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This DIY Moisturizer Has an Odd Little Secret

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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.

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Goodbye, dry skin!
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.

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
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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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.

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DIY Beef Tallow Moisturizer

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Makes about 1 1/2 cups
  • 7 ounces (1/2 jar) pure beef tallow
  • 1.5 ounces raw, unrefined cocoa butter
  • 1 ounce virgin, unrefined coconut oil
  • 1/2 ounce vitamin E oil (I use 32,000 IU)
  • 10 drops cedarwood essential oil (optional)
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil (optional)
  • 5 drops frankincense essential oil (optional)
  • 5 drops helichrysum essential oil (optional)
Go to Recipe

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

Tags: skincare, moisturizer, DIY