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This DIY Moisturizer Has an Odd Little Secret

April  4, 2017

When I tell people I make my own facial moisturizer, they usually get really excited. Until I tell them the main ingredient: beef tallow. Then, more often than not, the excitement fades into something more like semi-polite disgust. “Like… beef fat? How do you even get it?”

My answers are: Yes, it’s rendered beef fat. I buy it by the jar at Whole Foods (but you can also get it online). And no, it doesn’t smell like a hamburger.

Goodbye, dry skin! Photo by Emily Farris

While it may sound a little strange, tallow from grass-fed cows is a fantastic moisturizer. In addition to being full of fat-soluble vitamins, the fatty acids in beef tallow are similar to those found in human skin. And I wish I’d learned all of this sooner than three years ago.

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I’ve always had very dry, sensitive skin. And in 2009, when trying to do an at-home peel—which I do not recommend—I did some pretty serious damage to the lower half of my face. I ended up wasting six years and probably thousands of dollars trying to get things back to normal after that incident. Dermatologists gave me topical steroids, and I bought the fanciest serums, scar creams, and moisturizers I could afford. Sometimes things would get a little better for a while, but nothing really worked in the long run. No matter what I would put on it, the skin on my face was dry and red and flaky. That is until about three years ago, when a friend turned me onto a small, local brand that used beef tallow as the base for its very thick, very unfussy moisturizing cream. Halfway through the first tiny pot, I was hooked. Then that company folded.

The make-at-home skin remedy you've been waiting for Photo by Emily Farris

Desperate to maintain my finally glowing skin, I figured it couldn’t be that hard to come up with a similar concoction, so I picked up some beef tallow and melted it with other products I knew to be very moisturizing—coconut oil, cocoa butter, and vitamin e oil—as well as a few of my favorite healing essential oils. The first batch lasted me more than a year, and by the time I made my second, I’d run out of stretch mark cream for my rapidly expanding pregnant belly. So I used it there, too. (While I know genetics plays a role in this area, I didn’t get a single stretch mark even though I gained 40 pounds throughout my pregnancy.)

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Top Comment:
“I was just about to order the tallow, lard and duck fat, but I'd better get 2 jars of tallow. :) I make my own body wash that you might like. It's Castile soap, almond oil and raw honey. It's so fabulous. Goodbye itchy winter skin. You could add essential oils, but I like the aroma of it, so I don't. ”
— Susan W.

I’m currently on my third batch of this magic, meaty moisturizer, and while age is inevitably catching up with me, my skin has never been healthier. I feel like everything is balanced, and I’m no longer spending hundreds of dollars a month on fancy products that aren’t nearly as effective.

Beef tallow moisturizer surely isn’t right for everyone, but for those with consistently dry and flaky skin, this super easy, inexpensive option might be worth a try.

Do you think you'll try this at home? Let us know in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Emily is a writer, recipe developer, prop stylist, social media manager, potty mouth, and blogger. She lives in Kansas City, MO, with her husband, toddler son, and two rowdy dogs.


hjhoug May 21, 2020
I have an odd question. Could I just use straight beef tallow for facial moisturizer? I don’t really care what it smells like. I’ve been using coconut oil for years, but my skin still feels a little dry.
Jack F. August 13, 2018
I'm a Meat cutter.iv had several stab wounds and cuts(never a single stitch).a lady made something similar for me with tea tree oil.this stuff is a miracle.never a single infection.tea tree oil is antibacterial and anti even killed a painful planters wart on the bottom of my foot.i use this for everything.i recommend this to everyone.i swear by it.
Betty M. April 22, 2017
Have made the moisturizer and like it. there any other oil that can be
added to make it a little less solid?
Emily F. April 22, 2017
This is how I've always made it (and just warm it in my hands to soften it). But if you added rosehip, or fractionated coconut, or avocado (any liquid oil you know won't bother your skin), I think it would help soften it a bit?
rowmom July 11, 2019
super excited to make this - I'm thinking of adding a couple of Tbspns of olive oil to it and then instead of hardening in the fridge, firming up at room temp for a couple of hours and then whipping it in a stand mixer before putting in a ​jar.
debbiejl April 14, 2017
I love the way this feels on my skin! I used shea butter instead of cocoa butter. I do have to say that I bought another brand as it was the only one I saw at Whole Foods, and it smells kind of beefy. I may need to reheat mine and add more essential oil to it.
shortnsweet April 9, 2017
what do you do with the other half of the jar of tallow? i have very sensitive skin that manages to be dry and flaky even when oily (how?!) but i'm always nervous about buying a "special" thing if i don't know how to use the leftovers...
Susan W. April 9, 2017
You cook with it. Very high smoke point and delicious. One of the healthiest fats around too. Nothing like a beef stew or pan fried steak seared in tallow.
Emily F. April 9, 2017
You can cook with it just like you would bacon or schmaltz. Or you could save it for your next batch. Because it's just fat, it will last for a very long time in a cool, dry place. If I recall correctly, I used half the jar for my first batch, then the other half for my second a year later.
Rose M. April 9, 2017
Thanks so much for this recipe; I'm eager to try it. Did you buy the Vitamin E oil at Whole Foods? What is the brand name?
Emily F. April 9, 2017
I used Jason, and I get it online. It may be available at Whole Foods, though!
rowmom July 11, 2019
just a note about Jason's - in most of their Vit E, they are using a blend that includes nut oils like almond or macadamia, even though it says "pure Vit E" on it. Folks with nut allergies will want to find one that is not a blend.
Susan S. April 9, 2017
I make my own body lotion bars with basically these same ingredients, except instead of beef tallow I use bees wax. I pour the melted mixture into silicon molds. I'm wondering if I could do the same with your recipe. How solid does it get after cooling?
Barb April 9, 2017
I do the same, try it and see. If they don't stay semi-solid at room temp and you want that, remelt it and add a bit of beeswax.
Susan S. April 9, 2017
Great idea–thanks!
Emily F. April 9, 2017
I would say it's about the consistency of coconut oil at room temp. I think bee's wax is a little more solid than beef tallow, though — and I think the tallow softens more easily.
Chantale B. April 9, 2017
Do you also use it for the area around your eyes?
Emily F. April 9, 2017
I do! I know some people have issues with getting little bumps around their eyes with really thick moisturizers, but I haven't had any in three years. I don't use eye cream. I just use this everywhere — face, neck, eyes.
Susan W. April 9, 2017
I love that you used FatWorks for your tallow. I've been buying it from them from the beginning. I used to drive across town and pick it up from one of the owners basement.

I've been thinking of using it as a moisturizer. Your recipe looks perfect. I was just about to order the tallow, lard and duck fat, but I'd better get 2 jars of tallow. :)

I make my own body wash that you might like. It's Castile soap, almond oil and raw honey. It's so fabulous. Goodbye itchy winter skin. You could add essential oils, but I like the aroma of it, so I don't.
Emily F. April 9, 2017
Ooh. Thank you. This sounds great. I love the smell of almonds and honey, too. I'll definitely try it!
Chris April 9, 2017
Thanks for the tip, another ingredient to add to my own blend which includes Bio-Oil, Jojoba, Vitamin E, Rosehip oil, chia seed oil, Almond oil and macadamia oil. Beef Tallow probably has Vitamin D too!
fsamis April 4, 2017
After years of dealing with rosacia and acne, I have switched to only oil based moisturizers and my skin is healthy and healed. If you're looking for an animal free options I'd suggest my friend's lovely product Savior Salve ( I use it all over my face especially when traveling in the winter time and even here in Hawaii when I'm stressed and my skin is acting up.
Genevieve April 12, 2017
thank you , the idea of using animal tissue and oil is pretty repulsive to me ethically, so your comment is really helpful.
BerryBaby April 4, 2017
I use plain coconut oil to take off makeup and to moisturize. It also helps reduce inflammation in my thumb joints from arthritis!
Emily F. April 4, 2017
Love coconut oil! There's some in this, for sure. It has so many benefits! But I found that on its own, it absorbed/dried too quickly to moisturize my skin throughout the day and overnight.
Panfusine April 5, 2017
ooh, thank you for that tip.. I had made a moisturizer using coconut oil and was wondering why it did disappeared / absorbed so quicky.
Aprill April 4, 2017
I want to know what this is like. Going to Whole Foods asap!!!
Aprill April 4, 2017
I want to know what this is like. Going to Whole Foods asap!!!
Aprill April 4, 2017
I want to know what this is like. Going to Whole Foods asap!!!
ShannonCollins April 4, 2017
I love all the essential oils! I'm positive with all those ingredients it will really hydrate the skin. ! Do You refrigerate the finished oil for storing? I know a lot of oils say this so just wondering for shelf life? Cool and very natural!
Emily F. April 4, 2017
I don't refrigerate anything and haven't had any issues! I keep it in a jar in my medicine cabinet. It's pretty solid once it cools to room temperature, too, so refrigerating it would make it 1. Harder to access when I'm washing my face and 2. Harder to get out of the jar. I guess it works kind of like a confit? Fat as the preservative!