September 29, 2023

What Is Tallow

Jar of Tallow

You may have heard people mention tallow in conversations about skin care. But what is tallow used for? Among other things, it can be an ingredient in tallow soap.

This article explains what tallow soap is, its benefits and drawbacks, and more.

How Tallow Soap Is Made

It may be surprising to learn that all soaps are salts. They’re made from a chemical reaction between fat and an alkaline material.

Most soaps are now made with synthetic ingredients. But historically, they used natural ingredients, including animal fat (often from sheep or cows), which is also called tallow. When mixed with a highly corrosive alkaline substance called lye, the tallow undergoes saponification, producing a fatty acid salt called sodium tallowate.

Tallow Benefits

In recent years, natural tallow soap has made a comeback, with people looking for a natural alternative to synthetic soaps. You can even make tallow soap at home. And when you produce and use it correctly, it isn’t greasy or smelly, as many expect.

What are the benefits of tallow soap?

  • It can be hypoallergenic. Tallow soap that doesn’t contain coloring agents or artificial scents is less likely to produce a skin reaction.
  • It lasts longer than other soaps. Tallow soap is hard, meaning less of it is lost when you wash, and you get more uses from a bar.
  • It’s better for the planet. Tallow soap is typically handmade or produced in small batches, so there’s less chance of polluting the environment.
  • It produces a rich lather. Many people like the thick foam produced by tallow soap.

Tallow can also be used to create a moisturizer. Tallow balm benefits include that it may help improve dry, cracked skin by helping the skin retain moisture and providing nutrients.

Tallow Drawbacks

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists tallow products as Generally Recognized as Safe. However, there are some potential side effects, including:

  • Allergic reactions. While tallow soaps are often marketed as being free of allergens, it’s possible to have a reaction to some of their ingredients.
  • Changes in skin pH. Healthy skin has a pH of 5.4 to 5.9. Soaps made from tallow have a relatively high pH of 9 to 10. Some experts believe consistent use of tallow soap may disrupt natural skin pH, leading to dryness.
  • Tallow is temperature sensitive. Exposing it to high heat (like in a parked car in summertime) can cause it to separate and develop a grainy texture.
  • People often use too much tallow moisturizer. Tallow should be used sparingly as a moisturizer. When a larger amount is used, it can take hours to absorb into the skin.

Ask Your Baptist Health Doctor About Using Tallow

When switching skin care products, it’s always a good idea to do so gradually. That way, you can see if the new products cause skin problems. If you have questions about whether tallow soaps and moisturizers are suitable for you, your Baptist Health primary care physician is happy to answer them.

Learn More.