From bee venom to goats milk, snail slime to pigs skin, the beauty world in Korea and worldwide has produced a variety of experimental skincare over the past decade. So, it’s unsurprising that deer milk has now been added to the list of ingredients to filter into the beauty industry, promising rejuvenating hydration with luxurious, long-lasting benefits.
Admittedly, up until now I didn’t even know you could milk a deer. Milk has long been associated with life, nourishment and longevity. In that respect, it's a worthy addition to skin care. But an entire range dedicated to deer milk posed a mystery and I was excited to receive an invitation to attend the launch of the brand, kōtia, in Queenstown, to find out more about the new range and how it all began.
Across the river from Queenstown and framed by mountains is Walter Peak Farm, accessible by the TSS Earnslaw Steamship and inclusive of tea rooms, gift shop and paddocks full of sheep, goats, highland cattle and of course, deer. Entrepreneur and founder of kōtia, Graeme Shaw, introduces us to twin fawns who have been hand reared on the farm after their mother abandoned them to the elements. Shaw tells us that it’s rare for a boy and girl fawn to be born as twins. Already there's a point of difference and a sense of individuality and uniqueness that encapsulates this brand. But how did Shaw unearth the secrets and magic properties of deer milk?
In fact, it didn’t start with skin care, but with cheese. Shaw had already pioneered milking deer to make cheese. But when a milk hand mentioned she had soft hands and stronger nails post-milking, he was intrigued. To discover why, Shaw sent a batch of the milk to a team of scientists at AgResearch, who identified that the milk was rich in hydration properties, retinol, folic acid, antioxidants and nutrients, and anti-inflammatory agents. Following this information, Shaw worked alongside a skin care formulator and spent six years testing and building the range with the main ingredient to be deer milk alongside scientifically researched active ingredients to nourish the skin. A range that became kōtia.
“We spent a lot of time testing various percentages of deer milk in the product. One test proved not enough, two tests proved not enough and so it continued. We repeated all the tests again and identified how much milk we needed to get the effect we wanted,” Shaw says.
Part of the secondary testing meant sending the product to a leading beauty therapist in Sydney who reviewed the range and provided feedback. Due to the work that has gone into this product line, it’s obvious that kōtia is a passion project for Shaw. He also came up with the name of the product; kōtia, derived from a combination of Maori words bringing together young women and deer. It's a brand name that pays respect to the heritage of it's birth place and origins of the range.
“I am just super passionate about my family life and this project. I’ve been looking after the deer, day in, day out through Christmas and New Year. It’s pride and passion, a project I adore.”
We asked Shaw if he could sum up kōtia in a few words.
"I would pick New Zealand, scientifically proven, nourishing, unique and package."
kōtia could be described as a celebration of New Zealand, bringing together New Zealand's natural landscape with deer milk's natural goodness. After testing the product for two weeks, I am sure that this range has the potential to take the beauty world by storm. And it's only the beginning.
To learn more and to browse the range, click below.
kōtia is available from Farmers, selected Unichem and Life Pharmacies and on kotia.co.nz.