Milky skincare ingredients keep skin fresh and often suit the whole family, it’s moo-vellous, writes Rachel Marie Walsh.
Milk is a mother to lots of beautiful cosmetic ingredients.
Cleopatra was definitely on to something with her famous baths, though were she to time-leap to my local supermarket some evening I’d steer her away from the dairy aisle.
Cow’s milk has a lot to offer skin but we have more sophisticated, effective means of enjoying that now. This doesn’t mean sloshing them over cereal or into tea, unfortunately, as milk consumption has been linked to skin congestion, inflammation and spots even when the product is skimmed (in research that makes me wince at those old ‘Got Milk?’ ads Britney Spears made, advising teenagers to down four glasses a day). Applying certain milk derivatives, however, really can change your skin for the better.
The following are totally moo-vellous, vegan-unfriendly ingredients to keep in mind.
This is a mineral that can soothe skin and also act as a humectant, helping skin and hair to retain moisture and feel smoother. I come across it most often in skincare for babies and children but it gets some play in grown-up formulas. The Farmacy Honeymoon Glow AHA Resurfacing Night Serum, €60.63, at cultbeauty.co.uk combines the lactic acid described below with calcium gluconate and a host of other stellar skin-soothers.
This is an exfoliant and perhaps the most widely used alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) in skincare after glycolic acid. These oil-soluble acids do the same things: increase natural moisture content, fade red marks and diminish sun spots and fine lines. They work by breaking down the substances between skin’s most superficial layer and what lies beneath. They can also make shaving a smoother experience for men.
AHAs are not for everyone. Some people find they increase sensitivity, making skin quicker to redden. Certainly they make skin more vulnerable to UV rays and should always be followed with liberal applications of broad spectrum UV protection. Dry and/or sun-damaged skin stands to benefit most from its powers. Skingredients Mix + Match_A-Ha Cleanse, €25, is part of ‘Skin Nerd’ Jennifer Rock’s skin collection.
The Irish Examiner’s Life/Style columnist uses lactic acid in an antioxidant-rich, wash-off formula. This limited exposure is ideal if you’ve never experimented with acids before or are prone to sensitivity. Skin is left softer and better able to absorb serums or moisturisers.
Casein is milk protein and has moisture-binding and skin-plumping properties. It’s also thought to soothe skin and help fight free radicals. Family skincare brand Moogoo uses casein in many of its skin and hair care products, sourcing the ingredient ethically and sustainably from cows raised on a Kiwi farm. Their Udder Skin Milk is a lightweight, all over, non-greasy face and body moisturiser suitable for adults, children and babies.
This product is also suitable for patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy. It contains aloe vera for its healing and soothing properties as well as milk protein which assists with increasing skin elasticity by up to 20%, keeping skin supple and smooth. MooGoo’s Full Cream Moisturiser, €13.90, blends the protein with sweet almond oil which is high in essential fatty acids. Pasteurised honey makes it naturally anti-bacterial.
Korean brand Too Cool for School does an Egg Mousse Body Oil, €29.40 at feelunique.com, that, despite its name, is enriched with plenty of milk protein. Honey, shea butter and avocado oil leave skin feeling even better.
VITAMIN D (CHOLECALCIFEROL)
This one sounds like a no-brainer: of course the Vitamin D in milk must be good for skin, right? We-ell, the research on Vitamin D’s topical effects isn’t as exciting as that on Vitamins A, C or E. It is thought to have antioxidant and soothing properties but is perhaps best purchased as part of a chorus than in formulas that make it the star.
Goldfaden MD’s Vital Boost Even Skintone Daily Moisturiser, €24.48 at cultbeauty.co.uk, combines it with jojoba, rice bran and gooseberry to make skin dewy and radiant.
Colostrum is the first form of milk produced by mammals following childbirth. Not the first thing you’d think to slap on your face, I know, but this stuff may be the most useful dairy that skin can get. It contains natural hyaluronic acid, vitamins D, C and K2, probiotics and — most excitingly— skin growth hormones. It is thought to aid natural repair, fade sun spots and improve tone. The kind used in skincare is typically bovine but as with hyaluronic acid (naturally derived from cock-feather combs), the more popular an anti-ageing ingredient becomes, the more brands there are in the market for synthetic alternatives (and the cosmetics market always provides).
Still, even the natural is hardly something you’d find in the average chemist. Collosol Eau de Lait, €11.40 at feelunique.com, a milk in which Karl Lagerfeld famously bathed, has a colostrum-inspired name but none of the real thing. South African brand Environ makes a non-sticky Intensive Colostrum Gel, €46 at akina.ie, which boosts the star ingredient by adding Vitamin C and epigallocatechin gallate, one of the most soothing polyphenols in tea.
The formula also contains some alcohol and fragrance, so is not the best choice for sensitive types. I am also reluctant to spend so much on trialling a new ingredient myself so was pleased to discover Italian brand Solime’s Remargin Colostrum Gel, €12.88 at Amazon, which has a super-high concentration of the ingredient and is fragrance and alcohol-free. It also contains soothing algin, aloe and macadamia nut oil.