Because of all the harmful ingredients of modern skin care, it is difficult to find many skin care products on the market that can definitely be considered a healthy and effective option. Therefore, we should take a look at the traditional wisdom on skin care and then see if modern science supports the ancestral knowledge.
Our ancestors overwhelmingly used tallow for skin care. For example, a book of "recipes" for all facets of life, written by Dr. A.W. Chase, M.D. in 1866, lists ten formulations of salve, eight of which contain tallow, in addition to other natural ingredients. (20) This same medical doctor quotes the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal of his day on using pure tallow for a "very common and very painful affliction", ingrown toenail. Even though this use is a very specific one, it is included here as being a strong testimonial on the healing power of tallow:
"The patient on whom I tried this plan was a young lady who had been unable to put on a shoe for several months, and decidedly the worst I have ever seen. The edge of the nail was deeply undermined, the granulations formed a high ridge, partly covered with skin; and pus constantly oozed from the root of the nail. The whole toe was swollen and extremely painful and tender.... I put a very small piece of tallow in a spoon, heated it,...and poured it on.... The effect was almost magical. Pain and tenderness were at once relieved, and in a few days the granulations were all gone, the diseased parts dry..., and the edge of the nail exposed so as to admit of being pared away without any inconvenience. The cure was complete, and the trouble never returned. I have tried the plan repeatedly since, with the same satisfactory results.... A repetition in some cases might be necessary, although I have never met with a case that did not yield to one application. It has now been proven, in many other cases, to be effectual, accomplishing in one minute, without pain, all that can be effected by the painful application of nitrate of silver for several weeks." (21)
Another piece of evidence to the traditional use of tallow in skin care is an antique one-ounce tin of "McQueen's Pure Mutton Tallow", manufactured by G.F. Baker in Nunnelly, Tennessee "since 1895", which includes the following words on the bottom of the tin: "Valuable as a family remedy for chapped and rough skin caused by exposure to inclement weather. Excellent as a skin cleanser and also used as a foundation for various medical ointments."
Interestingly, in Germany, deer tallow (Hirschtalg) is still used as a base ingredient in many salves used by athletes to prevent sore skin or blisters.
It would be fascinating and useful to do more research into the traditional wisdom on skin care to confirm the pattern that we can already see emerging. The healthy traditions of our ancestors were not haphazard but had a purpose that seems to have been rooted in their very being, as we can see in the studies of Dr. Weston A. Price (22). We might even say that the ancestral wisdom on nutrition and health is more reliable than modern scientific studies, which are subject to manipulations and misinterpretations and can only look at one small piece of the puzzle at a time.
20. Chase, Alvin Wood, M.D. (1866). Dr. Chase's Recpies; or Information for Everybody, 33rd edition. Published by the author, Ann Arbor: 110-112, 162-163.
21. Chase: 174.
22. Price, DDS, Weston A. (2000). Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, Inc., La Mesa.