The 21st Century Herbalist

Milk. It does a complexion good.

Milk and honey are two ingredients that just seem to go together naturally.  Since biblical times there have been references to the “land of milk and honey”.  John Lennon and Yoko had an album called Milk and Honey and Margaret Atwood named one of the stores in her novel The Handmaid’s Tale “Milk and Honey”. (Aside: If Hunger Games has you itching for another dystopia story, this is a good one.)  So milk and honey have solidified their place in culture, but why?  Why are they so great?  There are a lot of reasons, and in this week’s installment of One Ingredient…One Great Fix Month, I’ll share some of the reasons that milk is so great for your skin…it’s not just for cereal anymore!  Then next week, we’ll explore the loveliness that is ooey, gooey honey.

Milks Derived From Animals

There are, of course, different types of milk (skim, 2%, whole) from different sources (cow, goat, sheep), but they all contain some level of lactic acid and the beneficial vitamins A and D.

The naturally occurring lactic acid found in milk is a beta hydroxy.  It gently exfoliates the skin, removing dead skin cells, leaving your skin feeling soft and silky.  It can also help even skin tone.  In the US, vitamin D is added to most milk, though milk naturally contains a bit of vitamin D on its own.  Vitamin D is an antioxidant and helps with skin cell growth.  Vitamin D is often the active ingredient for treating skin conditions like psoriasis.  Vitamin A also occurs naturally in milk, and is sometimes added to commercially produced milk.  Both retinol and beta-carotenes, ingredients often touted by face cream manufacturers as the miracle ingredient in their creams, are derived from vitamin A.  It helps improve the overall look and feel of your skin and works well when applied topically.

When using fresh milk for my all-natural beauty products, I prefer to use goat’s milk because it is closest to the natural pH level of our skin.  If I’m making a recipe that can be made ahead of time or in large batches, like my Calming Oatmeal Facial, then I’ll substitute fresh milk for powdered milk, which I have only been able to find as cow’s milk.

Regardless of the source of milk you choose, always buy the full-fat variety.  I purchase organic milk made from animals that were fed a plant-based diet.  I’m very conscientious when it comes to putting things on my skin and I truly believe in the benefits that can be gained by using an organic, hormone-free product.

A Note on Plant-based Milks, Like Almond, Rice or Soy
If you don’t feel comfortable using animal milk or if you have an allergy, you can substitute with a plant-based milk.  These milks also contain many beneficial vitamins, often including both vitamins A and D.  If you want to make a vegan-friendly product, then I would suggest almond milk.  Soy milk can also be very beneficial, but I’ve heard some negative information about it and I haven’t had the opportunity to thoroughly investigate it enough to whole-heartily recommend it.  If you feel comfortable using it, then it would be a great substitute for animal derived milks.

 3 Methods for Using Milk on Your Skin

Powdered Milk Mask
Similar to the Calming Oatmeal Facial that I mentioned above, this is just a basic version containing only milk and water.

Mix together 1.5 tbsp powdered milk with 2 tsp warm water (I prefer to use pure, distilled water for this) until you form a spreadable paste.  Apply it to your face and let it dry for about 20 minutes.  Then rinse with warm water, gently swirling the milky paste around your face as you rinse.  Follow with your favorite moisturizer.

Fresh Milk Mask
Use a cotton pad or washcloth to apply fresh milk to your face.  Allow it to rest on your face for 15-20 minutes, and then rinse with warm water.  Follow with your favorite moisturizer.

Milk Bath – Fresh or Powdered Milk
Fill a tub with warm water (use slightly warmer water if you’re adding fresh, cold milk so your bath doesn’t get cold) then add 1-3 gallons of fresh milk OR 1-3 bags of powdered milk.  Soak in the milky bathwater for at least 20 minutes.  Rinse in a shower of warm water if you prefer.

I say 1-3 gallons of milk, depending on the level of benefit that you are seeking.  If you have problematic skin and are seeking relief from itching or blotchiness, use more milk.  If you have pretty good skin that you want to maintain, use less milk.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s One Ingredient…One Great Fix!

Next Week: One Ingredient…One Great Fix – Honey

image via: istockphoto


Need more Giggles?
Like us on Facebook!

Want more Giggles?
Sign up for our newsletter!