The following research has been conducted by Kenneth and Andrew Gardner, and is reprinted by permission. It also appears in a similar article on the Weston A. Price Foundation’s website.
It is a wise precaution not to apply substances to our skin that we would not eat.
We know that the skin is the largest organ of the body and readily absorbs much of what is applied to it, good and bad. That is why so many drugs can be administered through the use of transdermal patches. Therefore, it is an excellent principle and wise precaution not to apply substances to our skin that we would not readily take internally or, in a word, eat. It would be ideal if what we used on our skin were edible, and yet more, a whole food, in which case it would also have the potential of actually nourishing the skin and helping it to heal itself.
Concerns About Modern Skin Care Products
Modern, popular skin care lines contain a number of toxic ingredients including petrolatum, mineral oil, parabens, BHT, titanium dioxide, triethanolanmine [TEA], DMDM-hydantoin, methylisothaiazolinone, sodium hydroxide, polysorbate 80, polysorbate 80, Ceteareth-20, EDTA, phenoxyethanol, diazolidinyl urea, propylene glycol, and butylene glycol.
In his book Toxic Beauty, Samuel Epstein highlights the fact that many chemicals are found even in some popular “natural” brands found in health food stores. There is also undisclosed “fragrance”, almost certainly synthetic, and such fragrances have been documented to be carcinogenic and toxic in other ways, causing headaches, dizziness, allergic rashes, skin discoloration, coughing, vomiting, and skin irritation as well as nervous system and behavioral effects. There were also chemical preservatives such as sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate. Sodium benzoate has many toxic effects on the body as outlined in its Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), and when combined with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), it forms benzene, a known carcinogen. Potassium sorbate is fundamentally non-toxic but can cause skin irritation per its MSDS. In any case, it seems that synthetic preservatives that inhibit the growth of micro-organisms would also generally not be beneficial to other living organisms such as humans.
As Sally Fallon Morell explains in the Oiling of America, “natural” products also contain certain vegetable oils that could be harmful: polyunsaturated oils like safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, corn, soy, and canola. High heat is generally used in the production of these oils. Polyunsaturated oils are unstable, fragile, and susceptible to rancidity when subjected to heat, which causes the production of free radicals, associated with cell damage, aging, and disease. Certainly, we do not want to be applying products high in free radicals to our skin, causing the very types of problems we are trying to relieve or prevent. And polyunsaturates would not seem to be conducive to skin health, extrapolating from the fact that the modern excess consumption of these types of oils leads to a host of health problems.
What did people use for skin care before the introduction of man-made chemicals?
Tallow, amongst other ingredients food in nature. See this photo of a traditional tallow balm and this historic illustration of tallow production as published on the Weston A. Price Foundation’s website. A book of recipes and information 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.
Currently, there are virtually no skin care products available that are made with animal fats. Interestingly, they disappeared at the same time that animal fats in our diets did. Among the animal fats used for skin care, it appeared that the one used most overwhelmingly was indeed tallow. Tallow is the rendered fat of cows, sheep, and other ruminant animals such as deer. It is very solid and waxy at room temperature and can be kept for extended periods without the need for refrigeration. Rendering is the process of gently heating the interior fat tissue, called “suet”, causing the pure oils to melt away from the rest of the tissue. Tallow was usually mixed with various other substances directly from nature to form a spreadable skin balm. Further research shows that modern science supports this traditional use of tallow as a principal ingredient of skin care recipes.
No plant-based skin care ingredient or product can remotely compare to tallow in its power to nourish and heal the skin.
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. As Sally Fallon Morell explains in her book Nourishing Traditions, 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. 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, 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. William D. James MD explains that 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. Cheung Russel’s research reveals that sebum is made up of lipids (fats) of which 41 percent are in the form of triglyderides, and the lipids of tallow are principally in the form of triglycerides, which is how fatty acids are usually configured in nature.
Tallow is compatible with our skin biology and is readily absorbed by the skin.
In regard to the 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.
You can make your own tallow balm, or purchase it from Vintage Tradition, one of our new sponsors who is offering a 10% discount for our community members until March 10, 2015. You’ll see the discount when you follow our referral link. The discount also extends to their deodorant.
Beyond serving to moisturize and nourish our skin, Vintage Tradition’s tallow balm has proven to heal a variety of skin conditions including eczema, psoriasis, cradle cap, baby acne, dry and chapped skin, rashes, and keratosis pilaris. See these testimonials. In addition, read this testimonial and view the photographs from Taryn, a mother who healed her child’s eczema with tallow. I found her experience to be very compelling.
I have made some at home and it didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. It wasn’t as smooth and silky or absorbable as the Vintage Tradition’s product. I have tried all of their different body balms, including the mild manly scent, and there wasn’t one I didn’t enjoy! I am choosing to use and recommend Vintage Tradition’s products because of the quality of the nourishing ingredients, the fact that their tallow balm is highly absorbable, effective and due to the ease that comes with having the product ready made.
There are no more than three of the highest quality ingredients available in Vintage Tradition’s tallow balm: 100% grass-fed tallow, extra virgin olive oil and high quality essential oils, for options that contain them.
- Tallow - Vintage Tradition obtains their tallow from Larga Vista Ranch, Maytag Mountain Ranch, Music Meadows Ranch, James Ranch, and Sun Prairie Beef, all in Colorado, Alderspring Ranch in Idaho, Touchstone Angus in Wyoming, and other ranches where the cows are 100% grass-fed, which is important for the superior therapeutic value of their balm.
- Olive Oil - They use olive oil supplied by Chaffin Family Orchards to the tallow to make it softer and more spreadable at room temperature. Pure tallow has a hard, waxy consistency; candles used to be made from tallow. They also add it because of its therapeutic qualities. Since ancient times, olive oil has been considered a healing salve for the skin due to its soothing, cleansing, moisturizing, and anti-cancer properties. We now know that these properties are, in part, a result of olive oil’s high levels of antioxidants, like vitamin E, carotenoids, and oleuropein.
- Essential Oil - The essential oils used in their products have a long-standing tradition of being healing to the skin, and they are expertly blended to promote optimal skin health. They also give their balms a fresh, pleasant scent. They only use Young Living Oils, considered amongst the most pure and therapeutic essential oils, produced to the highest standards in the industry. They are steam-distilled from plants grown at the highest standards and are not adulterated, extended, synthesized, or distilled using chemicals or high temperatures and pressure.
Kenneth Gardner of Vintage Tradition has offered our community 4 free tallow balms to be shipped to 4 individuals within the United States. If you are chosen, you will have an opportunity to choose what scent you’d like, including completely unscented. Recipients will be chosen on March 7, 2015 at 8:00P Pacific.
Please answer this question below in the comments with no less than 5 sentences to enter the giveaway. Be sure to mention tallow balm in your response.