Colostrum For Skin: What Is It & How Can You Best Reap The Benefits?

Our bodies are capable of doing some amazing things, including producing a liquid formula that could be a game-changer for your skin. The liquid we're referring to is colostrum, the breast milk released by the body in the first few days after giving birth. According to the Cleveland Clinic, colostrum is brimming with the vitamins, minerals, antibodies, and antioxidants that newborn babies need to strengthen their young immune systems. It's often referred to as "liquid gold" because even just a few drops can pack a valuable punch. And, unlike regular breast milk, colostrum is often thick and yellow (literally like gold) due to its beta-carotene content.


So, what does all this have to do with your skin? Some skin experts believe that the natural substance could revitalize aged and damaged skin. "Colostrum can be beneficial for individuals concerned with skin aging," Amy Peterson, medical aesthetician and founder of Skincare by Amy Peterson, revealed to Grazia. "It is also beneficial for individuals who are seeking to reduce the appearance of scars as it is known to contain a variety of growth factors, which can stimulate new skin cells. It aids in collagen production as well as hydrating the skin. Colostrum products may help lessen the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles if used consistently in one's skincare routine."

Translation: Colostrum is practically a miracle worker for your complexion. And you don't have to rob a baby of their milk to reap the benefits.


Colostrum's skin benefits

Colostrum might help diminish signs of aging, scarring, and other skin issues, but how do you know if the all-natural solution is right for you? One place to start is by looking at the research. A 2018 research review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences stated that colostrum may be effective in healing wounds and encouraging the growth of skin cells. A 2021 study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology found similar results, though specifically for aging skin. Another 2022 study published in the journal Pharmaceuticals also researched how colostrum can repair skin damage caused by UV rays.


In general, colostrum shows a lot of promise for skin that has suffered cell damage and oxidative stress. Essentially, as Dr. Sarah Rahal, a double board-certified adult and pediatric neurologist and the founder of colostrum supplement brand ARMRA, explained to Well+Good, the milky substance acts as a protectant while also undoing the damage that's already been done to the skin. "We talk about the mucosal barriers and how colostrum strengthens these barriers to block the entry of particles that cause cellular damage and inflammation in the body. But the living nutrients in colostrum work directly in the cells themselves to heal our existing hair and skin cells," Dr. Rahal revealed.

Colostrum is still new to skincare

The body has been producing colostrum for babies since, well, forever, but the ingredient is still a new addition to the skincare sphere. That means that, despite the growing body of research supporting its benefits, you may still want to take some claims with a grain of salt. "Colostrum, whether bovine derived or human derived, is a fatty rich substance that is used to nourish newborn mammals," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Anthony Rossi told Coveteur. "While this substance will provide proteins, nutrients, and antioxidants to newborns, what it will do to your epidermal and dermal barriers requires further investigation." It's also unclear how useful colostrum might be when applied directly to the skin. "There is research to suggest that colostrum as a supplement can help treat or prevent infections of the gastrointestinal tract and systemic immunity, therefore making it a nutraceutical, or functional food, and it may play a significant role in the future of healthcare," Rifah Tasnim, a cosmetic chemist and beauty influencer, shared with Well+Good. "When it comes to topical application, however, the research is limited and has not been delved into deep enough to prove significant skincare benefits."


Still, colostrum likely isn't going anywhere any time soon. Tasnim posited that the "liquid gold" has yet to hit mainstream skincare, but once it does, companies will likely invest more time and attention into the ingredient and new ways to use it.

How to try colostrum for skin

Colostrum is intended for newborn babies, who consume it during feedings in their first few days of life, as per the Cleveland Clinic. Surprisingly, adults looking to try out the ingredient for their skin may also want to ingest it, albeit in supplement form. As mentioned previously, there's little evidence (so far, at least) to support topical application, so taking colostrum in pill or powder form might offer more noticeable results. However, like with many supplements, there are some potential side effects to watch out for. "Colostrum can cause side effects such as stomach upset, gas, bloating, or diarrhea," Nataly Komova, a registered dietitian with JustCBD, told Insider. "It can also cause allergic reactions, resulting in terrible things like itching, hives, and trouble breathing." To be safe, check with your doctor before trying colostrum supplements.


Even if their benefits aren't as established just yet, there are also plenty of topical skincare products containing colostrum if you'd rather skip the supplements aisle. Environ is one brand offering colostrum in its Vita-Enriched Colostrum Gel, which promises to nix fine lines and signs of sun damage. Epicuren's Luminous Glow Cream also claims to create a beautiful, glowing complexion, along with Biologique Recherche's super-hydrating Colostrum VG serum.

What if you're not pregnant or breastfeeding?

In case you are still confused about where exactly to source your own skin-saving colostrum, you don't have to be pregnant or a new parent to try the trendy ingredient. According to Healthline, most of the colostrum you'll find in stores is bovine colostrum, produced from cows. As registered dietitian Katherine Gomez revealed to Insider, "Bovine colostrum is a milky fluid that comes from the udder of cows the first few days after giving birth before actual milk appears." In other words, colostrum from cows is very similar to the golden milk made by humans just after giving birth.


Bovine colostrum isn't just more convenient to find — it might actually be safer than using your own breast milk. "While there are lots of benefits to applying breast milk to the skin, it's important to consider the potential risks too. Firstly, there is a risk of transferring bacteria to the skin, especially if you are already prone to bacterial acne. There is also a risk of infections if the milk is not stored properly or allergic reactions as breast milk isn't suitable for all skin types," dermatologist Salomé Dharamshi, founder of the Sky Clinic, shared with Women's Health. "Nonetheless, I would recommend doing a patch test beforehand and speaking to your dermatologist, who can set you up on a personalised treatment plan."


Alternatives to colostrum

Since colostrum is still relatively new on the skincare scene, it might be a while before you find a formula that works seamlessly in your current routine. Thankfully, numerous other ingredients offer similar benefits to damaged, aging skin. Case in point: collagen. "Both collagen and colostrum have similar benefits in terms of [skincare] and for gut health," celebrity chef, nutritionist, and reiki master Serena Poon told MindBodyGreen. "Collagen supplements on their own have been shown to improve skin hydration and elasticity, and colostrum actually helps stimulate the production of collagen in your body."


If reversing sun damage is your main priority, Dr. David Lortscher, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Curology, offered several options to Healthline. Namely, look for skincare products containing niacinamide, azelaic acid, retinol, vitamin C, or alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs).

Finally, don't overlook the power of prevention. Colostrum may undo some skin wear and tear, but when possible, try to stop damage and breakdown before it happens. Harvard Health Publishing recommends wearing sunblock, using a rich moisturizer, and giving up health-wrecking habits such as smoking.