“There has been interest in the use of colostrum and the skincare benefits it can provide, but I don’t believe it has peaked huge interest in mainstream media yet, which is why cosmetic companies have not delved deeper into it,” says Rifah Tasnim, a cosmetic chemist and the glowing face behind @mynameisrifah on TikTok. “Nonetheless, this growth may be expected to rise in the next five to 10 years, as the cosmetic industry is always looking to innovate to provide better and more effective skincare solutions.”
We asked Tasnim and Sarah Rahal, MD, a double board-certified adult and pediatric neurologist and the founder of ARMRA, a colostrum-based supplement company, to share more about colostrum’s impact on skin health.
What is colostrum?
Dr. Rahal explains that colostrum is the earliest breast milk that starts to be produced in mammals (typically from about midway through pregnancy into the first days of a baby’s life). Often referred to as “liquid gold,” this is a potent first food for babies who have just been welcomed into a world full of illness and inflammation-causing particles.
“Colostrum is the first nutrition we all receive in life in order to thrive, as it contains all the essential nutrients our bodies need,” says Dr. Rahal. “It is a food, but it also acts like Mother Nature’s immunization shot for the baby, because it contains all of these bioactive compounds that can’t be found in any other natural source. These compounds include things like antibodies, whole-food growth factors, prebiotics, and other living nutrients that inform and optimize the development of all the different organ systems throughout the body.”
Dr. Rahal initially became interested in colostrum as a primary ingredient for an infant formula she wanted to develop. However, diving deeper into the research led her to find thousands of peer-reviewed studies that showed this “liquid gold” could do wonders across the life cycle—not just for babies. One of those major benefits was impacting skin health as we age. She explains that colostrum heals the body from the inside out, sealing our mucosal barriers to protect our body’s immune and respiratory pathways from inflammation. This has a positive effect on the gut-skin axis, leaving users with a true glow from within.
Colostrum’s impact on skin health
“What is so exciting about colostrum and what we’ve learned from customers along the way is that because it’s not a Band-Aid, the health benefits and ramifications spread far beyond better gut health and stronger immunity,” says Dr. Rahal.
She explains that there are several elements of colostrum that have specific benefits for the skin barrier and hair. Since the ingredient works to seal up the all-important mucosal barriers that protect everything from our gut lining to our nasal pathways, this blocks chemicals, pollutants, pesticides, and other toxins that are the primary drivers of inflammation and cellular damage. Tasnim notes that a 2022 study out of South Korea shows colostrum’s potential as a powerful mechanism that can repair skin damage from UV rays.
Colostrum vs. collagen
“There are a few mechanisms of colostrum that are so helpful, especially for skin regeneration and hair growth,” says Dr. Rahal. “We talked about this mucosal barrier and how colostrum blocks the entry of particles that cause cellular damage and inflammation in the body, but it does so with compounds that go directly into the cells themselves, as the colostrum is full of living nutrients, and they heal our existing hair and skin cells.”
This process is very different from supplementing with collagen, Dr. Rahal explains, as collagen simply gives your body raw materials and amino acids to build new tissue with instead of repairing what’s already there. Dr. Rahal says that colostrum goes directly into your skin cells to reactive the pathways that stimulate and direct collagen stem cell and follicle cell growth, which is why people see such incredible results with ARMRA’s products. Colostrum’s potency feeds regenerative nutrients to the lips and skin for hydration, while also combating inflammation to reverse redness and puffiness, Dr. Rahal explains. It just may have you ditching Instagram filters, 12-step skincare routines, and other pricey supplements once and for all.
The current state of colostrum in skin care
The big idea is to ingest colostrum, not use it in your face cream. “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,” says Tasnim. “When it comes to topical application, however, the research is limited and has not been delved into deep enough to prove significant skincare benefits.”
Tasnim explains that this lack of research does not mean that colostrum-powered skin-care products don’t have functional benefits, but she says there’s still a lot of work to do in harnessing its potential in topical formulations. Tasnim notes that there are plenty of other ingredients (such as retinoids) that have been proven to help combat the signs of aging, existing UV damage, acne, and other skin concerns.
Dr. Rahal says that there are some exciting colostrum-based skincare items on the market today, but any topical product containing colostrum should always be seen as a secondary complement to ingested colostrum. Plus, you’ll enjoy other benefits along the way.
Is using colostrum ethical?
You may be wondering, how do skincare and supplement companies source colostrum for their products? Dr. Rahal explains that every item on the mass market is made from bovine colostrum. Cows make an average of 15 liters of the stuff, while their calves never intake more than half of their supply. The rest becomes a waste product of the dairy industry, so there’s plenty to go around. If you’re interested in adding colostrum to your skin-care routine, it may be worth reaching out to the company that produces the product to learn how they source this ingredient.
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