Milk Made Skin Crafts Cutting-Edge Skincare From Chester County

When Sarah Shafer founded Milk Made Skin in May 2023, she never dreamed of the impact her skincare brand would make.

Sarah Shafer, 44, viewed her reflection in the mirror. Dark circles were forming under her eyes, and acne stretched across the curve of her jawline.

Had those spots been there last week? She thought about it as she touched the raw skin. Did she even look in the mirror last week? With a newborn asleep in the adjoining room, it felt impossible to remember or find time to pamper herself, let alone spend hours researching skincare. But then she had an idea: Why not try applying breast milk to her face?

Five years later in May 2023, Shafer launched Milk Made Skin, a skincare line with breast milk running through its veins. Shafer founded the business in Chester County, where she lives with her husband, Zach, 45, and two daughters, Evie, 7, and Libby, 3.

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Milk Made Skin fouunder Sarah Shafer and her daughters Libby (left) and Evia (right).
Milk Made Skin founder Sarah Shafer and her daughters Libby (left) and Evie (right).

There was a time when she couldn’t imagine any of it—the business or starting a family. She underwent almost a decade of difficulty getting pregnant.

Awareness of the Body

Shafer married Zach in her early 30s. They both went to Downingtown High School but started dating much later. “It’s a funny story,” Shafer says. “I would be crying over the boyfriend I was dating then. And he was like, ‘Oh, Sarah, we’ll end up together one day.’ I’d be thinking, ‘In your dreams, buddy.'”

After several years of moving between Manhattan and Philadelphia and working as a buyer, Shafer returned to the Main Line to settle down with Zach and start a family.

They embarked on a journey of trying to conceive that would take them nearly a decade. “I was on a mission to get pregnant, and I was hell-bent on making that happen,” Shafer admits. “As women, people just assume you’re going to have babies. And then you assume if that’s what you want, your body will do it. And when your body says no, it’s a whole other game.”

After multiple rounds of IVF treatment and much heartache, Shafer and Zach were ecstatic to welcome their first daughter, Evie. The stressful cycle of medical appointments and the concoction of hormones that IVF entails took a toll on Shafer’s complexion, though.

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“I’ve never been a skincare guru,” Shafer shares. “I’ve never been that 20-step, let me put a hundred things on for an hour before I go to bed person.” Still, she recognized her skin needed attention when she noticed acne, age spots and an exhausted complexion.

Shafer had previously used breast milk to treat a skin abrasion on Evie, who’d scratched herself down the center of her forehead before a family photoshoot. This was on the advice of other mothers Shafer knew.

“I slathered that breast milk all over her face, and it literally went away in a day,” she recalls of the speed with which Evie’s forehead healed. After undergoing such drawn-out fertility issues, Shafer was more attuned to her body than ever before, recognizing and trusting in its power to rebuild. Therefore, when her skin needed attention, she didn’t hesitate to see if she could reap the same benefits from breast milk as she’d witnessed with Evie.

“That’s when I started to use it,” Shafer says. “I was like, if her skin can look this good, I want mine to look that good.”

Though she knew breast milk contributed to her baby’s health, Shafer began familiarizing herself more closely with its qualities. “It’s coined as liquid gold because it’s chock full of really dense, incredible nutrients, proteins, minerals, probiotics,” Shafer explains. “It fights disease. It grows humans. It’s this incredible powerhouse that we produce as women.”

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She began using her milk as a nightly moisturizer and noticed immediate results. “I kid you not, within a week, things were changing in my skin,” she says. She was so stunned by the outcome that she asked her husband to reaffirm the results by applying breast milk to his mild acne. Similarly, his skin drastically improved at a rapid pace.

 

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Business Idea to Skincare Line

Shafer was soon dreaming of a business that would harness the power of breast milk. She used it in her skincare routine for months and tested the waters by telling several people about her idea. “A lot of people hear breast milk, and they think that’s gross. We’re kind of conditioned in a way not to think of our own body,” she observes. “But it’s the key thing.”

Business planning went on hold, however, when Shafer underwent IVF again, which involved two failed cycles. Upon giving birth to her second daughter, Libby, and seeing the astonishing benefits of breast milk once more, she couldn’t wait any longer.

“If I hadn’t struggled, and I got pregnant right away, I don’t know that the skincare line would have ever happened,” she admits. “It’s a complete mind shift, and you are completely in tune with your body in a different way.”

Shafer worked in marketing for many years, first as a buyer, then partnering directly with brands as a merchandiser for QVC and the Home Shopping Network. As such, she already knew a chemist. After discussing her skincare idea with them, Shafer chose not to use genuine breast milk in the products but to create the closest molecular compound possible, leading to the brand’s signature Milk Peptide Complex.

“We just got started,” Shafer says. “They had a sample to me within a couple of weeks.” This sample would transform almost 20 times before Shafer was satisfied, primarily due to its smell.

“We just kept going,” she explains. “I didn’t want it to smell like anything. It should just smell clean. That’s what I want to put on my face.”

The line of Milk Made Skin products.
The line of Milk Made Skin products.

The Beauty Conversation

Today, Shafer describes Milk Made Skin as serious beauty with a fun twist, reflecting many women’s experiences during motherhood. “Any woman who breastfeeds knows it’s messy. It’s not like you see all these pictures of gorgeous women breastfeeding. I was a hot mess,” Shafer jokes.

The skincare line comprises three products: Milk Drunk, a nightly moisturizer that contains the highest concentration of the Milk Peptide Complex, improving skin’s elasticity and reducing the appearance of wrinkles and dark spots; Milk Boost, an eye cream containing caffeine to address dark circles, fine lines and crow’s feet; and Milk Drench, an exfoliating gel cleanser with plant-based beads.

After launching, the business received a flurry of media coverage, partially due to the current buzz linked to using milk in beauty products. Serena Williams made headlines in December 2023 when she revealed her use of breast milk to treat sunburn under her eyes. There has been much discussion since among beauty experts about the ability of milk to hydrate, soothe and calm skin.

“We’re super excited to be a part of this conversation,” Shafer enthuses.

Similarly, colostrum, a substance produced by the body one or two weeks before breast milk, is also increasingly sought after in the form of supplements. But there’s a reason Shafer doesn’t use natural milk or colostrum in her products.

“There are baby mammals that need that,” she explains. “We’re going to stick to what we’re doing: getting science as close as we can to nature.”

That’s not all Shafer’s team has on its radar. Alongside Milk Made Skin, Shafer also established the Fertility Dreams Foundation in 2022 to support couples experiencing fertility challenges and raise awareness. The first gala event brought residents from across the Main Line together for a fundraising evening, securing over $40,000. This far surpassed Shafer’s expectations and meant one couple could undergo an entire IVF cycle; that family welcomed a baby girl, Eloise, in December 2023.

Sarah and Zach Shafer at the Fertility Dreams Gala.
Sarah and Zach Shafer at the Fertility Dreams Gala.

“I get emotional talking about it,” Shafer admits, “because most people don’t know [that] one IVF cycle is between $20,000 to $30,000,” a staggering sum for a procedure rarely covered by medical insurance.

The foundation’s second gala raised even more money. “We’re going to give away two this year,” Shafer shares of the families who will benefit from IVF. “It’s amazing.”

Fertility Dreams Foundation works with Shady Grove, one of the best-known fertility clinics in the U.S., and with Shafer’s personal doctor. Grant applications for prospective families are advertised on the organization’s website. “I want people to know you’re not alone. I was there,” Shafer says. “I was going on Facebook asking women if they had extra medication because I needed it.”

She credits her husband for encouraging her through such a challenging time. “He was the one who said we have to live our life. We can’t live in despair. I’m so grateful. If we were both in the dark place, I don’t know what we would’ve done.”

Not only is the foundation helping women in the same hard situation, but every product purchased through Milk Made Skin returns a percentage to the foundation.

Looking Ahead

Shafer is currently raising funds to create a host of new products at Milk Made Skin and is eager to develop a sampling program. “I want people to be able to try [the products]. It’s a big commitment, and I get that.” She also aims for representation one day from a retailer, though only after the brand is ready and solid retailer relationships are in place.

“It takes a whole lot to go onto a store shelf,” she says. “I would love for someone to walk in and be like, ‘Where’s the boob brand or the breast milk brand?’ And then that’s us.”

Following seven rounds of IVF, Shafer appreciates her body differently.

“We’re the lucky ones; we have come out on the other side. We have joy, and we have two beautiful daughters,” she enthuses. “We just want to help other people. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

She adds that every time a customer purchases a product from her line, “you’re giving a family hope that they can start their process.”

As Shafer terms it, breast milk is the “elixir of life.” And this is exactly what she strives to give women.

“No one should not have a family because they can’t afford it,” she says. “That’s just not the way it’s supposed to be.”

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