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Rich in pro­tein, this won­der food is also a smart ad­di­tion to your beauty cabi­net.

MILK HAS A sur­pris­ingly colour­ful his­tory. Leg­end has it that Cleopa­tra, the last pharaoh of Egypt, re­quired 700 lac­tat­ing don­keys to keep up sup­ply for her daily milk bath. She wasn’t alone in this seem­ingly ec­cen­tric habit. Pauline Bon­a­parte, Napoleon’s sis­ter, was also a leg­endary milk-bathing beauty who re­port­edly be­lieved it would help pre­serve her pale skin’s youth­ful ap­pear­ance. Renowned for her diva-like at­ti­tude, Pauline is ru­moured to have milked this in­dul­gent ex­pe­ri­ence for all it was worth, or­der­ing ser­vants to cut a hole in the ceil­ing above the tub so they could shower her in don­key’s milk when she was ready. But is there more to the beau­ti­fy­ing prop­er­ties of milk than sim­ply sat­is­fy­ing the in­dul­gent de­mands of roy­alty? Mod­ern sci­ence con­firms milk has real ben­e­fits for skin thanks to its en­zymes, amino acids and pro­teins. “In a cos­metic lo­tion, it’s im­pos­si­ble to in­cor­po­rate fresh milk due to the fats go­ing off. How­ever, it is the pro­tein in milk that is re­spon­si­ble for its beauty ben­e­fits,” says Craig Jones, founder of Aus­tralian skin­care com­pany Moo­goo. “Milk con­tains a pro­tein called ca­sein that is made up of es­sen­tial amino acids, and its molec­u­lar struc­ture is sim­i­lar to mois­tur­is­ing com­po­nents that oc­cur nat­u­rally in our skin. Milk pro­tein is fan­tas­tic for dry skin due to its abil­ity to bind mois­ture to the skin. This is prob­a­bly where the ori­gins of us­ing milk for beauty pur­poses comes from.” Skin’s mois­ture loss is an is­sue as­so­ci­ated with age­ing — hy­dra­tion lev­els drop, skin turnover slows and ra­di­ance is much harder to achieve with ev­ery pass­ing year. Could milk be the an­swer? “Milk is known to be a very whole­some mois­turiser, as it’s packed with wa­ter, fat and pro­teins that can re­plen­ish the lost nat­u­ral mois­ture in skin,” says Noella Gabriel, Lon­don-based co-founder and manag­ing di­rec­tor of Elemis. “Milk pro­tein is skin-friendly and acts as a fan­tas­tic car­rier for es­sen­tial oils due to its molec­u­lar struc­ture.” So, it seems Cleopa­tra and Pauline were on to a good thing — milk, whether from a cow, don­key or goat, is nat­u­rally high in lac­tic acid, an al­pha hy­droxy acid (AHA) that works to slough off the dead sur­face skin cells, lighten pig­men­ta­tion and prompt skin to ap­pear more ra­di­ant. “Lac­tic acid is very ben­e­fi­cial,” says Noella. “It acts as a car­rier to im­prove skin­care func­tion by in­creas­ing the hy­dra­tion lev­els of the skin, which in turn as­sists an ex­fo­li­a­tion process to nib­ble away at dead skin cells. Be­cause of its humec­tant prop­er­ties, it can work with other in­gre­di­ents to even and brighten skin tone.” One Aussie com­pany, Bil­lie Goat, is a big be­liever in the ben­e­fits of milk’s prop­er­ties and col­lects goat’s milk from around Vic­to­ria to make soap that is gen­tle on the skin. “The molec­u­lar struc­ture of goat’s milk is much smaller than that of most other mois­turis­ers, mak­ing it eas­ier for the skin to ab­sorb,” says Jane Schink, the Mel­bourne-based Bil­lie Goat brand man­ager. “Goat’s milk helps to strengthen the skin’s de­fence by boost­ing its nat­u­ral mois­ture bar­rier. The milk is also a nat­u­ral source of vi­ta­min E and is full of es­sen­tial fatty acids, which help to re­store mois­ture and nour­ish dry skin.” The ben­e­fits don’t just stop at your skin, though; milk is bril­liant for hy­drat­ing hair, too. “Hy­drol­ysed milk pro­tein is an in­cred­i­bly nu­tri­ent-rich pro­tein that wraps it­self around each sin­gle hair fi­bre, form­ing a pro­tec­tive layer,” ex­plains Craig Jones. “As well as pro­vid­ing ex­ter­nal pro­tec­tion, it pen­e­trates into ev­ery layer of the hair’s cu­ti­cle, re­vi­tal­is­ing the hair by pro­vid­ing it with sup­port just where it’s needed. The re­sult is vi­tal, pro­tected and healthy hair.” Once ex­clu­sively for the priv­i­leged (or de­mand­ing roy­als), the beauty ben­e­fits of milk are no longer an un­aatain­able lux­ury - the key in­gre­di­ent for beau­ti­fully creamy skin is read­ily avail­able from the fridge.

“Milk is known to be a very whole­some mois­turiser.”

FROM LEFT Molo ‘Float’ teacup, $176 a set of two, from See­hosu. Vin­tage glass milk bot­tles, $25 for large and $15 for small, from Sea­sonal Con­cepts. ‘Mini Bodega’ glass, $3, from The DEA Store. Liz Goulet Dubois ‘Half-pint creamer’ jug, US$15, from MOMA store. Wrong for Hay ‘Tela’ small glass, $28, from Hay. For stock­ist de­tails, see page 141.

Kor­res Milk Pro­teins Foam­ing Cream Cleanser, $36, 150ml. In­cludes honey­suckle flower ex­tracts and lac­tic acid. Kor­res Milk Pro­teins 3 in 1 Cleans­ing Emul­sion, $38, 200ml. Con­tains ma­cadamia oil, whey pro­tein and rose­mary leaf ex­tract. Bil­lie Goat Orig­i­nal Soap, $8.95, 100g. Cre­ated by a mother as a nat­u­ral rem­edy for her son’s eczema, it con­tains goat’s milk blended with olive oil. Stock­ist de­tails, page 141. Moo­goo Skin Milk Ud­der Cream, $18.50, 270g. Based on a cream to keep cows’ ud­ders in good con­di­tion, this is so gen­tle, it’s been used on pa­tients af­ter ra­di­a­tion treat­ment. Elemis Skin Nour­ish­ing Milk Bath, $89, 400ml. Ideal for re­plen­ish­ing dry skin, this milk bath con­tains milk pro­teins, min­er­als, vi­ta­mins and oils. Kate Somerville Goat Milk Cream, $70, 50ml. Rich in aloe vera and goat’s milk, plus co­conut, jo­joba and av­o­cado oils.

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