I remember the moment like it was yesterday. I had recently stopped breastfeeding and now had the time and mental capacity to readdress my grooming and beauty routines, starting with a much needed facial. As I fully relaxed, enjoying the feeling of being triple masked, and not, I repeat not, pumping milk, expressing milk, storing milk or doing anything related to milk, I turned to the side and saw a bottle of colostrum on the shelf. I kid you not.
If you’re not familiar, colostrum is the first milk your body produces when you give birth. What I didn’t realize is that it is also used in skincare and stimulates cellular repair. It’s known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties. I needed to know two things immediately – 1. What was the source of this product because no human mother would give up something so precious that was meant for her newborn, and 2. Does it work? In an effort to better understand the placement of colostrum in skincare, I turned to the experts. Below, everything you need to know about what mothers collectively refer to as liquid gold.
So what is colostrum?
Many of us know colostrum as the earliest breast milk produced during pregnancy and the first few days after a baby’s birth. It is typically a yellowish color and has a thick and concentrated consistency, made up of immune factors such as protein, sugar and fats. Colostrum contains antibodies and white blood cells that help your baby build a strong immune system. Seriously, how incredible is a woman’s body?
In fact, all mammals produce colostrum after birth. When used in skincare, colostrum products are sourced from Bovine females. Bovine colostrum is packed with nutrition and is used to “soothe, heal and fortify the skin,” according to Monica McGrath, Licensed Esthetician at Victoria Roggio Beauty in Philadelphia, PA. Bovine colostrum “can be obtained in large quantities and has properties similar to human colostrum,” says Candace Noonan, Licensed Esthetician and Director of Education at DermaConcepts, the exclusive distributor of Environ Skin Care in the US. “[With] its numerous growth factors and immunoglobulins, scientific research has shown that it helps to improve the effects of homeostasis in the skin and calm the look of sensitivity,” she adds.
How does colostrum work in skincare?
When applied topically, bovine colostrum contains growth factors, cytokines and other components that affect collagen biosynthesis, contributing to wound healing, delayed skin aging and skin rejuvenation. Two months ago, scientists published an in-vitro study that evaluated skin health and aging by looking at telomere length. Telomeres are chromosomal “end caps” that protect chromosomes from degradation. As cells age, telomeres shorten due to tissue damage. In the study, the addition of bovine colostrum caused a protective effect on telomere length erosion in both normal conditions and conditions of oxidative stress after eight weeks of treatment.
Bovine colostrum has “properties to stimulate the benefits of the immune system, contains growth factors and many bioactive substances needed for the body to help combat natural aging effects,” says Noonan.
What are the benefits of colostrum in skincare?
According to Victoria Roggio, Founder of Victoria Roggio Beauty, “colostrum helps promote collagen production, heal skin, decrease fine lines and boost overall radiance.” There is also “improved skin elasticity and texture with use,” she adds. Mcgrath notes that colostrum can be a great option for acne prone skin as its “wound healing and regenerative properties make it a great addition for zits that scab over and take a while to heal.”
Noonan notes that “as we age we lose growth factors in our skin that are naturally produced by keratinocytes. These growth factors help to keep the effects of skin functioning at an optimum.
It has been scientifically researched and shown that colostrum may replace the benefits of what is lost, and improve the effects of the overall performance of the skin. Because of its calming and soothing benefits, [it] helps to improve the appearance of redness and sensitivity.”
It is worth noting that there aren’t many scientific publications examining the topical application of colostrum, however many patents on colostrum-containing dermocosmetics are pending. This includes formulations containing horse colostrum, which was studied in the treatment of sunburns, burns from fire, contact lesions, acne, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and atopic dermatitis. In other words, don’t be surprised if you start seeing more colostrum-based shelfies on the market.
How do I use it correctly?
McGrath prefers using colostrum when the skin barrier is impaired but notes that it can also be used whenever the skin feels dry or irritated. “It’s a great option for individuals looking for something versatile that addresses both aging and hydrating concerns,” she adds. McGrath often uses colostrum in the treatment room at Victoria Roggio Beauty, particularly when meeting with clientele who may be using too many products at home and are experiencing an adverse reaction. The spa carries both Biologique Recherche Serum Colostrum and Environ Vita-Enriched Colostrum Gel.
She reaches for colostrum-containing products when she sees someone struggling with inflammation, redness or an impaired skin barrier or even a client who has been skin picking because the products can be “instantly soothing and can help repair and heal the skin.” “Colostrum can help those who struggle with skin picking as it is restorative and can help heal scabs and wounds,” she says.
Which products contain colostrum?
– Biologique Recherche Serum Colostrum
Ideal to use after sun exposure or other harsh climate conditions.
Recommended for very dehydrated, devitalized or mature skin conditions.
– Environ Vita-Enriched Colostrum Gel
Contains a high concentration of bovine colostrum and is enriched with vitamins and antioxidants, such as Green Tea, vitamin C and vitamin E.
Colostrum is sourced from southwest Wisconsin from a family-operated and owned farm.
– Epicuren Colostrum Luminous Glow Cream
A lightweight cream that contains colostrum, aloe and citrus peel oil
Is colostrum right for everyone?
According to Mcgrath, “colostrum can play a restorative role in everyone’s skincare routine.” She usually recommends the Environ Colostrum Gel as “it is lightweight and can be used for all skin types. Its soothing, plumping and protective properties make it great for anyone looking to nourish their skin and improve elasticity.” Environ Vita-Enriched Colostrum Gel can be introduced “at any stage when the skin feels irritated and looks sensitive due to [the] effects of free-radical damage, [such as] exposure to pollution, smoking, or temperature extremes,” says Noonan. This serum “may help to protect the skin from the effects of external and internal stressors, resulting in skin that feels and appears soft, soothed and protected,” she adds.
Who should not use it?
Mcgrath recommends not using colostrum if you are averse to skincare with animal byproduct.
How long until I see a difference in my skin?
After consistent use, you should notice a calmer appearance by two weeks, although full effects and a refreshed appearance should develop after 30-40 days of use, according to Noonan.
Are there any side effects?
Both Mcgrath and Noonan note that there are no known side effects to using colostrum topically.
Is it best to use in the morning or evening?
Both. Noonan recommends using Environ Colostrum Gel in the morning and evening, after cleansing and toning and before moisturizing. In the treatment room, McGrath applies a thin veil of Environ Colostrum Gel after using Biologique Recherche’s P50 1970. She also often mixes the Environ Colostrum Gel with the Environ AVST moisturizer or a hydrating mask and then adds LED on top as a restorative treatment.
Are there any products I should not use in combination with colostrum?
Both Mcgrath and Noonan agree that there are no specific products that cannot be used in combination with colostrum. Mcgrath likes using colostrum gel with face masks or moisturizers for their combined benefits as colostrum is “soothing and protective at its core and can actually work quite well in conjunction with other ingredients.”
So, what do you think? Are you ready to try colostrum skincare for yourself?
1. Jogi R, Tager MJ, Perez D, Tsapekos M. Bovine Colostrum, Telomeres, and Skin Aging. J Drugs Dermatol 2021;20(5):538-545. doi: 10.36849/JDD.5851.
2. Kazimierska K, Kalinowska-Lis U. Milk Proteins-Their Biological Activities and Use in Cosmetics and Dermatology. Molecules 2021;26(11):3253. doi: 10.3390/molecules26113253.