Why Durham's Claire McGuire Has Created a New Skincare Product Made From Tallow
Durham-born Claire McGuire wanted to create a skincare product which was free of toxins and harmful chemicals
Tell us a bit about your background.
I’ve lived in Durham my whole life and worked as a hair stylist after I left school. I never gave a second thought to the chemicals I was using daily at work or on my skin until I reached my late 40s. I became inspired by Davinia Taylor, a former party girl turned health guru, who educates her Instagram followers by promoting a sustainable paleolithic lifestyle.
I also lost my mum to cancer when she was only 63, and as I became more and more aware of the links of toxins in food, cosmetics and household products to diseases such as cancer, I decided to take better care of myself, and felt informed enough to make better lifestyle choices in the hope that I could be around for my family longer than she was able to be.
What inspired you to start your own skincare business?
I began eating organic, unprocessed food and drinking filtered water – clean eating was easy, but trying to find natural cosmetics was harder. Cosmetics need to last so are often packed with preservatives to prevent bacteria forming, as well as artificial fragrance and paraffins which have been linked to cancers and can disrupt hormones too. The ingredient labels are an absolute minefield and are impossible to understand, so I started to use an app to read labels – and could only find one moisturiser that was totally clean and toxin free.
More research led me to tallow, something I had no idea about, so after Googling it I realised it was a posh name for good old fashioned beef dripping. I had a block in the fridge so melted it and added some olive oil and essential oils and left it to set. I tried it on my arms and was amazed at how soft it made my skin. My friends and family loved it too – one friend asked me to make some for her son who suffers from eczema and it worked wonders on his skin. From that point, knowing this was a fantastic natural product, I made it my mission to find a way to make it available to anyone who wants to use a clean, natural moisturiser.
What’s the concept behind Cremé de Boeuf?
The concept is to go back to basics with simplistic skin care, taking the wisdom of our ancestors and by adding blended essential oils, the cream smells and feels like a premium quality skin oil that’s far removed from the Stone Age. The name, Crème de Boeuf, is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek way of making beef dripping sound as classy as it can. I’m not trying to disguise what’s in it, my mission is to change the narrative on what we now think is unusual, yet is exactly how we took care of our skin long before we started mass-producing creams that are laden with toxins.
Tell us about the ingredients you use.
When I started sourcing ingredients, the quality of the fat was imperative. I got in touch with Broom House Farm, an award-winning farm shop in Durham who now sell me the fat which comes from the cows I see grazing in the hills beside the farm. I know exactly which blades of grass they have been fed and raised on, and knowing the cows have been well cared for is massively important to me. I didn’t eat meat for so long, mainly for ethical reasons, and I still won’t touch it unless it’s organic and outdoor reared. Fat from grass-fed cows is the most nutrient-dense fat there is as it’s packed with bio-available nutrients, vitamins A, D, E, K and B12, plus Omega 6 and 9 – you just can’t get these from plant-based creams. And because the fat has such a similar fatty acid profile to the sebum in our skin, it’s as though our skin recognises it and absorbs it, leaving no greasy feeling which surprises many people.
Who can use your cream?
It’s great for people with dry, sensitive skin, and it can help eczema and psoriasis. It has amazing healing properties which help heal scars and strengthen nails, and it is low on the comedogenic scale which means it’s less likely to clog pores. The cream can also help soothe inflamed skin conditions and has even had great results for some acne sufferers – it cleared up a friend's athlete’s foot in a matter of hours. The benefits are insane – it’s like a superfood for the skin.
Is the texture similar to other creams?
The cream is whipped so that it has a mousse-like texture that turns into an oil when it is warmed in the hands and applied to the skin. A little goes a long way and it is quickly absorbed, leaving no greasy residue.
Tell us more about the scents.
I have created two scented creams, one has citrus notes with neroli, copaiba and orange, and the other was made with men in mind and has a more musky scent of patchouli, vetiver and bergamot – it’s also a firm favourite with women, so definitely suitable for any gender.
Then there’s the ‘naked’ cream [which retails at £15] for those with the most sensitive skin, which is ideal for babies too. It has only two ingredients (tallow and organic, unrefined olive oil), there is no added scent and the smell has been described as buttery, creamy, slightly sweet and like olive oil. The fat is meticulously purified to eliminate any unpleasant aromas, but anything you might smell initially does disappear after it is absorbed into the skin.
What has been the response so far?
The feedback I’ve had couldn’t be better. Naturally some people have been reluctant to give it a try, but they have been amazed at the nourished feel the cream leaves behind, and word of mouth has definitely kept me busy.
Are you working on anything new?
I’m just about to launch a nappy rash cream in the next week or so which is tallow and coconut oil -based. Again, totally natural ingredients. And I have lots of plans to extend the range in 2024. Every batch is made by hand by me at home and has a shelf life of six months – although if it was refrigerated it may last longer.
Hopes for the future of Cremé de Boeuf?
Next year I’d love to think it could be something I will be working on daily, and spend much less time in the toxic world of highlights and hairspray.
Favourite place in the North East?
It has to be Tynemouth as it’s a great place to visit for a myriad of reasons – the market, the early morning beach sauna on Longsands beach and the fresh fish at Riley’s to name a few.
An item you can’t live without?
My reading glasses as I’d never be able to read labels.
Advice you’d give your younger self?
Enjoy your late night parties and junk food, because by the time you’re 50 you’re going to be preaching about toxins to anyone who’ll listen.
Favourite place to eat locally?
Flat White in Durham – the queue is there for a reason. It never disappoints.