Breastmilk soap has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its natural moisturizing and healing properties. But there is some debate around whether breastmilk soap needs to be refrigerated to maintain its integrity and benefits. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll examine the key factors to consider when deciding if you should refrigerate breastmilk soap.
What is Breastmilk Soap?
Breastmilk soap is exactly what its name implies – soap made from human breastmilk. The milk is usually donated by nursing mothers and then combined with other natural ingredients like oils, herbs, and fragrances to create a mild, moisturizing soap.
Advocates claim breastmilk soap has a number of benefits compared to regular soap:
- Moisturizes skin – The proteins and fatty acids in breastmilk help hydrate and nourish skin.
- Soothes skin conditions – The anti-inflammatory properties of breastmilk may help soothe conditions like eczema, psoriasis and acne.
- Heals wounds/scars – Breastmilk contains antibodies and growth factors that may help heal damaged skin and reduce the appearance of scars.
- Fights infections – The immunological components in breastmilk have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties to fend off infections.
However, there is limited scientific research to back up these purported benefits. The moisturizing effects are well proven, but other claims about healing skin conditions are primarily anecdotal at this point.
Does Breastmilk Soap Need Refrigeration?
Most breastmilk soaps on the market today do not require refrigeration. The main reason is that breastmilk soap contains very little actual breastmilk – usually around 10-20% of the total formulation. The breastmilk is typically added at the end of the soapmaking process after the soap has saponified (turned to soap).
During saponification, the oils and fats react with lye, and this chemical reaction neutralizes many of the unique properties of breastmilk. The proteins, sugars, antibodies, and hormones that give breastmilk its healing benefits are often destroyed or rendered inert during this process.
With such a low percentage of breastmilk in the final product, refrigeration is not needed to maintain the integrity and benefits of the soap. The other natural ingredients and fragrances overpower any subtle effects the breastmilk may impart.
When Refrigeration May Be Beneficial
While most manufacturers do not recommend refrigerating breastmilk soap, there are some instances where it may be beneficial:
- High breastmilk content – If a soap contains 50% or more breastmilk, refrigeration may help better preserve the breastmilk’s nutrients and bioactive components.
- Curdling concerns – In warmer climates, the milk solids may deteriorate faster leading to curdling issues. Refrigeration can help prolong the life of the soap.
- Antimicrobial claims – For soaps marketed specifically for their antimicrobial properties, refrigeration may provide added protection against bacterial growth.
Ultimately it depends on the specific formulation and the manufacturer’s guidance. If the marketing claims the soap has potent antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory or healing effects, refrigeration may be recommended to maintain the functionality of the breastmilk for as long as possible.
How to Store Refrigerated Breastmilk Soap
For those breastmilk soap brands that do recommend refrigerated storage, here are some tips for proper storage:
- Wrap each bar tightly in plastic wrap or beeswax paper. This prevents the soap from absorbing fridge odors.
- Place wrapped bars in a sealed container or ziplock bag.
- Store in the back of the refrigerator, away from the door where temperature fluctuations are minimized.
- If storing for more than 2 weeks, place the soaps toward the bottom of the refrigerator where it tends to be most cold.
- Let refrigerated soaps come to room temperature before use, so they do not feel cold and slimy against the skin.
Signs Your Breastmilk Soap Has Spoiled
Like any beauty product, breastmilk soaps have a limited shelf life. Some signs that your soap may have spoiled include:
- Change in color or texture – Fresh breastmilk soap generally has a creamy off-white hue. Yellowing, melting, weeping oils, or curdling milk solids are red flags.
- Mold development – Fuzzy mold spots indicate the soap has been exposed to excess moisture and needs to be tossed.
- Rancid odor – An unpleasant sour, stale or rotting smell means the soap has turned.
- Poor lathering – If your soap hardly bubbles up, the oils have likely oxidized and spoiled.
If you notice any of these signs, it’s best to discard the breastmilk soap so it does not irritate your skin or get infected with mold spores.
Maximizing the Shelf Life of Breastmilk Soap
To get the most use out of your breastmilk soap and minimize waste, here are some tips for maximizing shelf life:
- Cure bars for 4-6 weeks after purchase. This hardens and neutralizes the soap for longer shelf life.
- Store in a cool, dry place away from excess moisture and heat.
- Allow bars to dry thoroughly between uses. Never leave wet bars sitting in a puddle of water.
- Cut bars into smaller pieces so there is less surface area exposed to air.
- Wrap tightly in plastic film or beeswax paper if not using daily.
- Avoid extremes in temperature. Don’t leave soap in hot cars or freezing weather.
If cared for properly, most breastmilk soap should last 3-6 months when stored at room temperature. Refrigeration and good storage practices can further extend the shelf life to 6-12 months before the soap begins deteriorating.
Safety Tips When Using Breastmilk Soap
Breastmilk soap, like any handmade beauty product, does carry some safety risks and considerations:
- Allergies – Those allergic to milk proteins should avoid breastmilk soap due to potential skin reactions.
- Contamination – Improperly handled soap can be contaminated with bacteria, as breastmilk is vulnerable to bacterial growth.
- Lye safety – Ensure soaps were properly formulated to fully neutralize and saponify all lye.
- Mold – Breastmilk soaps should be inspected regularly for fungal or yeast contamination.
- Preservatives – Opt for soaps with natural preservatives to inhibit microbial growth.
Always patch test new soaps on your wrist before applying to the face or body. Discontinue use if any irritation occurs. Keep the soap dry between uses to prevent bacterial overgrowth.
Is breastmilk soap better than regular soap?
There is no definitive evidence that breastmilk soap is superior to regular soap. It does contain moisturizing compounds that may impart additional skin benefits, but many of the specific breastmilk components are neutralized during saponification. More research is needed on the actual effects.
Does the breastmilk in the soap go bad?
Yes, the breastmilk can eventually go bad if the soap is not properly formulated or stored. Signs of spoiled milk include rancid odors, change in color, curdling, and mold development. To maximize integrity, breastmilk soap should be cured, kept in cool/dry conditions, and used within 6-12 months.
Can you get sick from using bad breastmilk soap?
It is unlikely to get sick from using spoiled breastmilk soap. But moldy, contaminated soaps may irritate skin and could potentially expose you to food-borne pathogens found in the breastmilk. Best practice is to discard soaps at the first signs of spoilage.
Does breastmilk soap need to be kept in the fridge?
Most brands of breastmilk soap do not require refrigeration due to the low milk content. But for select soaps with very high breastmilk percentages, refrigeration may help prolong the integrity and shelf life. Always check manufacturer guidance.
Can you freeze breastmilk soap?
Freezing is not recommended for most soaps, as it can lead to changes in texture and lathering properties. The milk solids may also deteriorate faster when thawed after freezing. Refrigeration is preferable for soaps requiring temperature controlled storage.
The Bottom Line
Breastmilk soap offers unique moisturizing and healing properties thanks to its natural breastmilk content. But there is debate around whether it requires special storage conditions to maintain integrity and maximize shelf life.
Most manufacturers advise against refrigerating breastmilk soap due to the small milk content. But for select soaps with very high percentages, refrigeration may help prolong freshness and potency.
Signs your soap has spoiled include odor, color changes, poor lathering, and mold growth. Discard immediately at the first signs of deterioration. When stored properly, breastmilk soap can last up to a year before use.
While more research is still needed, breastmilk soap shows promise as a natural way to care for your skin. Just be sure to take precautions and find properly formulated, high quality products to maximize safety and enjoy the unique benefits of this special soap.