Most conventional skincare products are made up of synthetic ingredients that didn't exist a hundred years ago. Before this, and as far back as in traditional cultures, animal fats like lard (rendered pork fat) and tallow (rendered ruminant fat) were a predominant ingredient in skincare. But when plant-based oils largely replaced these animal fats in diets, they also fell out of favor in skincare products. This was an unfortunate trade off, because of the many benefits of animal fats for your skin, but you can save money and avoid many toxic ingredients by making your own!
- 1/2 cup tallow or other rendered animal fat (lard, suet)
- 1 tablespoon jojoba oil or other natural liquid oil
- About 15 drops of essential oils of your choice
- Warm your tallow or other animal fat in a pan on medium heat until it is liquid and clear.
- Stir in the jojoba or other liquid oil and remove from heat.
- Allow the mixture to cool in the pan until is begins to become opaque again, about an hour.
- Add your essential oils and stir or whip until you have a creamy, pleasant smelling mixture. Do not add the essential oils before the mixture has cooled because heat can destroy the therapeutic properties of oils. Add more essential oils if you need to mask any meaty smell remaining.
- Transfer to a non-plastic container of your choice. Essential oils can eat through plastic.
See my instructions here for easily making your own tallow or other rendered animal fat from excess meat fat. I recommend tallow if you have it. It is the animal fat commonly used traditionally for skincare, it is nutrient dense and will not have any residual bacon smell like lard might. If you don't make your own, you can buy tallow for cooking from most health foods stores. If you have a difficult time making your own tallow very "pure" (with a light color and little odor) you may wish to buy some for the purpose of lotion.
The jojoba oil is used to make the lotion a lighter consistently that can easily be spread on your skin. Tallow is naturally very hard at room temperature and more difficult to use as a lotion. If you wish to keep your lotion minimally plant based, you can skip this and simply have a harder consistently lotion or balm. I buy jojoba oil at Trader Joe's. It is natural, minimally processed, and has very little odor. Alternatives are olive oil and fractionated (liquid) coconut oil.
Why are animal fats still one of the best options for skin products? First, the fatty-acids found in saturated fats are the same as those found in cell membranes so they absorb into the skin well without leaving it feeling greasy or drying out again quickly.
Second, vitamins such as A, D, E, and K are naturally abundant in animal fat. They're necessary for skin health and uncommon or non-existent in plant-based products. Other fatty acids in animal fats have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
Making your own tallow products will allow you to effortlessly avoid the synthetic chemicals that make up conventional skincare products, save money by making this recipe for as little as pennies, reuse excess animal fat, and simplify your lifestyle because this recipe is versatile! It can be used for everything from lotion, to a healing balm, to chap stick.
The main job of the essential oils is to cover the meaty smell of the tallow. You can pick out essential oils based on how you'd like your lotion to smell or specific properties you'd like it to have.
There is a wealth of information online about the uses of different essential oils. I especially like Dr. Axe's information. You can find an essential oil for almost any ailment you can think of, and many of these uses include topical applications like this lotion.
Especially if you are using essential oils for therapeutic purposes not just smell, quality cannot be stressed enough. Quality and purity of oils is not regulated, and the majority on the market are synthetic, diluted with undeclared carrier oils, and/or come from low-quality sources that may be heavily contaminated. Dr. Robert Pappas investigates and exposes the poor quality of many essential oils, especially those sold in large stores, in his research through Essential Oil University. I recommend and use doTERRA oils.
Here are some quick recommendations on essential oils which may be useful or simply smell good in a lotion:
Therapeutic oils for lotions:
- Calming: Lavender
- Recovering sore muscles: Lemongrass
- Antimicrobial: A protective blend such as doTERRA's On Guard or Young Living's Thieves
- Improving memory: Rosemary
- Healing body tissues: Helichrysum
- Healing burns: Lavender
- Itching/Allergies: Lavender/Lemon/Peppermint blend
Pleasant smelling oils for lotions:
- Lavender/Rosemary blend
- Lavender/doTERRA Balance blend
Pleasant smells men may enjoy:
- doTERRA Balance blend