Photo by Nicole Wilkey
Our youngest farmhand, our eight-year-old daughter, decided to be Cleopatra, Queen of Ancient Egypt, for Halloween this year. Getting her costume ready reminded me that it’s been a while since I took a milk bath. "Self care" is a popular term these days, because our society is so perpetually busy that taking something as simple as a bath feels indulgent. Isn’t that sad? Cleopatra was known for her famous milk baths, specifically donkey milk baths. While donkey milk is not a sustainable source in current times, there are other alternatives to still give you the skin loving milk bath experience you desire — no donkey kicks required.
The Roman author and philosopher Pliny the Elder, described the benefits of (donkey) milk for the skin: “It is generally believed that ass milk effaces wrinkles in the face, renders the skin more delicate, and it is a well-known fact, that some women are in the habit of washing their face with it seven times daily, strictly observing that number. Poppaea, the wife of the Emperor Nero, was the first to practice this; indeed, she had sitting-baths, prepared solely with ass milk, for which purpose whole troops of she- asses used to attend her on her journeys."
It is also reported Napoleon’s sister, Pauline Bonaparte, used ass milk for her skin’s health care as well.
Ok, so "ass milk" jokes aside, milk can be such a nourishing treat for your skin! There are many companies that sell dehydrated milk bath powders, or you can use fresh milk from the store or farmer. I personally prefer fresh milk as it’s much more likely to retain the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, proteins and fatty acids than any processed powder can. Now this doesn’t mean go fill your tub full of milk and take a bath — that would be very costly and not practical. But even adding a few cups of (whole) milk to a warm bath can give you a really indulgent farm-to-bath experience.
Soaking in either a cow's milk or goat's milk bath can help exfoliate dead skin with natural lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid that releases bonds of old skin cells from fresher, younger cells below, leaving skin soft and smooth. Milk baths can both hydrate and soothe your skin with the natural fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Additional ingredients, such as honey (a humectant, meaning it draws moisture to the skin), salts, flower petals, or oils can all be added to create a custom bath for just a few dollars.
I hope you try a milk bath soon, whether you have itchy irritated skin or healthy skin but would just love a bit of relaxation and a skin loving soak, milk baths are fit for a queen or king.
Nicole Wilkey transitioned from a corporate job to small-scale farmer in 2015. Since then, she has run California-based Flicker Farm to accommodate meat pigs, mini Juliana pigs and pastured poultry, and to sell goat's milk soap and lotion on Etsy. Connect with Nicole on Instagram and Facebook, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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