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Updated: Nov 29, 2023

What is birch tar?

This blog post explains what is tar, how it’s made and how you can use. Tar can be made from pine or birch trees by dry distillation slowly burning the wood in almost deoxygenated space. This process creates a thick, wax like substance. Tar has a strong smoky, woody scent and its texture is thick and colour dark brown or almost black. Consistency is sticky which is hard to remove from surfaces or clothes.

What are tar’s properties?

Birch trees, forest
Birch trees

Tar has antiseptic properties and is widely used in skin and haircare products, especially in Finland. It is a natural healer for cuts, abrasions and skin conditions like eczema or dandruff. Tar has calming effect for itchy skin so is a perfect for treating itchy skin and scalp conditions. In Finland tar is often associated with sauna culture and scents made specifically for sauna are usually made with tar. It is important to note that quite often the tar scent is synthetic added and many products sold as tar products do not contain tar at all. Always check the label if unsure. Read more about the medicinal benefits of tar here.

Tar’s history

Tar has been used widely around the world for thousands of years for various things, but mainly for protecting the surface of the wood in ships, boats and cottages. It was and still is used to protect the wood and roofs in big wooden buildings like churches. It has unbeatable properties being a natural substance and so the wood can be safely burn when it’s not needed anymore. It was also used for protecting leather goods like horse dressings. Tar is definitely one of those forgotten natural substances which is not used as much anymore.

The tar I stock here in Ruby Crazy is made in Finland from variety of birch trees (betula bendula/ lenta/ alba) and has a soft strong smoky scent. Birch trees to us Finns represent summer and are the tree we mostly associate as a Finnish national tree. Birch tar is the best for skincare products due to its healing properties.


Birch tar, natural birch tar, Finnish birch tar
Natural birch tar

How to use tar?

Tar can be used in the same way as the essential oils or plant extracts. You can

mix it with other oils and materials, but as it has a strong scent a little goes a long way. It is a scent that some people dislike, but majority of people will grow to love due to its earthy grounding properties. It is especially popular with men. Tar can be added to ready made base products like shower gels, lotions, soaps or oils. It can be used in perfumery and works also in candles

Tar for animals

Tar is also widely used in animal care products as it is a safe natural option. It can be used as for humans to aid healing on cuts or for joint aches and pains. It is also used for horses hooves to protect them. Tar has a strong scent so it can also work as an insect repellent for animals and is a great natural option to use as animals quite often lick themselves.

Hope you enjoyed this little post about birch tar. It is definitely one of my favourite scents as it reminds me of home. If you would like to try it, please drop me a message and I am happy to send you a sample with your next order.


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