Eat local. Buy local. Bathe local?
W e’re lucky in Middle Tennessee to have access to so many local products, from handmade chocolate to freshly roasted coffee beans. It’s also now possible to find locally produced personal care products. One such product that’s gaining in popularity is goat- milk soap.
“The cream and the proteins that are present in goat milk add a moisturizing effect to soap that is above and beyond what water can achieve,” says Sue Dickhaus of Bountiful Acres Farm in Watertown, Tennessee. “For centuries, milk and milk products have been used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Goat- milk protein contains essential amino acids, as well as vitamins A and B and minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus.”
Jasmin Rosil, an employee in the supplements department at the Turnip Truck Urban Fare in the Gulch, says it’s the amino acids in the soap that set it apart. “Goat- milk soap is really great for the skin because the acids allow the soap to cleanse without stripping the skin of moisture.”
“Why not cow milk soap, then?”, I wondered. Rosil says, “Goats are almost always raised on grass, which is healthier for them. This rich diet helps produce the acids in the milk.”
Vanessa Davis, one of the founders of the Hickman County Arts and Ag Tour, makes goat- milk soap at her Totty’s Bend Farm " Dairy in Duck River, Tennessee. They raise Nubian dairy goats and make their soaps by hand on the farm. Davis explains that soap is made through the process of saponification. Saponification combines a fat like goat milk and natural oils with a caustic substance like lye and heat. During this process, the proteins interact to produce a glycerin-rich, all- natural soap. Lye (sodium hydroxide) can harm the skin on its own but the saponification process renders it neutral.
Goat- milk soap is often recommended for people with sensitive skin because of the soothing, moisturizing effects goat milk has, but also because of the natural ingredients. Karen Smith of Lady-K Ranch in Cedar Hill, Tennessee., has been making goat- milk soap for 20 years. She says that because goat- milk soap contains no alcohol, petroleum, or preservatives, it can help reduce skin irritation for people with sensitive skin or eczema;, some say it can even help cure acne. Smith also notes that goat milk produces a soap that is closer to the pH of human skin, which helps prevent dryness. “Cleopatra, who was known for her amazing skin, would soak her entire body in goat’s milk during baths”, she says.
While researching for this article, I learned that most store-bought “soaps” aren’t actually soaps at all, but detergents, made from synthetic compounds that have been created through a chemical process. You’ll notice that many times these products are labeled as “body bars” or “cleansing bars” because they can’t technically be called “soap.”
I bought a bar of Two Girls & Goat soap from The Green Wagon, a general store carrying many local, green products in East Nashville, to try it for myself. In addition to goat milk and lye, this bar also had bitter almond, turmeric, and oatmeal added to it. It felt really smooth and creamy on my skin while still creating a good lather. And I loved the scent! It was fresh and clean and not overpowering at all.
Many soapmakers add ingredients like essential oils, herbs, and honey. For example, Totty’s Bend offers bars like Lemongrass, Little Lot Lavender, Oats n' Honey, and Rosemary-Mint.
The true test for goat- milk soap? Try it for yourself! Many local artisans have online stores set up. You also can find their products at farmers’ markets, local shops like the Green Wagon and the High Garden Tea Shop (both in East Nashville), and Whole Foods. If you want to learn more about making soap, a few of the artisans such as Bountiful Acres, Hidden Springs Farm and Lady-K Ranch offer classes on location to learn to make your own goat- milk soap as well as lotions and other body care products.
Each product is a bit different in composition and packaging, retailing for $4 to $5 a bar, so be sure to try several types. These artisanal goat- milk soaps are likely better for your skin, and they smell and feel amazing. Besides, when you purchase them, you’re keeping your money in Tennessee's economy. It doesn’t get any better than that.