Kiwi entrepreneur Graeme Shaw is the first to admit that his friends and family thought he was a bit mad for trying to milk deer. âThey still do,â he laughs. But Shaw persevered. It might have taken around six years for Shawâs initial light bulb moment to come to fruition, but heâs passionate about the outcome â KĆtia, a NZ-made skincare collection that also happens to be the first skincare line in the world to use deer milk as the primary ingredient.
Back in 2012, when Shaw and a group of like-minded farmer friends started toying with the idea of milking deer in the Otago region, skincare was the furthest thing from their minds. Deer-milk cheese and chocolate were originally on the cards â but as Shaw soon discovered, milking deer was no mean feat. âSmall villages throughout Europe have always milked deer, but no-one has ever thought they could be milked commercially because theyâre so flighty,â Shaw explains.
But Shaw kept at it. And slowly but surely, through introducing the deer to a new environment, Shaw and his colleagues came to realise that milking deer didnât have to be difficult. âTraditionally, deer farmers have rarely interacted with deer. But what we found is the more time you spend with them, the more they get used to you,â explains Shaw. âThey really are curious creatures.â
It was by chance that Shaw made his next game-changing discovery. Dianne, one of the milkers working with the deer, noticed that her hands were becoming smoother, softer and younger-looking, despite years of hard farm work wreaking havoc on her skin. It was at this moment that Shawâs dreams of a deer-milk cheese went out the window, and the seed for KĆtia was planted.
âI was lucky Dianne noticed this incredible difference milking the deer had on her hands,â says Shaw. Armed with the discovery that deer milk could have the ability to repair and rejuvenate the skin, Shaw quickly sent deer milk samples to scientists around the country for testing. Soon enough, the scientists confirmed what Shaw was hoping would be the case â the deer milk was packed with protein, minerals and skin-enhancing nutrients.
Milk-based beauty is nothing new, after all. Rumour has it that Cleopatra required the milk of 7000 donkeys for her daily bathing ritual. And there has been a steady increase in the number of milk-based beauty formulas hitting shelves over the years. Nonetheless, it seems that the likes of goat and donkey milk â which are often praised for their skin-nourishing properties â could be making way for deer milk products. âThe digestive system of a deer hasnât changed for thousands of years,â says Shaw.
A few of KĆtia’s star products. From left to right: Revitalising Hand & Nail Cream, Exfoliating Cleansing Milk, and Hydrating Day Cream.
He goes on to explain that deer are selective feeders. âDeer look around to find the best grass possible. Their fawns only feed three or four times a day for 90 seconds at a time, so they have to be.â Because deer only feed their fawns for such a short period of time, what they feed them has to be very high in protein and rich in nutrients. The findings from Shawâs lab tests support this thinking, with deer milk proving to be extremely rich in skin-nurturing vitamin A, and minerals including zinc, selenium and potassium.
Kerrie Moore, KĆtia National Training Manager, believes the range will appeal to natural beauty lovers who are after serious results. Each of the products in the range â thereâs a cleanser, serum, day cream with SPF, toner, night cream, eye cream, night mask and, of course, a nourishing hand cream â are between 90 and 95 per cent natural, but are also packed with efficacious active ingredients that work in harmony with the deer milk to prevent the signs of ageing.
The formulations are free from parabens, dermatologically tested, and not tested on animals. Sustainability and animal welfare are Shawâs primary focuses. While each of the products has its own benefits, after trialling the range for the past month, there are a few stand-outs. Cleansing is arguably the most important step in any good skincare routine, and KĆtiaâs Exfoliating Cleansing Milk doesnât just rid skin of make-up, excess oil and impurities, it contains natural AHAs that gently slough away dull skin cells. Itâs also incredibly gentle to use and doesnât leave skin with that tight, âsqueaky cleanâ feeling. Instead, the skin feels smooth and nourished and appears brighter and clearer.
The Hydrating Day Cream with SPF15 is another stand-out, and will be well suited to those who struggle to find a moisturiser that isnât too rich or too light. This clever formula lands right in the middle. Itâs fast-absorbing, as all moisturisers should be, and it leaves skin feeling plumper and well hydrated, while an advanced peptide formula protects skin from oxidative stress and pollution. And then thereâs the hand cream, which harks back to the story that started it all. And the best part is, now, thanks to KĆtia, you donât have to be a deer milker to reap the benefits.
KĆtia is available from Farmers, selected Unichem and Life Pharmacies and online at kotia.co.nz