COULD MILK BE THE PERFECT DRINK FOR AGEING SKIN? JULIETTE WINTER EXPLORES THE COSMETIC VIRTUES OF THIS PROTEIN-RICH FOOD.
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.