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Why I Wash My Face With Dirt And Oil

Why I Wash My Face With Dirt & Oil

When I was a young teenager, my mother shared her secret for beautiful skin with me. It was the same secret her mother used, and her mother’s mother. Three generations of women in my family had all done the same thing: washed daily with Noxzema followed by an application of Oil of Olay.

I wonder what they would say if they knew I now wash my face with dirt and beef tallow balm!

The truth is, I don’t trust most commercially available soaps, cleansers, and lotions. They’re full of unpronounceable ingredients, toxic chemicals, and do more harm than good.

Your skin is the largest organ on your body. While it may seem like an impermeable barrier that protects your internal organs from the elements, it’s actually highly absorbent and allows up to 70% of the ingredients you slather on it to move into your blood stream.

So, instead of burdening my skin with toxins and strange chemicals, I use a combination of two ancient skin cleansing methods that keep my skin naturally radiant and healthy.

How to Use a Bentonite Clay Mask

Morning Skin Detox With Bentonite Clay Mask

I begin my mornings with a simple bentonite clay mask. Bentonite clay is a powerful healing clay due to its ability to become “electrically-charged” when hydrated.

Katie of Wellness Mama shares:

Bentonite clay carries a strong negative charge which bonds to the positive charge in many toxins. When it comes in contact with a toxin, chemical, or heavy metal, the clay will absorb the toxin and release it’s minerals for the body to use. Bentonite also helps get oxygen to cells as it pulls excess hydrogen and allows the cells to replace it with oxygen instead.

Healing clays have a long and rich history in human culture, but rather than importing an ancient clay from half a world away, I opt for bentonite clay because of its unique detoxing properties. It also helps that there’s a large supply of bentonite clay available right here in the U.S. In fact, it gets its name from Fort Benton, Wyoming!

While this is easy to make at home (and I’ll post a tutorial soon), it’s also convenient to buy it pre-made. I buy this U.S. produced bentonite clay facial mud.


The before and after difference is out of this world. A bentonite clay mask helps clarify your skin, removes excess oil, shrinks pores, draws out toxins, tones skin, removes impurities, and deep cleans. When I’m done applying it, my skin feels soft and tight, and my pores are noticeably less visible.

It’s also fabulous at healing acne or removing unsightly zits.

Bentonite Clay Mask: The Method

Applying is simple. I apply a relatively thin layer, allow to dry for 10-15 minutes, then remove using warm water and a wash cloth.


(Click here to buy Bentonite Clay Facial Mud.)

Cleanse Your Face with Tallow

Nightly Cleanse with Tallow/Olive Oil Balm

At night, I resort to the world’s best facial cleanser (made by one of my sponsors), the “whole food of skin care,” a lovely balm made with grass-fed beef tallow and locally-produced olive oil.

Why tallow?

According to my friend Heather of Mommypotamus:

Tallow is uniquely compatible with the biology of our cells. About 50% of the structure of our cell membrane comes from saturated fats, with remaining amounts consisting of monounsaturated and to a lesser degree polyunsaturated fats…. Tallow [also] contains skin nourishing ingredients that plant-based oils do not. Though I am still a huge fan of coconut oil, the skin on my face is visibly more toned with tallow. I think that may be because of the abundance of fat soluble vitamins (A,D,K and E) that naturally occur in pastured tallow, along with the potent anti-inflammatory conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and anti-microbial palmitoleic acid.

I agree.

As with the Bentonite Clay Mask, you can make a tallow balm at home from grass-fed beef. The idea is simple: just render your tallow traditionally (rather than skimming off the top of gelled broth, since that has a higher moisture content) and blend with olive oil to make it spreadable. You can even add a few drops of essential oils to scent it. 1 part olive oil to 10 parts tallow will do the trick. However, I’ve found that it’s a lot more work than I want to do!

Made with tallow from grass-fed cows and olive oil from my friends at Chaffin Family Orchards, Vintage Tradition Body Balm is both healing and soothing, and comes with a long string of amazing testimonials tucked under its belt.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Nina from Wisconsin — Eczema vanished!

When I was four months pregnant, I began to get very itchy, red, and flaky eczema around my nose and upper lip. Some days it was so bad I was embarrassed to leave the house. Makeup wouldn’t cover it up, and even organic or homemade makeup didn’t help. Eczema cream AND coconut oil wouldn’t work! This lasted for 6 months, and it began to spread once the baby was born. I was so embarrassed to leave the house with hormone-ridden acne, dark bags under my eyes, and very red and flaky skin around my nose. After just TWO DAYS of using your unscented balm, my eczema and acne were completely gone! In fact, my skin is even more smooth than before. I’ve been telling everyone about this product! It’s going to last me a long time…a little goes a long way.

Michelle from California — Keratosis Pilaris gone!

I originally purchased your product to *hopefully* help with my keratosis pilaris (on chest and upper arms) …. I’ve been using your tallow balm for 3 or 4 weeks now, and the KP is almost completely gone from my arms and vastly improved on my chest. (Mind you, this is something I’ve had for so long that it’s hard to remember.)

If you want to read even more testimonials, click here.

And then there’s ME!

While I didn’t have any skin issues that needed healing, I do have to share what happened one day with a friend. After about a month of regularly applying this tallow-based body balm to my face each night, I had someone pull me aside and say, “Spill it. What have you done to your skin? You’re positively glowing!”

Tallow/Olive Oil Balm Cleanse: The Method

So, it’s strange to say I clean my skin with oil and fat, right? Isn’t this more of a moisturizer?

Yes and no.

Yes, it’s a moisturizer. But just like healing clays, oil cleansing has a long and rich history in human societies.

To use the tallow balm as a cleanser, this is what I do:

  1. Apply a thin layer to your skin with a gentle massaging motion. You don’t need to scrub, just rub it in well. You also can apply it directly over makeup.
  2. Steam your face with a hot washcloth. Run the washcloth under hot (not scalding) water, wring it out, and let it rest on your face for about a minute.
  3. Wipe off the oil & makeup. Rinse the washcloth in hot water again, wring it out, and this time use it to gently remove the oil & makeup.

Do I also use the tallow balm as a moisturizer? Sure. But it works amazingly well as a facial cleanser, too!

(Click here to buy Vintage Tradition Body Balm.)

P.S. You can save 10% on Vintage Tradition Body Balm through April!

All you have to do is click here to take advantage of the savings.

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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34 Responses to Why I Wash My Face With Dirt And Oil
  1. Marcie
    April 4, 2014 | 9:29 am

    Is it safe to use both these products while pregnant?

  2. Gwen Bouras
    April 4, 2014 | 12:06 pm

    I love all the good information from your web site. I intend to try the clay mask and the beef tallow cleanser. I also wanted to say that I will buy the organic valley pasture butter – I never realized I could buy grass-fed butter until I shopped at Sam’s Club recently and found the KerryGold grass-fed butter- it is wonderful but a bit expensive at $7 per pound. Here is hoping the organic valley is a little better priced. I will come back to your site again and again for more wonderful information.

    • Kristen Michaelis
      April 4, 2014 | 1:38 pm

      You’re welcome, and good luck!

    • renee
      April 9, 2014 | 7:51 am

      Just FYI – Kerrygold butter is $7 for 1.5 pounds. Love it. : )

  3. Brandis L Roush via Facebook
    April 4, 2014 | 12:48 pm

    Dirt and oil as well, or just water!

  4. Nikki Ake via Facebook
    April 4, 2014 | 2:41 pm

    I really want to try this! I use baking soda as an exfoliater, organic tea tree oil soap to cleanse and tamanu oil to moisturize. This has improved my skin almost 100% from acne (even at thirty years old)

  5. Aimee
    April 4, 2014 | 6:46 pm

    Love this post! I’m trying to switch from using coconut oil as a face cleanser to something else just as natural and cleans just as well. I’m thinking the coconut oil I eat and use on my skin isn’t helping my acne.

    So, with the tallow, is that the same as rendered fat from cooking meat? Like the fat at the top of my bone broth for example? Could I use that for this?


    • Kristen Michaelis
      April 4, 2014 | 9:38 pm

      Yes, it is. But for these purposes, it’s better to use tallow that you’ve rendered from suet.

  6. Adriel
    April 4, 2014 | 8:35 pm

    I would love to see the “recipe” for the homemade clay mask. I bought some bentonite clay but every time I try to mix it up, it gets clumpy and doesn’t go on smooth at all…I’m thinking I’m not doing it right :)

    • Candy Sparks
      April 8, 2014 | 11:11 am

      I find the same issue happens with me. I used to mix honey with the clay instead and it works better (less clumpy) or even better than that: I will wet my face first and then pat the clay onto the wet face. The last way works wonders and is the only way I have found that works.

  7. Anastasia @ eco-babyz
    April 7, 2014 | 8:52 am

    Thanks for sharing this! I really want to try the clay, it would do some good. I’ll have to wait until we get some grass fed beef locally to render the tallow, I use it for cooking a lot! :)

    • Bethany
      April 11, 2014 | 11:28 pm


      Do you need to use toner/moisteriser after this? If so, what do you use?

  8. Chris
    April 8, 2014 | 10:24 am

    I love bentonite clay! I mix the powdered stuff with a little apple cider vinegar as a once in a while treat- I didn’t know it could be used daily! I don’t suppose there are any vegetarian alternatives to the tallow balm?

    • Kristen Michaelis
      April 8, 2014 | 12:50 pm

      Look up “oil cleansing.” Most people opt for olive oil or coconut oil. I tried coconut oil, but didn’t like it. I think it made my skin *too* oily. It may work for some skin types, though.

  9. Karen Wood
    April 8, 2014 | 10:50 am

    Lol, I’m just glad the dirt turned out to be clay!

  10. Candy Sparks
    April 8, 2014 | 11:09 am

    I use Orjene Organics CoQ10 OliveVitale Organic Foaming Face Wash which I buy off of vitacost. I might have to get Tallow Balm a try. In the summer I will use a baking soda mask with honey and then moisturize with either olive oil or jojoba oil. In the winter I will use a honey mask and then moisturize with Green Tea Butter. People always think it is odd that I use oils on my face but they do remark how vibrant and young it looks. Natural products is really the way to go. I am glad that you wrote this post. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Megan
    April 8, 2014 | 12:47 pm

    Love the tips and especially interested in the clay.
    A question about the tallow balm– apparently I’m allergic to beef, so I’ve been looking into pork-derived products. Think this would be effective with the pork rendition of tallow (lard, right)? Does your sponsor make a similar product using pork-derived products instead? Thanks!!

  12. Ivy
    April 8, 2014 | 4:05 pm

    Our red meats are goat and sheep. Of course, we render all the fat. The tallow is lovely for making soap!

    Am I safe in assuming that goat tallow is just as good?

  13. Josefina
    April 9, 2014 | 1:48 am

    can’t wait for the clay mask tutorial! great post. i just started using coconut oil but this sounds better.

  14. Elaine
    April 9, 2014 | 8:44 am

    Wow used Vintage Traditions tallow for moisturizer but never knew it could be used for cleansing. Will have to try. Would really like to see the bentonite clay mask directions too. I have the clay, just need to know what to do with it :)

  15. Denise
    April 11, 2014 | 5:34 pm

    Love this! I’m thinking I’ll have to try the tallow – to report on it for readers who would like a simple way to cleanse & moisturize without any chemicals… (Our blog – The Vitality Lounge – is coming soon!) I’m currently using olive & coconut oils, and I really like the effects. However, I have a question: Does anyone use natural sunscreens over these? I have oily skin, and am wondering how it will ‘turn out’ when I attempt to top it off with natural sunscreens now that Spring is here(zinc oxide &titanium dioxide)…. I’ve used these in the form of a natural moisturizer previously.) Any insights?? I appreciate it! Thanks in advance -

  16. Rachel
    April 16, 2014 | 4:29 pm

    Would elk tallow work just as well? I jut rendered some a week ago, and wanted to make my own tallow olive oil cleanser, but wanted to check about the elk tallow part…?

  17. Hannah
    April 19, 2014 | 2:39 pm

    I enthusiastically followed your advice and got a jar of the tallow balm and … ick … the smell is terrible! I got the unscented since my skin doesn’t always react well to essential oils. But when I opened the jar it kind of made me gag. Can you tell me — does the smell usually hang around once you have it rubbed into your skin? Or does it fade quickly?

    • Jennifer
      July 20, 2014 | 11:28 am

      Hannah – the smell dissipates (goes away) very quickly. I notice the smell when I open the jar, and as I begin to apply it, but it’s gone before I’m done rubbing it into my face (even right under my nose).

      • Heath
        July 28, 2014 | 12:04 pm

        I just got it in the mail and I love it! I am chemically sensitive so all I smell is the sweet relief of no fragrances. Pure and clean.

  18. Mommy Adventures
    April 26, 2014 | 11:34 pm

    It’s interesting that people keep saying that your skin doesn’t absorb all the horrible things they put in skincare these days (which makes it ok that they are in there), but at the same time, they make deworming treatments for dogs that you put in between their shoulder blades where it is absorbed through their skin.

  19. Dorinda
    July 19, 2014 | 8:43 pm

    Hey there, thank you for this post. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do for my skin. I usually just rinse with water (occasionally some less-than-perfectly-natural body wash) then moisurize (irregularly at best) with coconut oil. I’m not very good at sticking to a regimen, most likely because I haven’t figured a good one out yet, and I’ve found that my skin is breaking out some. It could be at least partially related to my pregnancy, but I don’t remember it happening with my first two. Anyways, thanks again for the info and I was wondering if you ever posted about making the clay mask homemade? God bless! :)

  20. Emily Keffler via Facebook
    September 2, 2014 | 9:41 pm

    I feel like for me this should read, “Why I wash my hair with dirt and oil.” Mostly because I’m fairly desperate for my little to finish nursing and pass out so I can go sit in the tub and get “clean” with a whole bunch of mud and bath salts. Beef fat on skin has been a God send to us in so many ways too! Took the bite out of baby’s eczema.

  21. Reignofblood Itsasecret via Facebook
    October 13, 2014 | 7:01 pm

    one could also use natural earth clay.. deep pour cleansing.

  22. Reignofblood Itsasecret via Facebook
    October 13, 2014 | 7:02 pm

    apparently there is an array of types for diff skin types, i learned stuffs the other day.. lol..and remembered it.. go me :)

  23. Kathryn Berger via Facebook
    October 14, 2014 | 9:52 am

    Definitely must try this.

  24. Christine Hansbraugh via Facebook
    October 14, 2014 | 10:23 am

    I’ve used only oil for a year and a half now and I love it!

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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