Camel Milk and Clandestine Cleo

There are dozens of face creams on the market, but which one has the heritage of thousands of years and was an integral part of Cleopatra’s beauty regime?

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An ingredient so different, so interesting, so new and yet so old, how could anyone remain unaware to such a familiar, yet poorly understood aspect of the Egyptian Goddess’ beauty regime.

If you are not familiar with Cleo and her habits, history has claimed that she bathed in milk to make herself seem more seductive and youthful, and it’s a very real possibility that she did if you look at the many different writings of the time.  Some reports claim 7000 donkeys were needed to provide her with enough milk for her daily bath, and although bathing in Ass milk may be appealing to some, I was more interested in her less frequently reported baths of camel milk.

Even to this day, camel milk is still known as the “white gold” of the desert. A simple google search will tell you as much. So why would our Cleo would have used this specific “white gold”, and why after so many centuries is this still the beauty industries best kept secret. But how does this actually work?

Camel milk contains something called “alpha hydroxyl acids” which is what would have helped Cleo in her camel milk baths to dissolve the proteins that hold together dead skin cells. They don’t only dissolve these proteins, but actually promote the healthy cell regeneration and softening of the skin while keeping it both supple and smooth, helping to reduce fine lines.

Camel milk also has a high vitamin and mineral content, especially rich in vitamin C (three times more so than cow’s milk) which is important for tissue repair, as well as 10 times the amount of iron (compared to cow’s milk) and vitamin A, B2 and D, potassium, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, sodium and zinc. Additionally, camel milk naturally contains protective proteins with anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.

So if camel milk has so many regenerative and healing properties, why didn’t our Cleo just bathe in camel milk every day?

The answer is simple biology and geography. Deserts are arid regions with harsh climates, but camels are well adapted to survive in these extreme environments which in turn make them a valuable means of transport when trading between the different ancient kingdoms. Even if the ancients had wanted to keep them in pens for the sole purpose of milking, they would have found this difficult as a camel will only produce milk if they are “happy”, meaning they need space to wander and to be kept in their own social grouping systems. In addition to this, camels will only produce milk if they are calving, which means that the ancient dairy farmers would have had to share the majority of this nutrient dense milk with the next generation of young camels.

But perhaps the main reason that the milk was, and still is, so valuable is due to how much milk a camel can actually produce, which is on average only ¼ of the milk that your other bovine animals (cows, donkeys & goats) can. This is why camel milk is considered to be one of the most nutrient-dense milks commercially available as the camel needs to ensure that its calf has enough proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals available to it in a far lesser quantity of milk.

This is not a milk you wish to spill, but if you do, avoiding the crying and make sure you spill it on the floor so at least your toes will look twenty years younger. Who knows, Maybe that’s how Cleopatra discovered it. 

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