In September of 2007 we first heard from a reader that a common laxative, milk of magnesia (also known as MoM), could be good for the face and scalp if someone suffered from the skin condition known as seborrheic dermatitis. This is sometimes described as super dandruff. It can also cause red, scaly, flaky and itchy skin on the face. Dermatologists don’t really know what causes it but they suspect it is a reaction to a yeast infection (fungus) of the skin.
Some months later we heard from someone that MoM could also be helpful against acne. Although a dermatologist took us to task for such a silly remedy, we did find a letter from Randy Sigal published in the Archives of Dermatology (June, 1975) titled “Milk of Magnesia Treatment for Acne.”
Since then we have heard form lots of folks that MoM is amazingly effective, safe and inexpensive. The most recent message came in the other day and we just had to share it, with you. We welcome your experiences with MoM and your comments about these reports.
Joe & Terry (The People’s Pharmacy)
I have been using milk of magnesia (MoM) for some weeks now. It is a miracle worker. I would probably have saved my face from cystic acne scars if I would have known about this some months ago. I put it on any pimples before I go to bed after I wash with my regular cleanser.
I spot treat usually. I apply it several times a day if I am home. I also use it under my makeup. Hopefully my face will fully clear to the point where I wont have to wear makeup anymore. It also seems to work in exfoliating/fading acne scars. My face is about 98 percent clear.
Jan. 7, 2010
Regarding Milk of Magnesia as an acne remedy. I read about this a couple of weeks ago in the paper. I am a 44-year old woman who has had acne (regular and cystic) since I was a teenager.
I took Retin-A when I was 18. It helped but did not clear it completely and you were correct about the side effects: depression, sensitivity to sun, redness in the face, cracked skin.
My skin actually got better when I took birth control pills, but when I quit taking them, the acne resumed. I and my son (age 12) tried the Milk of Magnesia after reading the article. We are having excellent results – not completely clear but really helping.
It seems to slough off the skin and remove the redness. I have tried everything: Proactive, Retin A, Cleocin-T. etc. I have also taken countless antibiotics to no avail. I enjoyed your response to the scoffing doctor. He needs to have an open mind if he really cares about and wants to help his patients with acne. Thank you so much for your column.
IL, Gilbert, AZ
I used MOM on my scalp (I have seborrheic dermatitis caused by overactive oil glands, not infection) after catching a hint about it in the Graedon column. In the shower I simply poured it on my hair after wetting it, left it until I finished showering, then rinsed my hair & used Selsun Blue to take out the MoM that was left. I applied shampoo a 2nd time & rinsed. My hair was very manageable using the 2nd application of shampoo. Layers of dried oil that I had been unable to eliminate started coming off. Out went the steroid oily mess prescribed by my dermatologist. I am down to my real scalp. My hair is fine & I find that MoM gives it more texture.
Then on a whim because I have some oily areas on my skin, I tried it on my face, arms & hands with amazing results. My skin looks firmer & has become lighter. Leaving a little bit of MoM on my skin seems to protect it from dryness–previously I had to use moisturizer, but not now. I’ve had no bad effects at all & now it’s just routine to brush a little powder over the thin layer of MOM, then add blush. Amazing. Tip — dollar stores sell milk of magnesia for much less than drug or grocery stores.
Shampoo has to be used after MoM–otherwise when it dries it feels sort of like straw. It doesn’t substitute for shampoo, & helps, in my opinion, only with removal of oil from the scalp. Scalp will cease to itch after using MoM several times because you probably, like me, may have a build-up of dried oil on your scalp. I discovered that the itching is actually from dried oil pulling on hair at the roots–not something my doctor told me, but that I found out from experience.