We use lotion bars all the time at our house.
The concept is great — a bar that looks like soap but that you use on dry skin like lotion. I’ve even customized them to make sunscreen lotion bars, bug off lotion bars, and pain relief lotion bars.
All of those recipes are natural and safe even for sensitive skin and babies (though I omit the essential oils for use on babies and children), but I’ve had several readers ask about what to do if they couldn’t use coconut oil due to an allergy. After some experimentation, I figured out how to make a more hypoallergenic lotion bar recipe that is our new favorite and that is excellent for any skin issues.
It uses a surprising ingredient… tallow!
Tallow is essentially fat rendered from beef. Sounds weird to use beef fat in a beauty recipe, but it can be beneficial to skin and has a long history of use. As my favorite bone broth company explains:
As a saturated animal fat, tallow almost looks like a hybrid of coconut oil and butter, but with a dry, waxy texture. It’s generally made from cattle fat, but can come from any animal, except pork — pork tallow is called lard. So, tallow is basically cow lard.
Beef tallow is: 50% saturated fat, 42% monounsaturated fat and 4% polyunsaturated fat.
The structure of our cell membranes is made up of approximately 50% saturated fats, which is very similar to the percentage of saturated fatty acids in tallow. Fatty acids are also the building blocks of healthy skin cells, which makes them an important nutrient for skin repair and regeneration.
This is a similar composition to our skin, which makes tallow a beneficial (albeit unlikely) skincare ingredient. Tallow also contains fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K, which offer additional benefits to the skin. For similar reasons, other animal fats like duck fat, hump fat (from camels), and even lard have historically been used in skin care.
Of course, if you’re not a fan of using animal products on your skin, you can use any plant-based oil or fat in equal parts instead. Try mango butter, shea butter, cocoa butter, or coconut oil.
Tallow on Skin: What I Noticed
I admit that I was a little apprehensive about using tallow on my skin at first, but loved the way it made my skin feel. It is amazing how silky it makes skin and it is really effective at soothing minor skin irritation.
I’ve also found (probably due to the natural SPF in the shea butter and the fat-soluble vitamins in the tallow) that these lotion bars are an excellent mild skin protector for short-term sun exposure. They seem to help the skin tan without any redness (this coming from an Irish girl).
Tallow lotion bars also seem to really help skin healing. They have worked wonders on my son’s eczema scars and a scratch on one child’s face (a gift from a sibling). Overall, I think that tallow-based skincare products are a great alternative to coconut-based products for those who are allergic and they don’t seem to have the same pore-clogging properties that some people experience from coconut.
How to Make Hypoallergenic Lotion Bars
This recipe only takes about 15 minutes to make!
- 1/3 cup beef tallow from a healthy source (I get mine here). You can also render your own.
- 1/3 cup shea butter, cocoa butter, or mango butter
- 2 TBSP beeswax (can add an extra ounce or two if you want a thicker consistency, which leaves less lotion on the skin when used)
- 20+ drops of essential oils of choice (note: some, like citrus oils, will increase skin sensitivity). These are optional and make sure to only use skin-safe oils in proper dilution ratios.
- Combine all ingredients in the top part of a double boiler over a small amount of water.
- Turn the burner on and bring water to a low simmer. Stir ingredients constantly until they are melted and smooth.
- Remove from heat and stir in the essential oils.
- Transfer to molds to harden. These are the cute emoji molds I used. Allow the lotion bars to cool completely before attempting to pop out of molds.
How to Use Tallow Lotion Bars
Store in a cool or dry place for up to six months (I’ve even had some last as long as a year).
To apply to skin: hold bar in hand and carefully rub on dry skin. The heat of the skin will transfer some of the lotion bar to the skin. I store my lotion bars on a small plate on my dresser and bathroom counter.
Don’t Want to Make Them?
If you want to use lotion bars but don’t have the time/ingredients to make them yourself, I found a great small business, Made On, that makes all kinds of lotion bars, soaps, natural baby products and hair products that are up to my standards. Their website is HardLotion.com and they have agreed to give Wellness Mama readers a 15% discount on all orders with the code “wellnessmama” at this link. (Note: Affiliate link… the price is discounted for you and I get a small commission to support my blog!)
Do you make lotion bars or purchase from the store? Ever used tallow as an ingredient in your skin care? Share below!
Discussion (115 Comments)
Question….just made a few different lotion bars, I love the concept. My question is this, I see you need to store the bars in the fridge or not keep them very long….do my raw ingredients (mango butter, tallow, cocoa butter) also need to be stored in the fridge?
I’ve been looking at all your diy lotion recipes be it the bars, whipped or regular lotion type. I must say I love them but I’m at a loss trying to find the right one for my husband. He has sensitive skin and to top it off he is self-employed as a yard man. It wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that we live in one of the sunniest, most humid areas of south texas. A few days ago he started up with heat rash again so he went out and bought and “aloe vera” lotion. I tried it, and it immediately gave me a headache because of all the perfume in it. Well, he tried it that night and couldn’t sleep because he got an allergic reaction or something. He spent the whole night tossing and turning due to itch all over his body. Given the weather, which would be the best recipe to use? I love the idea of the bars because it is less likely little hands will get to it (my two-year old loves pumping lotion out of the pumps), but I don’t want to get home on a hot day and find it melted. 🙂
Lorena, my advice would be to keep it in the refrigerator or freezer. Not only would that keep it from melting in the house, but it would feel really nice to apply as well as helping it to keep longer than 6 mos if need be
I have never used tallow, does it have a strong odor? If so, can the smell be masked completely with essential oils (I would like to use a grapefruit oil if it would work)? I know my daughter will not use the lotion bar if it has any off-odor, but this sounds like a great recipe!
Some brands are stronger smelling than others, but you can find tallow that doesn’t have a smell. essential oils do usually mask it though…
Great, thanks for your response! Do you know if all grass-fed tallow is odorless, or what other factor(s) make the difference; I would really like to find some! How is the smell of the tallow from U.S. Wellness?
I’ve just tried making this recipe with good quality beef dripping ( completely clear, no sign of juices or proteins left, just pure fat) as couldn’t find tallow. Doesn’t smell and is actually overpowered by the smell of the Shea butter and chamomile and lavender essential oils. Can’t wait to use myself and try on fiancé’s eczema.
Hello Lizzie, sorry just come across this post, I know it was over a year ago now..!
I was wondering about using beef dripping in place of tallow too, can’t find it anywhere, not even sure what the difference is?! How did it go? Did you like it?
It’s the same thing. Clear animal fat is what is referred to as tallow.
Can you please add links to molds that do not have faces.
Try these instead…
I use deer tallow. My sister told me to melt it in water to which baking soda has been added to remove any odor. I’m making the tallow bars for her so I’m sure it will work. She’s more “crunchy” than I.
have you calculated your cost per bar?
Does it really have to be from grass fed cows? I emailed a local farm with grass fed cows and they said that since grass fed cows are leaner than grain-fed, they need all the extra tallow for their grind and can’t sell any.
It will still be great for the skin from any cow, but grass fed is preferable…
Erin, I know that this is an old comment, but in case you run across it again, we raise our own grass fed beef and we have plenty of tallow left, even after grind. 🙂 I would check a different source.
Thank you for sharing. I will definitely try this out. I love lotion bars…
Can this be used for the face too? Or is there something else you’d recommend for a daily moisturizer?
Can I omit the beeswax? I’d like to use it as a face lotion and having a creamier consistency would be preferable.
I bought some two-ounce twist-up tubes and I’ve made lotion bars to give as gifts, keep near the changing table, and toss in the diaper bag. Your lotion bars have saved my toddler from his severe full-body eczema. He still gets itchy and scaly, but even the prescription creams couldn’t stop the patches from oozing and getting infected. The lotion bars do the trick. Thanks for helping out my little guy!
Jojoba oil also works amazingly well – it’s clearing up terrible dishidrotic eczema on my hands right now (coconut oil, acv, peroxide, store bought lotions, etc did NOTHING). Just in case you hadn’t tried it and are ever in a pinch – very easy to use. 🙂
Hi Joy, do you just apply straight jojoba oil to your hands or are you making the soap bar using jojoba oil in it?
Funny you write this now–just a few weeks ago I rendered my own beef tallow (!) and made lotion using 7 parts tallow and 1-2 parts olive oil following the recipe here: https://www.vintagetradition.com/how-to-make-tallow-balm-at-home.php. I made it for my daughter who has stubborn eczema spots on her chin. I still haven’t been able to sort out the underlying cause (she hasn’t had grains or legumes or dairy), and this seems to be the most helpful remedy of all that I’ve tried. Our current theories are that she is sensitive to pectin in apples or salmon. Eggs give her a red hives-like rash all over her belly/back and legs–the tallow took care of that in no time. Also, since it is so fatty, it helps provide a protective barrier on her chin from moisture (food, drool..all the other stuff that gets on a baby face) while it is healing. I didn’t quite add enough essential oil, so ours smells a bit like tallow still, but we’re getting used to it. I am quite impressed at how well it works!
I know it’s been more than a year since you posted, but I just want to share my solution in hopes that it’ll help your daughter. I had my son’s food intolerances tested in 2012. He is intolerant to eggs, soy, and fruit combined with sugar (must be consumed 3 hours apart). As long as he stays free of those foods, his skin is absolutely perfect!
Hope you can find relief for your daughter!
Terra, how was your son tested? Traditional methods in an allergist’s office? (Can’t are dates so have no idea how long ago this was posted lol, but hoping you see it!)
I’ve been making lotion with tallow (the new/old rage!) and I’m LOVING it! What do you think about adding the non-nano zinc oxide to this for a sunscreen?
We use that type of zinc…
in with the beef tallow lotion?
Hi Kati, can I also use pork lard? I just got a big bag from the farmer 🙂
Katie - Wellness Mama
I have a friend who is allergic to nuts, coconut and has reactions to any milk or oat skin product. Do you have any recipes that don’t have any of these?
Katie - Wellness Mama
She could make these with olive oil, tallow and shea/cocoa or mango butter if she can tolerate those.