I was at my desk around 2:30 p.m., and my stomach was hard at work digesting my lunch, while every other cell in my body wanted to be napping. I spaced out for a few minutes. When my brain came back to the present, my eyes were focused on the crook of my left elbow, which, I suddenly noticed, was dry, wrinkled, and looked about 20 years older than it should. And what were those dark blotches all the way down my arm and wrist? Could they be liver spots? I suddenly noticed that the skin on the back of my hand was red, chafed, and scaly.
What. The hell.
I felt like I went to bed a healthy 32 year old and woke up an armadillo. And I resolved that it was time to start moisturizing.
However, the first ingredient in my bottle of Bath & Bodyworks Aromatherapy Body Lotion is water, which does not moisturize at all. Water is cheap, however, and it is an easy filler for many skin care products. The moisturizing components of the lotion are the oils, but oil and water don’t mix well, so you need emulsifiers like cetyl alcohol and sodium hydroxide to bind the oil and water together. I also found petrolatum (which comes from crude oil) as the primary “fat,” and a bunch of preservatives and parabens later on the ingredients list. The oil is the ingredient that my skin needs; does it really need tocopheryl acetate, propylene glycol, or methylparaben?
I knew that the soap I made out of beef tallow had turned out marvelously well: it is moisturizing, lathers well, and is hard enough to last a good long while in the shower. Could tallow be used as a lotion base as well?
“Currently there are virtually no skin care products available made with animal fats. Interestingly, such topical products disappeared at the same time that animal fats in our diets did. Among the animal fats used for skin care, it appeared from my research that the one used most overwhelmingly was indeed tallow. “
The website also acknowledges the modern taboo against using animal products in skin care, but points out:
“Tallow fat is typically 50 to 55 percent saturated, just like our cell membranes, with almost all of the rest being monounsaturated,21 so it makes sense that it would be helpful for skin health and compatible with our cell biology…In regard to this 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.”
I was convinced. I found a recipe on the Wellness Mama website that used tallow in equal proportion to a body butter (shea or cocoa), with some beeswax for firmness. Essential oil optional. And that’s it. No steryl yadda yadda propylparababble.
- 1/3 cup beef tallow
- 1/3 cup shea butter, cocoa butter, or mango butter
- 2 or more Tablespoons beeswax
- 20+ drops of essential oils of choice
I used cocoa butter with my beef tallow, and about 40 drops of rosemary essential oil for scent. You can melt the semi-solid oils with the beeswax over low heat in a small pan, or in a glass Mason jar in a simmering hot water bath. Let the oils cool a bit and then add the drops of essential oil. I poured my lotion bars into a muffin tin, but you could use anything as a mold, including a small plastic tupperware. Once entirely cool and solidified, pop out of the mold and rub some on your skin to check the consistency. Does it melt too fast in your hand? Add some more beeswax and reheat to melt.
Next time I make these lotion bars, I’ll use shea butter instead of cocoa butter, only because cocoa butter has a strong scent. Every time I moisturize with it, Joshua tells me I smell like Oaxaca, which made me first think of bean farts and seasoned pork, but I quickly realized he meant that I smell like chocolate. And while I do love chocolate, I don’t want to smell like it always, and the cocoa butter is so powerful that my 40 drops of rosemary oil barely even compete. So next time, shea butter, which is more odor neutral.
I would like to conclude this post by reporting that my scaly, spotted, and flaking skin has been restored to the youthful even glow of a 16 year old! But that would not be true. It does, however, more closely resemble the skin of a fair-skinned 32-year old (who has not been diligent about sunscreen her whole life), which is still a good deal better than looking like the spawn of an armadillo.