A milk and honey bath is the definition of decadence. Luxuriance. Extravagance.
What is a milk and honey bath? To make this bath, simply combine milk and honey with dried herbs, dried flowers and your favorite scent. Milk contains alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) which is a known skin exfoliant and used in many beauty products. Honey has anti-aging properties and is a natural emollient and humectant. Your skin will feel smooth, soft and rejuvenated after a 20-minute soak.
Read on to learn how to put a modern twist on this old, treasured favorite. But first the basic recipe:
Basic Milk and Honey Bath Recipe
You most likely have everything you’ll need for a simple milk and honey bath on hand already. Combine the following for a basic recipe:
- ½ cup Honey
- 1 cup Milk
- 4 Tbsp of Dried Herbs
- 15 to 20 Drops of Essential Oil
- Dried flowers
1. Warm the honey in the microwave 15 seconds. You do not want to get it hot or you will destroy the healing properties of the honey. You just want to warm it slightly so it dissolves easier into your mixture.
2. Pour honey into milk
3. Add dried herbs and essential oil into liquid mixture and stir.
Well, not so fast. What type of milk should you use? What about the honey? And will any dried herbs do?
Here’s the quick answer: Go with the flow for fast results. Consult your inner artist.
But for a more deliberate milk and honey bath, let’s dive into the benefits of each ingredient, beginning with an old, Egyptian friend: Cleopatra. And at the end of this post, I’ll share my personal favorite milk and honey soak recipe.
The Original Milk Bath: Cleopatra’s Choice
As you bathe in your concoction, you can delight in the knowledge that a milk and honey bath—well, at least a milk bath—is fit for a queen.
Cleopatra VII took the throne of Egypt in 51 BCE. Not only is she known for being the last dynastic pharaoh of Egypt, but also she is famous for her stunning beauty. History records that this queen loved to soak in donkey’s milk, and would insist on keeping a herd of 700 lactating donkeys on hand at all times.
But Cleopatra wasn’t alone in her obsession. An early influencer, other royalty followed suit in seeing the miracle of how soured donkey milk boosted complexion and eliminated wrinkles.
So what did these beauties discover and how can we capitalize on their secrets today?
Alpha-Hydroxy Acid Does a Body Good
It turns out you that unrefrigerated donkey milk creates alpha-hydroxy acid. Science shows that when donkey milk sours it produces lactic acid which exfoliates the skin and stimulates new cell growth.
Since Cleopatra’s day, this chemical has been reproduced in laboratories is added to a slew of skincare products.
According to an academic study called Hydroxy Acids and Retinoids in Cosmetics:
“The alpha-hydroxy acid family is composed of different compounds with wide application for the treatment of several dermatoses. One of their major indications is chemical peeling and their use in creams and/or lotions also improves the manifestations of cutaneous photoaging.”
In other words, slap some of this stuff on your face and you’ll look a heck of a lot better.
What’s the Best Kind of Milk to Use in the Milk and Honey Bath?
You can use powdered milk or regular milk that you have in the fridge. When using cow’s milk opt for full-fat as opposed to lowfat or nonfat, as it will contain more lactic acid.
If you have an experimental streak, try other milks.
Buttermilk will give you the most lactic acid, but there will be a strong sour smell that you’ll need to cover up by adding some of your favorite essential oil.
Or opt for other acid-forming milks like oat, cashew and some coconut milks.
What’s the Benefit of Honey?
While plain old donkey’s milk was good enough for Cleopatra, modern-day bath enthusiasts add honey.
Think about it for a hot second: The lactic acid in milk exfoliates your skin. Exfoliation is the process of sloughing off dead cells. This prepares a new layer of skin to come to fore and announce itself.
But if you want to ensure that new layer truly glows, why not take a minute to moisturize the heck of it?
Honey not only will open up your pores, but also it will disinfect your skin, soothe it and then lock in all that dewey goodness. Putting honey on your face is like employing an invisible army of dermatologists to amp up your collagen production and eliminate your wrinkles.
A review of the literature on honey and skincare was published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. It found:
“In cosmetic formulations, it (honey) exerts emollient, humectant, soothing, and hair conditioning effects, keeps the skin juvenile and retards wrinkle formation, regulates pH and prevents pathogen infections.”
Not bad! Had Cleopatra added a shot of honey to her donkey milk bath, it looks like she could have been even more of a stunner.
Does It Matter What Kind of Honey You Put In a Milk and Honey Bath?
All kinds of honey are going to be great for your skin. But some are going to be much, much better. It’s kind of the same as how all money is good for your bank account, but a hundred dollar bill is better than a single.
Dark and Raw
Darker honeys generally have more antioxidants. Raw or unpasteurized honey is honey in its natural state. It contains more exfoliating honey crystals and a higher concentration of naturally occurring vitamins.
Processed honey is produced in a factory. Usually it is melted down for bottling and this process reduces the concentration of vitamins.
Just like milk, honey comes in a bunch of varieties. In fact, there are more than 300 different varieties of honey, and each has its own health benefits.
Each variety is named for the flowers that the honey bees are pollinating. Here are just some types of honey that have strong benefits for the skin:
Avocado blossom honey is wildly humectant, meaning that it locks in your skin’s natural moisture. Use avocado honey to say goodbye to dry, flaky skin and farewell to wrinkles (at least those that are visible to the naked eye).
This comes from the manuka flower on the tea tree in New Zealand. Of all the honeys it has the highest concentration of antibacterial agents, so you’ll pay more for it. Because of its tremendous healing properties, many people apply manuka honey to stings and burns, and also use it to help acne-prone skin.
This honey is known to clear free radicals from the surface of the skin, detoxifying the skin’s mantle from pollution and everyday irritants. Amazingly, Thyme Honey also has anti-allergenic properties as it contains the compound called Quercitin.
How to Spice Up Your Milk and Honey Bath
Your spice rack affords you an abundance of options. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. And what’s good for your chicken skin is also good for your own.
Okay, I’ll stop there, but you get the idea.
Personally, I like to go with dried turmeric and dried ginger. But feel free to grate the fresh varieties if you have them available. I’ll mix 2 tablespoons of each into my milk and honey mixture.
What I love about these two spices is not only does each have incredible healing properties, but the deep color they make when mixed with the milk and honey in the tub really makes me feel like a queen bathing in liquid gold.
And ginger is at the very top of the list because it’s said to be a natural skin brightener. Containing about 40 antioxidants, applied topically ginger can reduce signs of aging and improve skin elasticity.
Turmeric is my other go-to spice because it is antibacterial, so it can prevent outbreaks of acne. It is also anti-inflammatory, which can soothe any redness or blotches. Curcumin is the active ingredient in this spice.
If you want to try some other spices in your milk and honey bath, here are my top suggestions:
When cinnamon touches the skin, it stimulates the blood flow. Increased blood flow, increases circulation and eliminates toxins. Getting rid of any blocks in the skin will leave you soft from head to toe.
Good for sensitive skin, fennel is anti-inflammatory and soothing. If you’ve got a sunburn or other irritation, toss some in the tub. Even better, grind the seeds with a pestle and mortar first to release all the healing properties.
Want to look fresh and rosy? Try paprika.his spice opens up arteries and veins increasing the circulation of blood through your system. It will rejuvenate your skin.
The Scent of Royalty for Your Milk and Honey Soak
Consider using kitchen additives or pure essential oils to benefit from aromatherapy in milk and honey bath. (And in the case you are using a milk with a pungent smell like kefir or goat milk, you can cover the scent with a more pleasing aroma.)
Extraordinary Aromas from the Kitchen
Open your fridge or cupboard and you’re bound to find ingredients that will add a delicious fragrance to your milk and honey bath. Here are some ideas:
Grate the peel of a lemon. The zing of the scent can energize you while you soak. This is a good choice if the purpose of your milk and honey bath is to refresh you before an evening meeting.
If your tummy is feeling a little off, chop some fresh mint leaves and sprinkle into your milk and honey bath. One small study found that the scent of peppermint oil was effective in reducing nausea.
The scent of orange a natural stress-reducer, so peel in ribbons and add to your milk and honey bath. This is a perfect selection if you’re soaking to wind down before bed.
Research finds the scent of vanilla can reduce symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Simply add two tablespoons of vanilla extract to your milk and honey bath water and inhale the subtle aroma.
Pure Essential Oils
Of course, you can also use essential oils in the tub. Essential oils are extracted from plants using a distillation process. They contain potent scents that offer different benefits. My favorite collection is Natrogix by Nirvana. It comes with 18 different tester bottles of pure essential oil.
No matter which oils you get, be sure they are labeled “pure.” Without that label, you may be purchasing an imitation that might smell like the real thing but won’t contain the same healing properties.
If you’ve never tried a particular essential oil before, patch test it by putting a few drops on your inner wrist. Wait several minutes. If you don’t react with itchiness or redness, you’re good to add 15-20 drops to your bath.
Here are some of my favorite essential oils for the milk and honey bath:
This oil was considered holy by the Egyptians, though I doubt Cleopatra could have put enough in her bath to cover the scent of souring donkey milk. But since your bath will only contain 1-2 cups of milk (and probably not donkey milk) try this awesome woody-smelling essential oil. Research shows it’s good for dry skin and can reduce joint pain.
Inhaling this essential oil can immediately calm your nerves. Research shows that it can improve sleep, and can also be used to treat wounds and combat fungal infections.
Just one whiff of this oil and you feel like you are on a tropical island. Truly. You can find ylang ylang essential oil in many cosmetic products, because it nourishes the skin. It’s also a natural sedative, proven to reduce heart rate and blood pressure.
Sprinkle Dried Flowers on Your Milk and Honey Soak
Now what milk and honey bath is truly complete without a sprinkling of dried flowers gently floating on the surface? I mean, really, this is the piece de resistance!
Any flowers will do. Try several varieties together. And of course, rose petals would be classic.
My personal favorites to add to my milk and honey soak are hot pink rosebuds, golden strawflowers and royal purple gomphrena globosa.
I ordered Miss Young’s Dried Botanical Flowers, which comes with eight packets of different blooms. I’ll tell you the truth. After I drain my milk and honey bath, I scoop up the buds from the bottom of the tub, squeeze the excess water, then place them in a pretty dish on the counter to dry. Soon they’re ready to use again!
My Favorite Milk and Honey Recipe
While I shared a basic milk and honey bath recipe at the start of this post, now I’ll reveal my personal favorite mix.
- ½ Cup Raw Manuka Honey
- 1 Cup Coconut Milk
- 2 Tbsp Dried Turmeric
- 2 Tbsp Dried Ginger
1.Put honey into a dish and microwave it for about 15 seconds. You want to warm it but not make it hot, so check every 10 additional seconds. The idea is to get it into a state where it can more easily dissolve into your tub water, but you don’t want to ruin the amazing emollient and healing properties of the raw honey.
2. Next, mix honey into a mug of coconut milk. Stir in dried turmeric and dried ginger.
3. Add 30 drops frankincense essential oil.
4. Fill tub with hot water. Add mixture and stir with hand.
5. Toss in a handful of strawflowers and gomphrena globosa flowers.
6. Slip into the tub and relax!
For the Ultimate Restoration, Hydrate Your Face Too
Since you’ll be soaking in milk, honey and other goodies for twenty minutes, it’s the perfect time to multitask and get a glowing complexion going on your face, too.
I asked Ann Webb for her secrets to gorgeous, hydrated skin. I figure that Ann would know this better than anyone, because she’s a renowned medical aesthetician, product developer and the owner of Ann Webb Skin Clinic and the Ann Webb Skin Institute.
To give yourself a spa-level facial, you’ll want to wash your face with a cleanser and then use an enzyme peel before you apply a finishing mask. For details on products as well as a DIY oatmeal mask, check out Expert Advice on How to Hydrate Your Skin in the Tub.
And if you have sensitive skin, you might want to wrap yourself in our favorite towel to keep skin soft and happy.
Make Your Tub Sparkle Like New
The milk and honey bath with turmeric and ginger really doesn’t leave much mess to clean. The residue will wash away with the next person who takes a shower.
But if you do encounter any staining with different additives, no problem. In The Bathtubber’s post Tricks to Make Your Bathtub Gleam Like New, we’ll show you how to restore your tub to its original splendor in no time and with natural ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen.