A rich source of calcium and protein, milk usually features on the A-list of healthy foods for many of us. But if you are wondering whether milk can double up as an ingredient in your skincare routine, you are on the right track! Milk, especially when it is raw and unpasteurized or slightly fermented or sour (think buttermilk), can help your skin in many ways.
1. Fights Wrinkles
With age, not only do fine lines and wrinkles make their presence felt but your skin also becomes thinner and less firm. But sometimes, this skin aging takes place ahead of its time, due to factors like poor skin care or excess exposure to the sun. But the goodness of milk can help you fight these signs of skin aging. Milk contains an alpha hydroxy acid known as lactic acid that can boost skin health.2 According to one study, when participants used lactic acid on their skin twice a day for 3 months it reduced the appearance of wrinkles and lines, made skin smoother, and improved its firmness and thickness. Since lactic acid is formed when milk is fermented by bacteria, apply raw or slightly sour milk to make the most of this beneficial effect.
2. Works As A Gentle Exfoliator
It’s important to exfoliate skin regularly to remove dead skin cells which make your complexion dull and lifeless. Thanks to lactic acid, milk can work as a gentle exfoliator which dissolves dead skin cells, without any of the damaging effects you’d see with harsh chemical exfoliators.
Apply milk directly on your face or even add it to your bath water for a natural and gentle exfoliation treatment. If you have thick, oily skin, you may want to exfoliate 3–4 times a week. More sensitive skin calls for exfoliating just once or twice a week.
3. Revives Sun-Damaged Skin And Soothes Sunburns
Sun exposure can cause a lot of damage to your skin. It can thin out your skin, make it less elastic, and lead to wrinkles. But research shows that lactic acid can help mitigate sun damage. It results in the shedding of your epidermis, which is the outer layer of skin, thereby promoting the remodeling of skin. Studies have also found that treatment with lactic acid can increase collagen, which is a protein that imparts strength and firmness to skin. In fact, it can even help fade your suntan (more on this later).
Interestingly, milk is also recommended in the ancient science of ayurveda for soothing sunburns. The antioxidants in milk can help soothe the pain and inflammation while the fats lock in the moisture. Just dip a gauze pad in some cold milk and apply it to sun-burned skin for relief.
4. Helps Fix Uneven Skin
Freckles, brown spots, suntan, hyperpigmentation, skin disorders like melasma all have something in common. That’s melanin, the pigment which is responsible for skin color. As melanin increases, your skin gets darker.8 Excessive deposits of melanin can lead to a hyperpigmented or uneven complexion. Raw or sour milk can help here too. Studies show that skin treated with lactic acid has lower deposits of melanin.
You could even try a traditional recipe from South Asia for lightening skin. Combine raw milk or buttermilk with turmeric powder to make a thick paste and apply it to darkened or tanned skin. Rinse off once dry.10 Turmeric adds to milk’s skin-lightening power as it contains a bioactive compound known as curcumin which can inhibit the production of melanin.
5. Moisturizes Skin
Dry skin is a common problem that many of us face. Dryness can result in flaky, scaly skin that feels rough to the touch and may even itch or crack.12 Lactic acid present in milk is a powerful humectant, that is, it draws and preserves moisture and helps keep your skin supple. Meanwhile, fats present in milk can coat your skin and prevent the moisture from escaping. Milk proteins also help smoothen and soften skin, which is why they are found in the ingredient list of many cosmetic moisturizers.13 Apply some creamy full milk to your skin every day for plump, moisturized skin.
Milk In Your Diet: Effects On Skin
Healthy skin requires a nutritious diet and a balanced intake of macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats) and micronutrients (minerals, vitamins).15. Milk that way is a nutritionally dense food which offers a range of nutrients such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, selenium, vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin A, vitamin B 12, vitamin E, and vitamin D.16 Many of these nutrients are not only beneficial but even vital for skin health. While that’s reason enough to include milk in your diet, ironically, research shows that that the dietary intake of milk can be a mixed bag when it comes to your skin.
In one study, for instance, intake of milk proteins for 3 months was associated with improved skin appearance. It helped reduce skin roughness, discoloration, and peeling or flaking of skin.17 But, on the other hand, a study that looked at dietary factors and skin aging found that lower intake of milk products was associated with less wrinkling of the skin.18 Research has also found an association between acne and the consumption of milk, especially skimmed milk. Though the mechanism through which milk might promote acne is not fully clear, growth facts and hormones present in milk are thought to be implicated.19
The bottom line? See how your body reacts to milk in general and have it in moderation. Many of the nutrients it offers can also be derived from other sources like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. So there are other ways to catch up! And needless to say, if you have a dairy allergy, steer clear of applying milk on your face or drinking it.