Wellness & Beauty Influencers Are Praising Tallow For Skin. A Vegan Perspective

April 19, 2023

We live in an era of unlimited choices and individualism. But sometimes, a beauty trend comes along that makes it impossible to say, “you do you.” Lately, wellness internet was abuzz with a particularly alarming take on the slugging trend. I’d heard of Hannah Bronfman before but didn’t know what exactly she did for a living until her Wikipedia page let me know that she’s “an American DJ, social media influencer, and entrepreneur…and a co-founder of Beautified, now-defunct mobile app for finding last-minute beauty services.” The page also casually mentions she’s the heir to one of the richest families in Canada, but I’m sure it’s the DJing and the app that made her famous! At any rate, she’s about to become even more famous for advocating for beef tallow. Sharing in an IG Reel that tallow is the last step of her skincare ritual, she said to her one million followers, “I cannot gate-keep this any longer…This right here? This is the truth.”

a jar of cream-colored balm on a neutral background.

I imagine that even people who are not vegan like I am would feel repulsed by multiple aspects of this. (Can we please stop using “gate-keep” casually and as a joke until it loses all meaning? Because it’s important for social justice dialogue.) Tallow is the clarified fat from animal flesh. Evidently, it’s become a favorite paleo skincare ingredient of the rich and the famous for being rich.

Proponents of this argue that animal fat has been used for skincare for millennia, and that tallow is similar in composition to human sebum. Dermatologists note that it contains Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, D, E, and K, which can help collagen production. Users including Hannah Bronfman note that while it is highly emollient and rich, it is noncomedogenic. This is very similar to the arguments in favor of lanolin, fat from sheep’s wool. Lanolin lurks in widespread products like Aquafor lip balm to more luxe brands like Deborah Lipmann.

Fancier brands have embraced tallow, like Bela Nektar, which says that they use “grass fed/grass finished sustainable organic bovine tallow” in their $133 balm. Peaceful dumplings likely already know, but there is no such thing as sustainable animal agriculture, and numerous studies show that pasture farming is even worse for the climate crisis and biodiversity than factory farming. Not to mention the obvious fact that no matter what conditions they are raised in, sentient animals should not be killed and exploited.

More than the actual benefits of tallow, I sense that this is just an indication that the pendulum is swinging in beauty. For a long time in the 90s and the early 2000s, oil of any kind was vilified. Oil-free reigned supreme, as anyone seduced by Neutrogena back then can attest. Then came the age of botanical oils—starting with argan and jojoba, to rosehip and olive oil and even coconut oil. Pure, plant-based, chemical-free skincare became de rigueur. But now, the trend seems to be extreme in the opposite direction. Think thick animal-based emollients and slugging, but also other extreme practices that have become common like dermaplaning, dermarolling, microblading, and injectibles. Social media has normalized the outlandish practices of influencers and celebrities who gain status for revealing their extreme beauty behaviors. The more shocking, the better.

If you’re still searching for that “so rich I can’t believe it doesn’t make me breakout” feel, I would suggest plant-based skincare balms. Fortunately there are many. Oskia Renaissance Mask is a cult favorite that stimulates skin generation in a buttery base. I absolutely love the iconic Aesop Aromatique Hand Balm, which I secretly use on my body as well. It soothes eczema and allergic rash very quickly. For eyes, try Algenist Triple Algae Eye Renewal Balm, which targets undereye bags, dark circles, and fine lines.

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Photo: Brittney Weng via Unsplash


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