In some ways, I find today’s beauty industry ironic: We live in a world where the human genome has been sequenced and technologically-advanced biological laboratories abound, and yet, we’ve turned to increasingly more natural and fewer cellularly-targeted treatments than ever before. Even though most of our pharmaceuticals are derived from or designed to mimic the active portions of plants, many deem these as “unhealthy” and want to find a more wholesome, holistic approach.
But I digress. Despite our scientific progress elsewhere, in the current skin care world of ‘green’ and ‘organic,’ it’s no surprise that the latest in anti-aging has come from the farm: Goat’s milk. Available from brands like Natural Handcrafted Soaps (shown right) and Goat Milk Stuff, goat’s milk has taken our ‘green’ world by storm due to its gently hydrating properties.
Yet there are a few misunderstandings about goat’s milk, which we will straighten out here. First of all, the secret to goat’s milk is the lactic acid, not vitamins and minerals. A popular alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), lactic acid is a powerful humectant. Proof of its hydrating abilities is the fact that one of the only prescription drugs FDA approved for dry skin, LacHydrin, has lactic acid (12%) as the main ingredient. Keep in mind, however, that any milk-containing product contains lactic acid, not just those with goat’s milk.
Also keep in mind that goat’s milk has less vitamins and minerals than regular milk. According to the USDA, goat’s milk is not recommended for human infants because it contains “inadequate quantities of iron, folate, vitamins C and D, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, and panthothenic acid to meet an infant’s nutritional needs” and may cause harm to an infant’s kidneys and could cause metabolic damage (USDA Infant Formula Feeding, 2010). Taking it a step further, it may be wise to keep any goat’s milk products far away from children. “Many infants are exclusively fed unmodified goat’s milk as a result of cultural beliefs as well as exposure to false online information. Anecdotal reports from the American Academy of Pediatrics have described a host of morbidities associated with infant ingestion of goat’s milk, including severe electrolyte abnormalities, metabolic acidosis, megaloblastic anemia, allergic reactions including life-threatening anaphylactic shock, hemolytic uremic syndrome, and infections (Pediatrics, 2010).
So then why do adults get great results from goat’s milk soap? The truth is simple and comes down to two things: One, lactic acid. Two, goat’s milk soaps typically also contain oatmeal.
Colloidal oatmeal is simply oats ground into an extremely fine powder. It is one of the few skin care ingredients that is regulated by the U.S. FDA. As far as calming and soothing ingredients go, colloidal oatmeal is amongst the best, improving barrier function, moisturizing, cleansing, and even containing soothing antioxidant vitamin E (Cosmetic Dermatology supplement, 2008). Colloidal oatmeal also relieves pain and itching by inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis in a mechanism similar to that of the drug indomethacin (Cosmetic Dermatology supplement, 2008). So when colloidal oatmeal is included in goat’s milk soap, you better believe it’s making a significant difference.
Goat’s milk soap may very well leave your skin feeling calm, soothed, and hydrated. While it is wrong to say that there are more vitamins and minerals in goat’s milk than regular milk, it is fair to say the lactic acid naturally occurring in goat’s milk and the colloidal oatmeal added to the soaps may very well leave you thinking there’s something special about it. Overall, these are sensational products, but take extra caution that you keep your goat’s milk soap out of the reach of infants, just in case.