The Benefits of Tallow

The following article is from Allan Gardner which is a great read all about the benefits of tallow. Most people shy away from tallow and yet to me they fail to really understand the benefits of it. So before you say no to tallow have a read and see why it has so many benefits for our skin.

Pure grass fed tallow
This is my own tallow I have rendered myself. Cynthia


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.


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


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.


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

Benefits of Tallow as a Balm

Rejuvenating Skin Balm
Skin Balm Made With 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.

The full article can be found here

Note: Andrew Gardner has formulated four varieties of the skin balm described in this article.
They are available for purchase at his website,

– See more at:

Leave a Reply