Mother-in-law translates into French as belle-mère and, in the case of mine, it is an accurately descriptive noun. Like many French women, my beautiful mother-in-law has an amazing complexion. I put it mostly down to a good diet. But she does have a couple of beauty secrets. She emailed me with one of them a few weeks ago: lait d'ânesse, or in plain English, donkey milk. Ha, I always thought she might have a little Cleopatra complex.

She isn’t bathing in milk though. Monique uses a cream called Crème de Soins au Lait D’Anesse (Face Cream with Donkey Milk) that is made by Belgium's only donkey milk farm, the Asinerie du Pays des Collines at the Château des Mottes.

I did some research on donkey milk and it didn’t surprise me to find that Monique is on to something. Because donkey milk is low in protein and high in lipids, it is very close to human breast milk.

Very recently, researchers have found that milk from donkeys is a natural protection from heart disease as it contains omega three and six fatty acids, similar to fish oil. It also has about half the fat of cow’s milk, according to Fundamentals of Dairy Chemistry (B. Webb, A. Johnson, J. Alford published in 1974. More recently, Italian researchers found that rat’s fed with donkey’s milk had slimmer waistlines that those drinking cow’s milk.

The omegas, calcium and high levels of vitamin C (supposedly 60 times that of cow’s milk), plus vitamins A, D and E may mean that donkey’s milk can confer benefits to the skin. I can’t find any research to back this up, but donkey milk products seem worth keeping an eye out for.