I Tried Tallow Based Skincare to Find Out How Effective Smearing Animal Fat on Your Body Really Is (Sorry Vegans)

KENTFIELD, CA - MAY 08: Ribeye steaks are displayed at Woodlands Meats on May 8, 2013 in Kentfield, California. With U.S. cattle and calf herds at their lowest levels since 1952 and corn feed prices on the rise, beef prices hit an all-time high this past week when the wholesale price of USDA cuts of beef topped $201.68 per 100 pounds, the highest price since October 2003. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Coconut oil move over; animal fat might be the next big thing in all-natural skincare. When you think of trimmed cow fat, your first thought might not be Heck yeah! Get on my face! But using tallow for skincare, the substance derived from animal fat, is supposed to be highly moisturizing, non-greasy, and totally chemical-free (so it's safe to use anywhere on your body). Although you probably can't just buy a jar of this from the supermarket and slather it on, it seems relatively easy to make. So if you're the DIY type, there are plenty of tutorials to help make your own. But if that's not really your thing, there are pre-made versions available for purchase online. I've tried two of these different versions of tallow balm to give you a better idea of how this stuff actually works. 

But before I get into the review of these products, there is something I must warn you about: Dogs love this stuff. Or at least mine does. She can smell the animal fat even when the jars are shut. Whenever I pick up one of the products, she proceeds to perform all of the tricks in her repertoire to see if she can win the tallow from me. And when I tested it out, we even ended up playing a game where she followed me around the room trying to lick my legs. It ended with a lot of drool on my carpet. I cannot speak for whether cats would react the same way, but I imagine they would be just as intrigued. So pet owners, be warned. 

1. Vintage Tradition 

Vintage Tradition Body Balms, $24, Amazon

The first thing I noticed about Vintage Tradition Body Balms is that they do not smell great. I tried three different scents, and I went crazy for none of them (Pretty Girly was better than Mild Manly and Almost Unscented). The only ingredients in these products are tallow from 100 percent grass-fed cows, extra virgin olive oil, and a variety of essential oils depending on the scent. I think the problem is that tallow has its own distinct smell, and the essential oils don't cover it up, they just mix with it. I was not able to try an unscented version, but I would guess the natural scent to not be as offensive. But how did the actual product perform?

The first way I tested this product was by applying it to my left hand only. I noticed my hand immediately felt soft and non-greasy (a huge plus — I hate greasy formulas, especially in hand creams). The product also sinks into the skin quite quickly. I washed my hands right after application, and my left hand still felt softer than my right. 

I also tested this product on my feet and legs, and the company is not kidding when they say a little goes a long way. I probably used only a dime-sized amount for one leg, and the same amount for both feet. I was able to walk around right after applying the tallow to the bottoms of my feet without sliding around or collecting dog hair. And when I felt my legs about eight hours later, they still felt just as soft as they did when I first applied the product. 

The last place I tested the tallow was on my lips. I could not bring myself to use it on my face, as the smell was just too much for me. It was still a little intense on my lips, but bearable. I usually use a petroleum jelly on my lips overnight, but used this one night instead. This was the only test that disappointed me. After my hands, feet, and legs did so well, I expected to awake with pillow-soft puckers. But alas, my lips actually felt drier than they normally do in the morning. 

2. Primal Care

Primal Care's Skin Balm Facial Blend, $15, Primal Care

Again, the first thing I noticed about Primal Care's Skin Balm Facial Blend was the scent. This one was not as offensive as Vintage Tradition's, but it was still not great. (Although, I am more used to it now, and almost think it smells kind of good.) The only ingredients in the Facial Blend are tallow from grass-fed buffalo, rose hip seed oil, and essential oils. The only ingredients in the Skin Balms are tallow from grass-fed buffalo, jojoba oil, and essential oils. 

I executed the exact same tests with Primal Care's tallow as I did with Vintage Tradition's tallow, and it performed almost exactly the same— it moisturized my hands, feet, and legs superbly while not doing much for my lips. The only difference was the texture of the products. Whereas Vintage Tradition features a whipped texture, Primal Care features more of a balm. Although the whipped texture is supposed to be easier to apply, I actually found Primal Care's texture somewhat easier, as I think it blended better. It also seemed to sink into the skin ever so slightly better (although this is a very nit-picky observation as both hydrated extremely well). 

Top: Vintage Tradition; Bottom: Primal Care

Final verdict? Both of these products perform better as a hydrator than almost any other body lotion, cream, or butter that I've tried. And neither performed significantly better than the other. (But with basically the same ingredients, how could one?) The only differences in these products are superficial: the scent and the texture. However, something I really care about in my skin products is scent. I will definitely continue to use tallow as a winter hand-cream to keep my skin from getting chapped, as I do think it works better on those tougher-skin areas. But until there's an unadulterated cream, lemon, or linen scent, I can't be a total convert yet. 

Images: Miki Hayes (4)

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