bathroom cupboard without it spoiling or losing too much healthful properties? For how long, do you think? I have a feeling I’ll be using everyday all over (full body KP) but it’s too hard in the fridge. I have to scrape at it to get some to use.

  20. Estelle Stone says

    Tallow is absolutely amazing. When I first started reading about it, I was kind of shocked. I thought, ewwww, that sounds kind of gross! Well, I am 54 and to be honest, I’ve always had pretty nice skin. Well, about a year ago, let’s face it (no pun intended) my face was starting to look, well, different. Not bad, but not like it used to be. So, I read up on Tallow balm, Tallow in soaps, etc. I made some Tallow face balm and it’s unbelievable! The small abrasions on my face are almost non-existent now. I can ALMOST go out without make-up. My skin is so smooth and soft. I cannot tell you how often people comment on my skin. I also made my last batch of soap with Tallow. The best batch I’ve made yet! Believe it! Grass-Fed Tallow is truly one of life’s miracles! Those of you who have access to it all the time are truly blessed! Otherwise, those of us who don’t have access, can buy it from US Wellness Meats. :-)

  21. Jeannette says

    I am totally sold on the tallow balm and can’t wait to make a batch both for treating kp in a few of my daughters and for use on the face. We have been using the oil cleansing method with success for all the skin types under our roof (6 teenagers + others). I’d like to add the balm and see if there is further improvement. From the article, I’m suspecting there will be.

    I have a question though, you mentioned getting rid of the “yucky” shampoos. What are you using instead. This has been a sticky subject in our home with 5 daughters that are all for doing things naturally but also not willing to give up shiny, bouncy, beautiful hair which they all have using mainstream shampoos. I’d love some suggestions. Thanks!

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