Milk Bath Benefits and How-To Tips

An ancient solution for smooth, soft skin

A long, hot soak in a milk bath may seem like a strange concept if you've never tried it, but people have been enjoying the benefits of milk baths for centuries.

Ancient Romans regularly used milk baths to soften and improve the appearance of their skin. According to legend, Cleopatra obtained her famous complexion by bathing in milk and honey. In the United States, bathing the face in buttermilk was popular around the turn of the century for the same reasons.

This article will go over the benefits of milk baths. You'll also learn some tips for making a milk bath, as well as what they can be used for.

Woman's hand trying out a milk bath.
JGI / Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Skin Benefits of Milk Baths

No good scientific studies on the effects of milk baths have been conducted. There is anecdotal evidence, though, suggesting that milk baths may have skincare benefits.

Milk baths can make your skin feel softer and smoother because fats in the milk cling to the skin. You'll notice a silky, but not oily, feeling over your skin after a milk bath.

Bathing in milk can also give light, gentle exfoliation. Milk, especially soured milk like buttermilk, contains lactic acid. Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid commonly used in skin care products and cosmeceuticals.

Milk baths can be good for your skin because the lactic acid helps dissolve the intercellular "glue" that holds dead skin cells together. These cells slough off more effectively, making room on the skin's surface for smoother, brighter cells.

Be aware though, that taking a milk bath won't have the same potency as using lactic acid lotions or moisturizing creams. These products are designed and formulated to give a specific result and contain a much higher percentage of lactic acid than does milk.

Milk baths can make your skin feel less dry—at least temporarily—thanks to the gentle exfoliation they provide coupled with milk's skin smoothing fats and proteins.

Of course, we can't forget the psychological effects of milk baths. When blended with fragrance or herbs, milk baths smell good and feel opulent and luxurious. Soaking in a milk bath is a nice way to relax and unwind.

Milk Baths and Skin Conditions

Milk baths are cosmetic or beauty remedies; they will not treat any skin condition.​

Milk has been used as a folk remedy for things like sunburn, skin irritations, hyperpigmentation, eczema, and psoriasis. However, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that milk baths help improve any of these skin problems.

The effect that topical milk products have on eczema has been studied, but the research is conflicting. Furthermore, most studies have been done with human breast milk, rather than, say, cow or goat's milk.

If you need help treating any skin problem, don't rely on milk baths. See a healthcare provider instead.

Types of Milk Used in Milk Baths

You can use real milk, (the stuff you drink) to make a milk bath. There are many different types of milk at your disposal, and each will give the milk bath a slightly different look and feel.

A bath in store-bought milk would be costly (not to mention sticky). To make a milk bath, dilute these milks into your warm bathwater:

  • Cow's milk is used most often in milk baths, because it's common, inexpensive, and nearly everyone has it on hand. Full-fat or whole milk will give you the best feel on your skin.
  • Goat's milk is another common milk bath addition. Goat's milk is higher in butterfat than cow's milk, so it will give your milk bath a creamier feel.
  • Buttermilk has more lactic acid than other milks, so in theory, it's a better exfoliator in a milk bath. Again, there's little research to back this up. But a buttermilk bath sounds fancy anyway.
  • Breast milk baths aren't very common, except among nursing people. Instead of "pumping and dumping" unneeded breast milk can be used in a bath for either you or your baby. However, there is conflicting evidence that breast milk does anything for the skin when applied topically.
  • Nut milks and soy milk are good options for vegans who want to take milk baths. Although they aren't chemically similar to dairy milks, they can give the same look and feel to your bath. Almond milk and coconut milk are especially nice because they're rich in oils that leave a smooth feel on the skin.
  • Dried milk and/or milk proteins are used in prepackaged milk bath products to get around the spoilage issue.

How to Make a Milk Bath

Milk baths are super easy to make. It's as simple as pouring your chosen milk into warm bath water and soaking. However, unless you want thin, thready bubbles in your milk bath, add the milk after you've finished filling the tub. 

The measurements for a milk bath don't need to be exact, but here are some guidelines to get you started:

  • For liquid milk add 1 cup to 2 cups into warm bathwater. You can use either fresh or canned milk (not sweetened).
  • For powdered milk add 1/3 cup to 2/3 cup powdered milk into warm bathwater.

If you're feeling creative, you can customize your milk bath. For example, try adding a handful of finely ground oats, lavender buds, rose petals (fresh or dried), 1/2 cup Epsom salts or sea salt; a few drops of skin-safe essential oils, or a tablespoon of honey. You could even package these ingredients up ahead of time to make milk bath bombs that are ready to go whenever you need to destress.

Milk Bath Products

If you prefer a prepackaged milk bath, you have many choices. Ready-to-take milk baths run the gamut from handcrafted products made with natural ingredients to foaming products similar to bubble baths.

To make sure that getting what you want from any milk bath product, take a peek at the label. Milk or milk protein does not need to be the first ingredient, but it should be listed high on the ingredients list.

Summary

Milk baths are very gentle and safe, and most people can use them without any problem. The exception might be if you have a true milk allergy, in which case soaking in a milk bath could cause a skin reaction.

While milk baths are nice cosmetic treatments that make your skin feel soft and smooth, they won't heal skin conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I take a milk bath every day?

    You can. But if you find that taking one daily is causing irritation, you may want to do it less often. Know, too, that if you add other ingredients to the water, like essential oils, they may be what's causing the skin irritation. Try a "plain" milk bath instead.

  • Should I rinse off after a milk bath?

    Yes. Rinsing your body (and tub) after a milk bath helps prevent any residue from sticking around and causing odor or irritation.

  • How can a milk bath benefit hair?

    There isn't a lot of scientific research on the subject, but some people do use milk to soften their hair. Milk-based ingredients—whether from plant-based or dairy milks—are also in some haircare products. Examples include Aveeno Oat Milk Blend Shampoo and Milk_Shake Leave-In Conditioner.

  • Can you take a milk bath if you're lactose-intolerant?

    Lactose is found in milk sourced from animals. In most cases, taking a bath in one of these milks is fine if you're lactose-intolerant. However, you should avoid this if you have a true milk allergy, as it can cause a reaction like itching, rashes, or hives.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.