TikTok Wants You to Put Beef Tallow on Your Face

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TikTok is forever chasing beautiful skin, and in the most recent viral craze, we’re going way back to an ancient practice: slathering animal fat on your face.

Yes, beef tallow for skin care has quickly risen in popularity as influencers tout the single-ingredient cure-all for dry skin. Some even swear you can throw out the rest of your skin-care products and rely solely on beef tallow for all your skin’s needs.

But, Is there any truth to its effectiveness?

Beef tallow is made from fatty cuts of meat, which are cooked down and filtered into a liquid that when it solidifies, has a rich, creamy texture. It’s typically used for cooking—it was even the secret ingredient to McDonald’s fries before the recipe changed in the 1990s—but it does have a history of use as a soothing topical for rashes and dry skin.

Why Beef Tallow?

Denver dermatologist Joel Cohen, MD is used to getting this question. “As a dermatologist in the natural-focused Denver-Boulder corridor, I have been asked this question for a long time,” Dr. Cohen says. “For many years, there have been people interested in ‘getting the most out of every animal’ after beef has been sourced.”

As far back as ancient Babylonia, animal fat has been used as key ingredient in ointments and salves as a base to deliver herbal remedies topically. Over time, this expanded to its use as a base in cosmetics like lipstick and its use alone as a moisturizer.

“One of the ways folks have approached this is to make skin moisturizers out of beef tallow,” Dr. Cohen explains. “At room temperature, beef tallow has a cream-like texture and can be applied to the skin. Beef tallow has been found to be rich in fat-soluble vitamins as well as stearic acid, which can help hydrate and repair dry skin.”

Does it Work?

The claims made on behalf of beef tallow range from anti-aging to anti-acne to a powerful moisturizer. But unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of studies that examine its usefulness in skin care.

According to Houston dermatologist Jennifer Segal, MD, evidence is really lacking for some of the more fantastic claims. “The practice of applying animal fat onto one’s face has no proven anti-aging benefit,” Dr. Segal says.

The lack of data backing up beef tallow’s effectiveness in skin care makes it very difficult to say if putting animal fat on your face would work for your skin. That being said, we have ingredients and formulations that we know work.

“For folks out there who have a beef with animal products, the good news is that there are many effective skin-care ingredients that don’t rely on animals to be efficient moisturizers or barrier-repair agents,” Dr. Cohen says. “And there are certainly non-animal sources of vitamins and stearic acid as well.”

It’s Kind of the Opposite of Cruelty-Free

While merchants selling beef tallow products will point out that tallow is sourced during meat-industry processing, it is still an animal product. You can’t really separate the rendered fat from the cow-death it required. This is at odds with a core value of the beauty industry, which advertises cruelty-free products and lack of animal testing.

Additionally, beef production is the number-one emitter of greenhouse gases, putting it in contest with environmentally friendly ideals. Much of the beauty industry is built on green and cruelty-free values, and beef tallow can’t really be put in either of those categories.

Beef Tallow Can Cause Breakouts

Like many greasy products, beef tallow can clog pores and cause acne. “For folks out there who may be acne-prone, beef tallow as well as the mixed scented oils can flare acne-prone skin,” Dr. Cohen explains.

Scented oils are added to a lot of tallow-based products to suppress the meaty smell that can occur. This compounds an already oily product, increasing the chances of a breakout.

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