Of the 12-odd varieties of artisanal soap that Simy Arun makes (@siloam_artisan_soap), seven are goat milk-based; these soaps comprise 90% of her sales. “Initially I had other soaps such as watermelon. I realised there was a demand for goat’s milk soap and therefore introduced more of those,” says the Kochi-based soap maker.
Goat milk-based skincare products, especially handmade soaps, have been gaining popularity over the last couple of years.
Goat milk soothes dry and sensitive skin, as it is loaded with lactic acid (alpha hydroxy acids) and vitamin A; the former is a moisturiser and the latter stimulates collagen production. It also absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. These make it ideal for hair care too. “The lactic acid in goat milk makes it a mild peeling agent and a gentle exfoliant. Lactic acid is used in ‘cosmeceuticals’ for these reasons, it is also effective in removing superficial pigmentation,” say Dr Annu Jayan, a dermatologist from Kochi.
When Kruthika Kumaran launched her Coimbatore-based skincare brand Vilvah in 2017, she tapped into the benefits of goat milk. The reasons were personal, her late mother had a skin condition and her daughter has one. “I wanted to create something for dry skin, for my daughter. We have goats on our farm, so I experimented and we launched a line. At the time not many people or brands for that matter were using goat milk. Even the concept of handmade soaps was new,” says Kruthika. Among Vilvah’s bestsellers, besides soap, is their goat milk shampoo.
“Using milk as a moisturiser is not new, we have been doing it for generations. Isn’t malai (milk cream) applied as one? Goat’s milk has many beneficial qualities making it ideal for skin care. Nutrients in it are like lab-based ingredients, it has more nutrients than other milks,” says Harini Sivakumar, founder of Internet skincare brand Earth Rhythm.
A tricky process
Soaps, especially handmade, are made using two processes — pour and melt and cold-pressed. Pour and melt is essentially melting soap base, adding essential oils/fragrance and setting in a mould. Goat’s milk soap is made using the cold-press method — it is a time-consuming process as the soap is made from scratch using lye. Lye, an alkaline substance — either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide — is added to goat milk, with other infusions such as essential oils and additional ingredients.
Harini calls the process ‘tricky’. “Lye is heated to a very high temperature (around 140 degrees Celsius), and when mixed with the milk the heat would scorch it, so it is frozen. The temperatures are thus balanced, hence the cold-press method,” says Simy, who has been making artisanal soap since 2019. The process requires care and attention, which is why not many venture into making these.
- Simy Arun launched donkey milk soaps six months back and is amazed by the response. She got curious about it when she heard about donkeys being reared in Ramamangalam near Kochi. “It is the star ingredient of cosmetics and skin care products. Cleopatra and her use of donkey milk as part of her beauty regimen is the stuff of legend. It has several benefits — loaded with proteins, minerals, vitamins and low fat. It’s very similar to breast milk.” She sources milk from Tamil Nadu, which is very expensive at ₹5,000-₹7,000 per litre as donkeys do not produce large quantities; she makes soaps based on the availability of milk. Like with goat milk, she uses the cold-press method.
The soaps are either plain (scented or not) or combined with natural ingredients [essential oils and/or butters] such as turmeric, chocolate, orange, rose, shea butter, vetiver for example. Shaped like cupcakes and waves, ombre of beautiful shades... artisan soap makers make them delectably beautiful.
An important factor is the availability of goat milk. While Kruthika has access to goat farms in Tamil Nadu, Earth Rhythm sources milk from villages near its factory in Haryana. “There is a steady supply of quality assured fresh milk, and the local community is also supported,” says Harini. Simy’s requirement is met by a farm in her home-town, Thrissur.
Cosmetic/skincare brands also use powdered goat’s milk, which is not only highly concentrated but also expensive. “It doesn’t make sense. If we put in an expensive ingredient, how do we price it? In every sense fresh milk makes sense,” Harini says.