Cleopatra’s Milk Bath Effect  

Skin-rejuvenating power of 700 donkeys in a jar 

Cleopatra's milk bath

Cleopatra's milk bath

There’s nothing better for your skin than bathing daily in the milk from 700 lactating donkeys—or so discovered Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, regarded as one of the most beautiful and bewitching women in history.  She could not possibly know that bovine colostrum (BC), the golden milky first food of all newborns, is a powerful collagen inducer, according to studies. 

BC is now, thousands of years later, the milk of choice for anti-aging because it is composed of over 1,000 peptides and proteins including epidermal growth factor (EGF), insulinlike growth factor (IGF), transforming growth factor (TGF), fibroblast growth factor (FGF), platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), 70 different enzymes such as antioxidants, proteinases, lipases, and esterases, enzyme inhibitors, nucleotides and nucleosides, cytokines, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.

Actually, milk bathing was kind of a craze. We might not have had Instagram back then, but word still got around. Emperor Nero’s wife Poppaea traveled with “whole troops of she-asses” in order to avoid missing even a day of milk bathing.

The Roman author Pliny extolled milk bathing: “It is generally believed that ass milk effaces wrinkles in the face, renders the skin more delicate, and preserves its whiteness: 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.”

Another fan? Napoleon’s sister, Pauline Bonaparte, used donkey milk for her skin’s health care as well.


You can imagine the difficulty of maintaining at your home or apartment a stable of 700 donkeys for a daily bath. Fortunately, skin-care science has advanced since the time of Cleopatra and found a potentially even more powerful lactate that, when used topically, boosts skin cell production of collagen by up to 108%, helping to fill out wrinkles and keeping skin pale.


Colostrum feeds your skin’s fibroblasts, which are cells within the dermis responsible for generating connective tissue including the extracellular matrix for firmness.

In one study to test BC’s impact on skin physiology, cultures of human skin fibroblasts were fed first milk. “Our data show significant induction of proliferation by milk… without toxic effects,” say the scientists. “Surprisingly, bovine milk was identified as strong inducer of collagen 1A1 synthesis at both, the protein … and promoter level.”

They identified BC’s high levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 and insulin as key peptides responsible for milk-induced collagen synthesis.


In 2002, researchers showed positive effects of BC on human skin to accelerate wound healing.

In 2004, an experimental study demonstrated peptides from milk protein hydrolysates improved the growth of the skin’s keratinocytes by 108%.


In 2009, researchers compared mare’s milk to BC for wound repair function via fibroblastic growth. BC was more effective than milk, probably because it was a far more plentiful source of total lipids, linoleic acid, linolenic acid, gangliosides, and glycolipids. In addition, with further analysis, the fat globule fraction, rich in EGF, provided the strongest stimulation for wound repair.


The reason that Cleopatra, Poppea, and Pauline Bonaparte adored their milk baths was that the soft white liquid they were luxuriating in, we now know, is a rich source of growth factors and peptides (small proteins) besides regulating substances like proline-rich peptides, all vitamins for the skin’s own fibroblasts, keratinocytes, and melanocytes, different types of cells that produce collagen.

The potential for incorporating BC fractions into skin formulations is a promising avenue to consider for research and future commercial endeavors.

“Colostrum is a cross between a skin-barrier-repair product and a collagen stimulator,” New York dermatologist, Dr. Joshua Zeichner, told a journalist. “Unlike regular breast milk, colostrum contains high levels of antibodies that offer the baby immune protection from infections. It has much higher concentrations of fats and proteins to nourish the newborns.”

Keeping up collagen production wins the anti-aging skin war.

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