First, there were floral crowns. Then, there were underwater shots. The latest maternity photo trend that combines the two? Milk baths. A modern interpretation of an ancient beauty ritual, milk bath maternity shoots depict serene moms-to-be floating in luxurious tubs of milk and flower petals. Beyond creating a stunning aesthetic, milk baths actually can help you achieve that pregnancy glow. Here, a look at how they work and how to make your own.
Don’t take it from us, take it from Cleopatra. Legend has it the Egyptian ruler bathed in donkey milk daily to enhance her complexion. And according to Anna Guanche, MD, of the Bella Skin Institute, Cleopatra was onto something.
“Milk has natural fats that act as emollients for the skin,” Guanche says, explaining milk can soften the skin. “Lactic acid in milk is a natural micro-exfoliant, which helps the skin feel smoother afterward. While lactic acid truly comes from slightly old or denatured milk, there is some lactic acid in non-aged milk (which most women are probably using). Flowers and essential oils can be added for a luxurious feel. It’s a way to relax in a beautiful, soothing environment.”
An important final step? Rinse off thoroughly afterward.
“You don’t want to leave milk sugars on the skin since yeasts love sugar, and we don’t want yeast overgrowth,” Guanche says. “Otherwise, milk baths are safe and pleasant.”
Do you actually need to fill an entire tub with milk? What kind of milk should you be using? And do some flowers float better than others? We reached out to photographers who specialize in milk bath photography for their tips.
“While the amount of milk you add depends on how big your bathtub is and what look you are going for, full cows milk is the most convenient to use and works very well if at least 3 liters are poured in,” says Stacey Rolton of Milk Bath Photography. “Once you’re in the bath, you can let some water out if it’s covering your belly too much.”
If you’re more interested in capturing the look of a milk bath than harnessing its soothing skin properties, Neva Michelle Santiago of Neva Michelle Photography has some advice.
“Using milk is great because there have been studies showing the benefits of milk for skin, but it can be expensive and wasteful for just a quick photoshoot,” she says. “I actually use different methods to achieve the look. You could use a milk bath soak product, a bath bomb, or do what I usually do: use plain powdered creamer that you’d use for coffee! It gives the same effect without any odd smells.”
Still, Santiago advises never skimping on flowers.
“Fake flowers do not float, so you have to use all real flowers for inside the tub,” she says. “I like flowers that are wide because they seem to float a little longer before sinking.” Rolton says roses do the trick, and look extra full if you buy them a day in advance and leave them by a window to bloom.
Essentially, creating a milk bath boils down to four steps:
- Start by filling the bathtub with warm water
- Add milk after adding water, since adding water to milk will create a bubbly look
- Let the mixture settle for 15 minutes
- Add flowers last, leaving 2 to 3 centimeters of stem to help them float better on top of the milk and water mixture
While you can certainly go au naturel, if you’re wondering what to wear for your milk bath maternity shoot, we have you covered.
“A lace robe or sheer dress is a perfect item for a maternity photoshoot,” says Cora Harrington, founder of The Lingerie Addict and author of the upcoming book, In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear and Love Lingerie. “It’s feminine, soft and glamorous with an almost goddess-like vibe but also comfortable and size-flexible, which is so important in the later stages of pregnancy.”
Harrington recommends three different robes at a range of price points:
“One of the most popular maternity gowns, this style is available from a wide range of sellers on Amazon and other online retailers,” Harrington says. “This is a good option for something like a milk bath as it’s so inexpensive that you don’t have to worry about ‘ruining’ it. However, make sure you pay close attention to the size chart before ordering!”
2. Nudwear Long Lace Kimono, $150
“This option is a bit more luxe, and it also looks more like a beautiful robe instead of a sheer dress,” Harrington says. “I especially love how the scalloped lace frames the neckline and decolletage; it’s such a beautiful detail.”
3. Girl&ASeriousDream Swan Queen Long Lace Robe Gown With Train, $490
“If you’re truly looking to splurge, consider a robe from Girl and a Serious Dream,” Harrington says. “Handmade in the USA, these robes use authentic French Chantilly laces for a truly divine experience.”
If you weren’t feeling inspired already, take a look at these milk bath maternity photo examples.
If you’ve always wanted to try a milk bath but missed the window for maternity photos, consider bringing baby in for his first photo op.
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