Skincare formulators and cosmetic chemists can access thousands of raw materials to create effective and safe skincare products, from aromatic herbal extracts and oils to synthetically-made micronutrients and other concentrated performance ingredients. Interestingly, even though cutting-edge cosmetic ingredients are constantly being developed, more formulators are looking back in history for inspiration. They are delving deep into remedies and healing practices from different cultures over human history to see what Earth-based ingredients have been used consistently for beauty and skin health. One such ingredient that has been gaining attention lately is grass-fed tallow. There has been a growing interest in tallow-based skincare products in recent years due to the increased demand for simple, traditional remedies. But is tallow-based skincare all it’s cracked up to be? And is it safe? Read on to get the skinny on this popular fat.
What is tallow and what are the benefits of tallow-based skincare products?
Tallow is a rendered form of fat from sheep or cows commonly used in cooking, soapmaking, and skincare. It is made by melting beef fat at a low temperature and then straining it to remove any solids. Tallow comprises mostly healthy fats, including oleic, palmitic, stearic, and myristic fatty acids. It is rich in vitamins A, D, E, and K and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), all of which can benefit the skin.
These nutrients have been shown to have numerous benefits for skin health. Vitamin A, for example, is essential for skin cell growth and repair, while vitamin D has powerful antimicrobial and barrier-boosting properties. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that can help protect the skin from UV damage, and vitamin K has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve skin elasticity.
In addition to these vitamins, the CLA found in tallow has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-bacterial properties, as well as potential skin-repairing benefits.
The history of using tallow for beauty and skin health
Tallow has been used for centuries as a valuable ingredient in beauty and skincare products. In ancient times, people would render tallow from animal fat to make candles, soap, and even ointments for dry skin.
During the Middle Ages, tallow was a common ingredient in cosmetic products, particularly in Europe. It was used to nourish and protect the skin, especially during the harsh winter months.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, tallow remained a popular ingredient in skincare products, particularly as a balm, salve, or cream base. It was believed to be a natural and effective way to soften and soothe the skin.
How to source quality tallow for skincare
When sourcing tallow for cosmetic use, it is important to ensure that the tallow is from grass-fed sheep or cows, as conventionally raised animals may contain harmful synthetic hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and other potential toxicants that can be detrimental to the skin and overall health.
Choose a supplier who sources from local, sustainable farmers who raise their animals humanely and feed them with grass, not grains. Many small-scale farmers and ranchers produce grass-fed tallow that is suitable for use in skincare products.
Formulating tallow-based skincare
When formulating with tallow, it is important to remember that it is a solid fat at room temperature, and it may require some additional processing to make it suitable for skincare products. Tallow can be used as a stand-alone ingredient or in addition to (or as a substitute for) other oils and butters in formulations to improve stability, texture, and provide additional nourishment within a wide range of skincare products, such as creams, balms, and soaps. It can be used in both anhydrous products and emulsions.
Safety and regulatory issues associated with tallow-based skincare
While tallow can offer many benefits to the skin, it also presents some potential hazards. As a formulator or brand owner, it is important to evaluate the risks associated with animal-based ingredients before formulating with them.
It is worth noting that using animal-based ingredients like tallow can bring up regulatory and safety issues for small skincare brands. It is important to follow all the necessary regulations and testing requirements to be legally compliant, especially now, as the FDA is making changes to comply with the new Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act (MoCRA) of 2022.
Currently, in the US, cosmetics containing animal-derived ingredients are generally subject to the same regulations as cosmetics that do not contain food or animal-based ingredients. Tallow is considered safe when sourced, handled, stored, and formulated properly.
However, there may be additional regulations, testing, or labeling requirements depending on the source of the tallow. Small skincare brands may face challenges using animal-based ingredients like tallow, as regulators may impose stricter regulations on animal-derived ingredients due to concerns around animal welfare and zoonotic diseases. This is why sourcing and traceability of the tallow is absolutely crucial.
In conclusion, grass-fed tallow can be a valuable ingredient when formulating skincare products. While it’s not going to be for every brand or every customer (obviously, those who are vegan or vegetarian won’t want to use it), its rich nutrient profile and potential skin-health benefits make it a versatile and effective ingredient to incorporate into your product formulations.
By sourcing high-quality tallow, formulating it safely, and following all necessary regulatory requirements, you can create beautiful and effective tallow-based skincare products that utilize the power of this natural ingredient.
What are your thoughts on tallow-based skincare?
Have you tried it? If so, what was your experience? If not, then would you try it? Why or why not? Sound off in the comments below!