Give Your Skin the Capra Aegagrus Hircus Milk CureApr 01, 2021 10:45AM ● By Gayle Morrow
This time of year, your skin is longing for moisture. After weeks of dry, indoor heat, multiple layers of clothing, chilly winds, and a propensity to not drink quite enough water (most of us don’t sweat as much at 20 degrees as we do at 80, and, sorry, for hydration purposes, vodka doesn’t count), who can blame your epidermis for its flaky, itchy condition? It needs some attention. It needs goat milk.
Enter the Nubians, Boers, Nigerian Dwarves, Saanens, Toggenburgs, et al. They’re some of the most popular dairy goat breeds, and if you’re already a goat milk soap or goat milk lotion devotee, you are already familiar with their charms. If you’re not yet a fan, for the sake of your thirsty skin, read on.
What’s so special about goat milk (aside from the inherent cuteness of the provider)? What makes it so good for slathering and lathering?
It has to do with its acid, fat, and mineral contents. Alpha hydroxy acids are chemical compounds widely used in the cosmetics industry. They come naturally from plants and animals, or can be manufactured. Lactic acid is an AHA found in goat milk. What makes it especially useful in the realm of skin care are its properties as a skin brightener and as an exfoliant. Lactic acid can reduce the pigment, known as melanin, in your skin, which you might like if your complexion is a bit blotchy or splotchy; exfoliants work to break down the connectors that hold dead skin cells together.
Jamie Cunningham, who, with her family, owns and operates Whitetail Lane Farm in State College, makes soap and lotion from milk she gets from the farm’s goats. She says lactic acid “kind of attacks the dead cells on your skin” which you then can wash away. Goat milk, she says, is “fortified with lots of extra vitamins and minerals” and has a high butterfat content. And, the lactic acid is a humectant, she adds, meaning that it pulls moisture from the air.
“I have super dry skin,” Jamie confesses, adding that she was buying goat milk soap to use in an effort to combat that dryness. In the meantime, she and her husband had purchased property and were using goats to clear it—the critters are famous, after all, for eating just about anything (except laurel, but including holiday wreaths hanging on doors). And, as grown-up girl and boy goats will, they produced little goats. Her husband had the idea of giving their human kids the experience and responsibility of helping to care for their goat kids, and then “we had all this milk.” So, she says, “I thought, why not make the soap myself?”
She did and she does, joining legions of other what-can-I-make-from-goat-milk enthusiasts in creating products that skin loves.
Heidi Hart, who makes Pure Hart Soap just outside of Wellsboro from goat milk her mixed flock of girls provides, admits she started soap making “on a whim.”
“I started off using a recipe from an established soap maker,” she says, noting this was pre-Internet, so “there was not the access to the soap-making community that there is now. I didn’t understand the differences in fats, but, as I progressed, I began to do my research and experiment with the oils.”
Heidi explains the “basic definition of soap” is oils/fats plus sodium hydroxide/strong alkali—AKA lye—mixed together via a process known as saponification, meaning both ingredients are “altered” and no lye is left behind to burn the skin. It helps, she says, to have “the benefit of programs that will do all of the chemical calculations for us,” eliminating the guesswork in variables that could lead to a batch of really harsh soap.
“The liquid portion of the soap can be just about any liquid,” she continues. “If you’re using just water, the water evaporates out of the final bar during the curing process. When you are using goat milk, the liquid portion of the milk evaporates and leaves the fat behind. You create a balance of fats that will allow the benefits of each to shine and minimize the downsides.”
“We don’t use lard,” Jamie says. Her oil favorites include coconut, palm (sustainably raised in the U.S.), avocado, and caster. Heidi says her oil research has shown her that olive oil is mild but doesn’t give much lather. Caster oil is also very mild on the skin “but in large quantities can make a softer, sticky bar.” Then there are all the wonderful fragrances, lathering, and moisturizing properties soap and lotion makers can tinker with.
Like any recipe, your choice of ingredients and your options for combining them depend on what you want your final product to be. In this case, one of the ingredients in the final product is a happy goat.
“The kids are on their mom for about eight weeks,” Jamie says. “We start milking about once a day, then let them go dry. We give them ample period to relax and just be goats.” Both soap/lotion makers freeze the milk from their girls, which frees them and the goats from an artificial schedule.
“The best way to make soap with milk is to use frozen so the goat does not have to be in lactation the entire time you’re actively making soap,” Heidi says, adding she prefers fresh milk to make lotion but can use frozen for that as well. “I do not feel the need to push my goats. Goats are individuals and I often follow their cues for how long I keep milking.
“My personal take on soap making is the magic of it,” she continues. “I know it is science, but for me it is magic.”
“I’m not even sure I’d be making soap if we didn’t have goats,” Jamie says.
Find Heidi and her goats at purehartsoap.com, at 7411 Route 6, Wellsboro, and on Facebook.
Jamie is at Whitetail Lane Farm, 309 Whitetail Lane, State College, on Facebook, and at (814) 280-6045.
Heidi recommends healthline.com/nutrition/goat-milk-soap-benefits#what-it-is for the science behind soap making. I found thenerdyfarmwife.com ;to be a fun information site as well.