A skinfluencer way ahead of her time, Cleopatra had a rigorous beauty routine. Back in the day – a casual 2,000-plus years ago – the Egyptian queen was a devotee of a number of key ingredients that we still use today, whether honey for its antimicrobial properties or anti-inflammatory apple cider vinegar, to look after her skin. She also famously bathed in sour milk due to its naturally occurring AHA, lactic acid, which is known to exfoliate and hydrate the skin, leaving it smooth, polished and even-toned. If anything is proof that an ingredient has stood the test of time, it’s surely the fact that Cleopatra once used it.
And she was onto something, because today the beauty market is seeing a resurgence in utilizing milk – in all its guises – as an ingredient. A number of brands have launched products which put the old-school ingredient front and centre, while others are channelling its qualities in their textures, with lightweight milky formulas a more pleasing and sensorial way to apply skincare, especially in the summer.
“I had terrible eczema growing up and it was so uncomfortable,” says facialist Kate Somerville, whose cult Goat Milk range was one of the first modern brands to utilize the ingredient. “I grew up on a farm and my mom would put me in goat milk baths to soothe the eczema – it helped me so much, which is why I wanted to create a product line that incorporated the ingredient.” The range, from cleanser to moisturizer, works to nourish, moisturize and generally comfort the skin – and is brilliant for even the most sensitive or irritated of skin types.
“Milk has B vitamins, AHAs and calcium,” she adds. “There’s a lot to work with in terms of how it can be used in skincare, which is why it makes sense that it’s a hot ingredient. It can be used as an exfoliant for sensitive skin, and because it’s so nourishing, it also offers anti-aging benefits to soften the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.” It is also rich in antioxidants, which defend the skin from free radical damage.
Of course, given that nowadays so many of us are vegan or dairy averse, the new wave of product launches employ other kinds of milk. Having originally launched a milk body care line back in 1996, the founder of Fresh, Lev Glazman, revived the since-defunct products for 2022. “We’ve given the ingredients a new, modern interpretation by using plant-based milks, while still capturing the nostalgia of milk,” he says. “Traditional dairy milks have been replaced with alternative milk ingredients derived from linseed, rice and centella plants.”
Following on from the success of its hero product, the Daily Microfoliant, Dermalogica has also infused the ingredient into its latest launch, the Daily Milkfoliant. “The name comes from the inclusion of coconut milk, alongside other efficacious ingredients like arginine, which is rich in AHAs and BHAs,” explains Candice Gardner, education manager at Dermalogica UK/IRE. “Plus when it’s activated with water, you achieve a milky foam.” Promising to gently exfoliate the skin – without disrupting its barrier – expect to say goodbye to dulling dead skin cells, and usher in a more even-toned visage.
Milky consistencies are also very much de rigeur in the skincare world. A lighter way to infuse moisture and deliver ingredients into the skin, they feel comfortable on all skin types, and sit well under makeup.
Originally published in Vogue.co.uk