Using Tallow in Bath Products

I’ve been on a kick lately with this whole tallow in products.  First it was soap (which I really am likely and am SERIOUSLY–though it’s the last thing I need right now–considering a line of tallow soaps)!  Now it’s bath products.

In February mt friend’s sister asked if I made tallow lotion. I don’t make lotion, but I said I could probably do it in a body butter or balm.  And that kind of sparked my interest in tallow.  I started doing more research.  Products in soap work (to some degree) similarly in bath products, but they are also completely different products from soap.  My research lead to a number of discoveries.

No one’s allowed to get grossed out over tallow! Got it?? 😀  It’s no different from ANY vegetable oil we use it’s just fat from an animal as opposed to a plant!  And it’s good stuff! First, what is tallow? It’s definition:

tal·low (n)

  1. a hard fatty substance made from rendered animal fat, used in making candles and soap.

Tallow comes from cows, deer, mutton, and the like.  Lard is from pigs.  The tallow I’m working with is beef (cow) tallow.

It’s fatty acid profile: (obviously there is variation here from one batch to the next, one animal to the next, but this gives us a general idea.

  • Saturated fatty acids
    • Palmitic acid(C16:0): 26%
    • Stearic acid(C18:0): 14%
    • Myristic acid(C14:0): 3%
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids:
    • Oleic acid(C18-1, ω-9): 47%
    • Palmitoleic acid(C16:1): 3%
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids:
    • Linoleic acid: 3%
    • Linolenic acid: 1%

So, why is tallow so great?  Well let’s take a look at tallow and its properties.

Tallow is an excellent source of niacin, vitamins B6, B12, K2, selenium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and riboflavin. Grassfed beef tallow contains high ratio of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is a cancer-resistant agent. Contrary to the popular conception, tallow is good for health as tallow fat is similar to the fat/muscles in the heart. Recent studies have shown that human beings need at least 50% of saturated fats like tallow and lard to keep the heart pumping hard and healthy. Tallow from pasture-raised cows also contains a small amount of Vitamin D, similar to lard. ~ source

We all know (and have probably heard endless numbers of times) that our skin is the largest organ of our body.  It absorbs a large amount of what we come in contact with (both good and bad).  Tallow closely resembles our own cellular makeup and it seems like a smart ingredient to use on our skin.

MommyPotamus has done research on tallow and has this to say:

Tallow is uniquely compatible with the biology of our cells. About 50% of the structure of our cell membrane comes from saturated fats, with remaining amounts consisting of monounsaturated and to a lesser degree polyunsaturated fats. According to Nourishing Traditions, it is the saturated fats that give cell membranes the “necessary stiffness and integrity”  necessary for proper function (p. 11). The saturated fat ratio of tallow is 50-55% saturated fat, making it uniquely compatible with our skin. (source) It also contains Omega 3 fatty acids, which support cell membrane structure and therefore help skin hold in moisture. (source 1source 2)

Tallow contains skin nourishing ingredients that plant-based oils do not. Tallow contains an abundance of naturally occurring fat soluble vitamins (A,D,K and E), Omega 3 fatty acids, and anti-inflammatory conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).

All of this makes tallow a really good fat to use on our skin!  After my research I was excited to get started on experimenting.  The two products I’m currently experimenting with are a tallow body butter and a tallow foot/hand balm.

My first though when formulating recipes was: How much do I use??? There’s so little information out there.  I looked at blogs, books, YouTube and people don’t use tallow. A lot of times when I formulate I start by making notes of recommended percentage usages of the ingredients I want to use for a specific type product.  Then I’ll jot down other ingredients I know I want/need in the product and their recommend usage rates and then from there start formulating.

Once I have a couple rough formulates I’ll go online and research other recipes that are similar to the product I’m making.  I couldn’t really do this step this time.  There just aren’t any recipes out there.  Which wasn’t a big deal.  It just meant a bit more experimenting on my part and making some (logical) deductions.

I ended up with two body butter recipes each using a different percentage of tallow.  I added Shea butter to both recipes.  I was afraid to do a straight tallow recipe.  My initial though was it would be too brittle (thinking tallow is a hard oil like coconut), but I realized after I made my recipes that tallow, while solid at room temperature, is actually softer than Shea butter.

  1. Recipe 1 used 25%
  2. Recipe 2 used 40%

Both have a wonderful LOVELY consistency to them right now–though I love the 40% feel more than the 25%.  The 40% (recipe 2) one is definitely softer than the 25% one (recipe 1) and I don’t know how well it will hold up in the summer heat.  I have a feeling that it might be too high a percentage of tallow and potentially melt or go VERY soft come summer.  It’s something I’m going to pay attention to and take note on.

My thoughts after testing these for about 6 weeks:

Recipe 1: This was actually preferred by my testers. I liked it, but it was a bit stiff. Probably will bode well for the summer and warmer weather. Overall, it moisturizer well and went on smooth and wasn’t overly greasy.

Recipe 2: this one I liked,  it it wasn’t preferred by my testers. They felt it was too heavy and didn’t absorb in as well. I think not adding any fragrance to it didn’t help as it had a tallow-y smell to it.

Using it on my Face: I loved recipe 2 as a heavy duty face moisturizer. It kept my dry flaky skin nice and if I put it in at night by morning it was absorbed in and I could put make up on and get thru the day without my skin flaking.

Now I want to try and new blend that is a mix of the two recipes. Add a little more Shea  utter and cut back on the tallow from recipe 2. We shall see what the results are.

11 Responses to Using Tallow in Bath Products

  1. Eva says:

    Nice article Jennifer! I look forward to seeing how your experiment continues ‘in the field’ :). I am researching ways to make Lard more heat durable, as I make diy birdseed blocks with it. (different product than lotion I know !!! ) Similar dilemma though, melty Body butter wouldn’t be very purse or console friendly on a hot day 🙂

  2. soapsbysly says:

    Thank you for such an informative Blog on Tallow. I used to use it occasionally in soap, but so many people were freaked out when they read “Tallow” on the ingredients, that I stopped (and at the time, the only place I could find it charged 2-3 times what I could get Palm oil for).
    FYI: I am missing your thoughts on Recipe #1 & #2…comes up blank for me.
    Thanks again Jennifer!!

    • Jennifer says:

      There is definitely an aversion to tallow/lard. My customer base tends to want more vegetable base, but I have some who love tallow soap and I think would love the option of it 😀

      Everyone has their likes and dislikes, but tallow is so awesome! How can people not like it?!? 😀

  3. soapsbysly says:

    Jennifer – disregard comment on “thoughts” not coming up…after I posted my comment and the page refreshed, they magically appeared!!

  4. Simson Street Soaps says:

    I’ve used lard in some of my soaps and those always seem to be my favorite. It looks like I should test some tallow recipes!

  5. Pat Tyson says:

    I started using tallow in my soaps about 6 months ago after reading an article somewhere that was written by a VEGETARIAN that had made the decision to use tallow in her soaps. Her reasoning was that since animals aren’t killed for their fat, much of the animal fat ends up in a landfill. I don’t think that makes any sense at all. It’s better to put this “throwaway” item to it’s best uses! The vegetarian soaper made me do a bunch of thinking about this. Putting animal fats in a landfill doesn’t do anything great for the planet. I know I wouldn’t put it in my compost pile. It’s a good ingredient in soaps and am happy to read of your research Jennifer!

    • Jennifer says:

      Yeah, I’ve never had an issue with tallow. 😀 And one that’s so good for our skin it seems a shame to not use it!

  6. marsbalms says:

    I first used tallow in soap when I my first shaving bar, and now I use it in my wool wash soap, and this soap is so amazing, that I want to make a version of it for the body. Once when making this wool wash I let the oils sit and cool and it became like a soft balm, curious I saved a teaspoon of it on the side and used this on my daughters eczema. Gone the next day! And I used a bit on my face and it’s never been so smooth. I had read Humblebee and Me’s take on using tallow and agree with it wholeheartedly. Although I really am inspired by the plantbased ingredients I use, and make all vegan soaps and vegetarian products (i do use beeswax) my experience with tallow has been just amazing. I love tallow and have the same intention to try and make a firmer balm version of this soap. And it feels right to use it, because it’s making use of something that would go to waste. Great post and am glad to see others have a similar experience. Thanks for sharing 😀

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